Saturday, November 5, 2016

Good friends and good times in Kentucky

We are anchored in Double Creek, which is really a small bay off the Cumberland River, near Grand Rivers, Kentucky (map). We crossed the Kentucky line shortly after my last post here, bringing our total number of states visited in Vector to 19.

Thursday afternoon we approached the northern end of Kentucky Lake, coming within just three miles of TVA's Kentucky Lock and Dam. We turned off the Tennessee River at mile marker 25 into the short canal that leads to Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River.

Sunset over the Canal Campground from our anchorage mid-river Thursday evening.

A short explanation is in order here. Both the Tennessee and the Cumberland are tributaries of the Ohio River, their mouths being just a few miles apart. They drain different basins, separated by a ridge line. Following the Tennessee upriver will take you to Knoxville by way of Chattanooga and all the other places I've mentioned here over the last few months. Following the Cumberland upriver will take you to Nashville (and beyond) by way of Clarksville.

The lower part of the Tennessee is impounded by the TVA's Kentucky Dam, and the lower part of the Cumberland was impounded 22 years later by the Army Corps of Engineers' Barkley Dam, conveniently the same height. The two resulting lakes stretch southward nearly in parallel for some 50 miles before the Cumberland turns eastward toward Clarksville while the Tennessee continues south toward Mississippi. The huge swath of land between these parallel sections is called the Land Between the Lakes, and most of it belongs to the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area.

At their closet point, just three miles upstream of Kentucky Dam and one mile upstream of Barkley Dam, a canal was cut through the ridge line to connect the lakes. Very long time readers may remember that we camped along this canal several times in Odyssey at the very nice Corps of Engineers campground there.

This pavilion ashore is right where we stayed in Odyssey.

The canal makes it possible to travel between the two rivers without having to lock down to the Ohio and back up again. It also means that vessels transiting either river to or from the Ohio really have a choice of two locks for the journey. From downriver on the Ohio, the Tennessee River route through Kentucky Dam is 17 miles shorter than the Cumberland River route through the Barkley Dam.

Transiting the canal, about to pass under the lone bridge connecting the Land Between the Lakes.

Once through the canal, we might easily have turned right and continued upriver 160 miles to Nashville. That had been our plan, much earlier in the season, before we ended up spending over three months on the Tennessee. Even as recently as a few days ago, it was still an open question -- we could do the round trip in just a little over a week and have two evenings and a full day in Nashville. By the time we arrived on the Cumberland, however, it was looking very much like that would not be the best decision.

Our more immediate goal was to spend a day at the nearby Green Turtle Bay marina and resort. By the time we exited the canal it was past 3pm, and while that left plenty of time to dock, with a strict 11am checkout time at the marina, we did not want to drop $65 on a night and not be able to get everything done. Instead we dropped the hook right in the river, in a deep spot just outside the buoy line (map) and in sight of our destination. We had a nice dinner on deck and a pleasant evening.

Yesterday we weighed anchor at 10am and pulled into the marina (map). We got secured and plugged in, had some lunch, and then borrowed the courtesy car for a two-hour excursion to nearby Calvert City for groceries, the last dependable stop for the foreseeable future and maybe all the way to New Orleans, a month hence.

Vector docked at Green Turtle Bay marina.

In hindsight, we should have done a lot more provisioning in Florence, when we also had access to a courtesy car but where major grocery chains and even a Walmart were just a short distance away. In our allotted two hours with the car here, the Food Giant in Calvert City was the best we could manage, and really Food Dwarf would have been a better moniker. We sourced no produce there at all, managed only half the rest of the list, and had to settle for beer in bottles rather than cans (bottles are a pain to manage on board). No wine was available at all. At least they had a reasonable meat case.

We ended up stopping at the much smaller grocery right here in Grand Rivers on our way back, to get the produce and a few other items. Grand Rivers is dry, so no beer or wine here, either. One thing we struck out on entirely was a turkey breast for Thanksgiving; I'm hoping we'll be able to find one somewhere else along our route.

We got all the groceries stowed and the boat squared away, with just enough time to tidy up a bit before company arrived. In a confluence of circumstance, our good friends Shirley and Bob were passing through western Kentucky in their RV, after a whirlwind tour of the east. We've been tracking each other's progress, and we gave them a shout out as they wrapped up in Bowling Green. Sadly, the nice Corps campground right next door here closed for the season just a few days ago, and they had to park the rig in a commercial park down the road.

