Sunday, October 21, 2007

October 12-20, 2007 . . . Tennessee River (Cuba to Chattanooga)

Back on the Tennessee River from Cuba, Tennessee, to Clifton, Tennessee, to Iuka, Mississippi, up in the corner of Mississippi/Tennessee/Alabama, the barge traffic continues.

The Wilson Lock is HUGE! The standard big size of 1,200' x 110', however, this one raised us up some 93'. We felt so small in this lock.

The rear doors are so massive that they cannot fit into the camera lens from the stern of SONATA inside the lock.

The lock having been filled, proceeds to lower the front gate so that we may continue. Some have doors that open, some have gates that lower; this one lowers.

At the Joe Wheeler lock we watched a tow with a number of barges lock his barges up, then we had to wait while the tow boat was then locked up. A two hour wait! Bonnie said she would not look at this lock door again . . . after she had looked at it a million times in anticipation of it opening. Delays are just part of the joy of the trip.

The doors finally open for us. Our overnight is just minutes away from this lock. Joe Wheeler State Park.

Joe Wheeler State Park was the site for the America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association Fall Rendezvous. We did not have reservations here for we did not expect to get this far by this date, October 15th. There was no slip space and no room at the rendezvous for additional participants, nonetheless, we were able to stay on the courtesy dock (no power) for free and visit with friends we had met along the way.

The highlight of the stop was visiting again with Virginia and Phil Moyer of HARMONY whom we had not seen since Brewerton, New York. We will probably see them again when they join us in New Orleans for a cruise over to their home in Houston.

On the way to Chattanooga there were two state parks, Ditto Landing and Jackson County, and two locks. The state parks were great. One had all services, water, electric, and a nice little place for breakfast . . . all for only $18.00.

Just the day before we passed under the Sergeant York bridge, and, before we could leave the Jackson County marina in the early morning, we found that the cable movie was SERGEANT YORK. This film is a 1941 biographical film about the life of Alvin York, the most decorated American soldier of World War I, a native of Tennessee. Starring in the movie were Gary Cooper, as Alvin C. York, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie. We delayed our departure to enjoy the film.

Up the Tennessee, out of Alabama and back into Tennessee, above the Nickajack Dam and Lock we came into the area called the "Grand Canyon of the Tennessee." Some of the most stunning scenery to be found anywhere on the river. High bluffs, beautiful trees.

The river twists and turns in the valley with beautiful views on both sides. We appear to be alone on the river, we have it all to ourselves.

Twisting and turning in the river we find water depths up to 135 feet because the river follows an ancient earthquake fault. There are deep holes in the river known as "The Pan", "The Skillet", "The Pot", because of the swirling, boiling, water that existed before the Nickajack Dam. Here we reenter the Eastern Time Zone.

As we come around the bend at Williams Island Lookout Mountain comes into view. While most know of Lookout Mountain some may not remember that it was here in November of 1863 that Union and Confederate forces clashed in the "Battle Above the Clouds," one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War . . . 34,000 deaths. Around one more bend and we are at Chattanooga, established in 1815 by Cherokee descendant Chief John Ross. Our dock is just upriver of the John Ross Bridge, on a floating dock parallel to the river bank.

After docking the local tour "steam boat" Southern Belle, passes under the John Ross Bridge and passes our location. During the night the steam boat DELTA QUEEN tied up at the dock behind us. Sorry, no picture . . . the camera is on the fritz. Time for a new one.

After docking on Friday the 19th, daughter and grand-daughter, Brandi and Taylor from Knoxville, joined us for the week end. Saturday morning we were off to the incline railway and the top of Lookout Mountain.

Three beautiful, charming women that I am lucky to be associated with . . . up the mountain, over to Rock City and a view of seven states, lunch at the Krystal (tiny hamburgers, one-half dozen), to the mall, out to dinner for ribs; a great day!!

A view of the Tennessee River from Lookout Mountain. The top of the bend is SONATA's location for a week while Brandi and Taylor return to Knoxville and Bonnie returns to Virginia Beach and her work. Boat jobs for Charlie, and, now it is raining, raining, much needed rain for this area, the East Coast.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October 11, 2007 . . . Paris

Overnight at the Paris Landing State Park Marina. A beautiful new place. Took on some 285 gallons of diesel; topped off the 600 gallon tanks.

