Saturday, November 17, 2012

Down the Tennessee River


Our first day out of Green Turtle Bay on down the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake was aok except for a few small surprises. First of all we awoke to a thick dense fog that prevented our leaving the marina until about 8:30 am. This was not so bad as our float plan would allow us to pull into our intended anchorage well before sunset. Otherwise the weather was very clear, sunny and crisp. We were able to muster about 9 miles per hour which was better than the plan.

About two thirds down the way things began to unravel for the good boat Why Knot. Lisa went down into the galley to make some cool aid. She reported that the water was not working at all. Bummer. We were resolved that we had enough bottled water to get us to our marina destination in two more days – inconvenient but ok. I decided that I would go down into the engine compartment and gently tap on the water pump with a small mallet and see if something had lodged in the pump. A few small taps did the trick and the pump started working again albeit with less pressure.

While down in the compartment I noticed some water accumulating on the sole. This was not recently unusual as I had to replace a washer that went on the turn key closure on the sea water strainer which had been allowing water to lightly drip out. But that was several days ago and I thought I had fixed that. Then something, I’m not sure what, caught my attention and I shined my flashlight onto the sea water pump on the engine. There was a pin hole leak in the gasket of the back plate that fastened onto the back of the pump. It was not enough of a leak that it effected engine cooling but a leak is a leak and they never get smaller, they only get bigger. So we had to scramble into action to figure out what to do.

We went past a marina at Parris Landing State Park and gave them a call. They gave us the names of a couple of marina service technicians in the area. We called them and they told us that all the parts would have to be ordered and would take several days, or wrap a bunch of duct tape around it. That was unsatisfactory, but they both assured us it would be ok short term as is.  As we approached our anchorage at a bay called Richland Creek we saw on the charts a marina called Pebble Isle Marina a bit further down river. Calling them we learned that they had a full service department at the marina with, coincidence of coincidences, all the parts for two Caterpillar sea water pumps on hand. That was a deal-maker right there. The only challenge getting there was that we were going to be pushed right up to sundown and that was a concern as their entrance channel, though well marked and deep, was narrow and twisty. We came in and tied up. The marina owner, a rather dry Tennessean named Randy told us that his service department was alerted and ready.

Pebble Isle Marina was a very nice stop where everyone exhibited stereotypical Tennessean charm and friendliness. Barrett, the on staff technician, came around the boat about 8:30 am and had our problem fixed with the sea water pump in no time. We decided to put off the replacement of the fresh water pump until our marina stop two days down the line as the part would have to be ordered and waiting for us.

The next day was routine. We left Pebble Isle and cruised on down to our next overnight stop at Clifton, Tennessee which has a nice little marina.

After Clifton our next stop would be Aqua (pronounced “ah-kwee’-ah” for some odd reason) Yacht Center located in Pickwick Lake which is off of Yellow Creek which is after turning off of the Tennessee River. The only obstacle of the day was locking up at Pickwick Lock and Dam, a very large dam notorious for delays. But we thought we were in good shape as we arrived at the lock by 2:30 pm (after another fog delay at the beginning of the day) and we could get through using the smaller auxiliary lock. Well, those thoughts were dashed asunder as when we hailed the lock we were told that there was only one lock master on duty and the auxiliary lock was closed for the day. We would have to wait for a double tow to lock down in our direction first, then we would be able to lock up using the main chamber. TWO HOURS LATER we finally entered the chamber and locked up. (Man, that main chamber was BIG). This meant that we would have to navigate the last 10 miles to the marina IN THE DARK…USING ONLY OUR CHARTPLOTTER AND RADAR TO GUIDE US…WITH ONLY A SLIVER OF A CRESCENT MOON. In an airplane this would be, I think, called IFR, Instrument Flight Rules.

Holy guacamole! Not only is night navigation, especially in rivers like this, not recommended, it is generally thought of as a darn bad idea anytime for a lot of other reasons. But we had no choice. There was no place to anchor below the lock and we were totally unfamiliar with anything around the impounded lake above the pool. The only thing we knew was that there was a marina ten miles down and we had to get to it. The chart plotter did have a sailing line on the course that took us down to Yellow Creek so that actually was not too hard but I did have to quickly set a course that would take us to the marina. Once we made the turn onto Yellow Creek Lisa sat on the bow of the boat with a new strong handheld search light (1000 lumen) we picked up back in St. Louis sweeping the water for buoys and markers of which there were some. Once we left the channel and slowly passed an island that created another channel into Pickwick Lake which is where the marina is located I knew that getting to the marina was not a problem as the lake was wide open. Also the transient dock was this very long facing dock directly in front of us. So once I saw the lights of the marina getting to the dock was fine. We tied up (rather smartly I think) at 7:00 pm. So our first night navigation was successful, especially in light of the kind of waterways we were in. Also we were fortunate that the weather conditions were calm and clear. But it is not something I want to repeat anytime soon. 

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