Approaching the new Eggner Ferry Bridge Thursday. The old one, which I mentioned was hit by the Delta Mariner, has been removed and the cranes are just cleaning up the last of the operation.

Bob and Shirley came down to the marina shortly after five, and after a tour of the boat and cocktails we all headed to the on-premise Yacht Club for dinner. We'd seen the yacht club on previous visits but had no access to it; as marina guests we got a temporary membership pass. The food was quite good, and between the two couples we rustled up three bottles of wine to bring with us -- even this private club can not sell alcohol in this dry county. They do, however, have a bar, a bartender, barware, and barflys -- the booze is stored in private lockers belonging to each member.

It's been a long time since we've seen them, and we ended up drinking and shooting the breeze for nearly three hours at the yacht club. We staggered back to the boat; they had only a short drive to their campground. It was great to see them, and especially to finally see them retired and travelling -- when we first met them, they were both working hard running the business that converted Odyssey for us, Infinity Coach.

This morning we got everything ready to get under way, and then strolled over to the on-site spa for 9:45 massage appointments. Our marina stay got us a discount, and we both had nice massages. They ran a bit long -- I had booked one hour sessions, but we finished up after 11, and we hustled back to Vector to at least look like we were trying to leave at checkout time. The brochure says late checkouts are billed $0.35 per foot, something we have heretofore never encountered.

We were steaming out of the marina basin around 11:30, which is far too late to lock through either dam and still make it to an anchorage before dark. Instead we came here and dropped the hook. We can still get the marina WiFi here, and if we are ambitious in the morning we can kayak to a nearby dock and walk to their little bistro for breakfast.

Kentucky is our 19th state. Our map for Odyssey filled in all 48 lower mainland states.

In the morning, we'll lock down through the Barkley lock. While the total distance will be longer than if we crossed back through the canal to the Kentucky lock, that lock is typically much much busier with commercial tows, and it's not uncommon for a pleasure boat to have to wait several hours to lock through. Barkley is usually a much shorter wait, if any. This means we'll spend a day doing 30-odd miles of the Cumberland River, and we'll have missed 23 miles of the Tennessee, where we have otherwise done the entire length of the river.

As much as I'd prefer to head upriver on the Cumberland, perhaps all the way to Nashville, we talked it over and decided it would be unwise. For one, it's now well into fall and temperatures here are turning cold. It's high time we headed south. For another, we're hoping to be in New Orleans for Christmas, and, at this writing, we have a buffer of just under two weeks; a nine-day round trip to Nashville could have us making bad decisions further downstream. On top of that, we have the potential to visit with some friends in New Orleans the week before Christmas, and an earlier arrival would be better.

And so it is that from here, we will proceed downriver to the Ohio, and thence further downriver to Paducah, Kentucky, where we hoped to be anchored tomorrow evening. We'd like to visit Paducah, but there is not a single dock in town, not even for the dinghy, and whether or not we can get ashore is something of a question mark. There is a wide concrete riverfront ramp which is used more or less as a boat ramp; it's right downtown, and if we can "land" there (translation -- get off the dingy without getting drenched) and somehow tie it up, we'll do so and walk up the hill to town.

I expect we'll have good Internet coverage in Paducah, and I'll try to post one more time from there. After that, coverage will be spotty at best, and posts here might be fewer and further between. While we may be away from email and the Internet, there's plenty of traffic on the river that is just a radio call away, so we're not exactly filing a float plan. And our Iridium satellite phone will let us call ahead to marinas and what not even if we are out of coverage.


  1. Sorry you won't make Nashville. Check out Mud Island Marina in Memphis where you will be right downtown. Even if you don't take a slip, you can move upstream on the Wolf for an anchorage. After that, Greenville may be your best stop before Baton Rouge. Safe travels.
    Bill M/Y Travis McGee

    1. Thanks. Nashville would have been a nice stop, but it would have felt rushed. We've been to Nashville many times, though.

      We are planning to stop at Mud Island, although it's a bit annoying that there's no way to walk to downtown and we'll need to use a scooter or take a taxi.

      Greenville is a possibility although I'm not sure what we'd do there. We plan to stop in Tunica, Vicksburg, and Natchez.


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