Departure from Paris, on our way to Cuba . . . was delayed due to heavy ground fog that hugged the river and made visiability near zero.

October 9 - 10, 2007 . . . Cumberland River, into Tennessee

While we intend to travel up the Tennessee River to Knoxville for Thanksgiving at Bonnie's daughter's, we could not go up the Tennessee at Paducah due to the Kentucky Dam and Lock being repaired. We continued up the Ohio through two locks, Locks 53 and 52, to the Cumberland River. Here we turned in behind a tow that a few minutes later pulled to the side of the river to let us pass. (Really, he was waiting for an outbound tow that was coming down the Cumberland . . . there was not room for both in the area they would meet so this one waited.)

Met this little fellow on the Cumberland. We agreed to a "two-whistle" passage (starboard to starboard). The preferred port to port passage just would not work in this situation. Do not think a canoe could have passed port to port.

Bonnie then put us in the Barkley Lock for our first lift on the way to Knoxville.

A few miles up the Cumberland from the Barkley Lock was Green Turtle Bay Marina. Here we were among some 25-30 other loopers. Some of us were just in a row as shown here. There are lots of boats, loopers, gathering, for the get-together at Joe Wheeler State Park on the 15th.

Two nights at Green Turtle Bay . . . the five year old computer . . . died . . . and a replacement was secured from Best Buy . . . in Paducah. Green Turtle was kind enough to let us have their vehicle and we made several trips to Paducah to fill all our needs.

The canal between the Cumberland and the Tennessee Rivers, on the Cumberland it is up river from the Barkley Dam and Lock and on the Tennessee it is up river from the Kentucky Dam. Here we cross the "Land Between the Lakes" and into the Tennessee.

October 8, 2007 . . . The Ohio River

Our first stop up the Ohio was at Paducah, Kentucky.

Just ahead of thunderstorms, we tied up to the public dock in Paducah for the night with GREAT ESCAPE.

On the wall that exists to keep the Ohio out of the town were a number of drawings. One showed the river/port from about 1873 . . . we secured SONATA about the same location as that showing the paddlewheelers along the waterfront.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sept 28-Oct 7, 2007 . . . Mississippi River

After leaving the Illinois we went down the Mississippi to Alton, Illinois. The Marina there is partly under the Clark Bridge that crosses the Mississippi. We turned upstream to enter the marina.

Our friend, Elaine Bosley from Kansas City, Missouri, joined us in Alton for the week end. A wonderful time visiting and catching up. Elaine and Bonnie went shopping in St. Louis and we spent one afternoon cruising on the Mississippi. Great Fun.

Elaine departed, Bonnie returned to Virginia Beach to work and Charlie's brother, John, on his way to Florida and Mississippi, came in to visit from Los Angeles. John and Charlie went to the Arch in St. Louis, visited other loopers on the docks, enjoyed the "hot-tub" and swimming pool, restocked SONATA with groceries and just enjoyed being together. Another great visit!

Just South of the Alton marina was our first Mississippi river lock, the Mel Price lock. Two chambers, a big one, 1200' x 110', and an auxillary chamber only 600' x 110'. We were placed in the 600' lock. John and Charlie visited this lock during John's stay and picked up information that will be presented later in the blog.

When you exit the Mel Price lock you can either go right down the Mississippi (rocky channel with small waterfalls) or go left through the Chain of Rocks Channel made, created by the Corps of Engineers, as the shipping channel. When we exit we came to a face off with an upbound tow and his barges.

Some useful information. A barge can carry 1500 tons, 52,500 bushels, or 453,600 gallons. One barge is equal to fifteen (15) jumbo railroad hopper cars, or fifty-eight (58) semi-trucks. When we pass a 15 barge or a 20 or 30 barge tow, we are passing alot of stuff!!!

Approaching the Chain of Rocks Lock which is just above St. Louis and at the end of the Chain of Rocks Channel we are surrounded by white pelicans.

Inside the Chain of Rocks Lock looking aft we observe the wall being raised. This lock does not have a rear gate, but rather a wall that is raised and lowered to allow vessels to enter and exit. Again, we are in the auxillary lock, 600' x 110'. GREAT ESCAPE has joined us again. We will travel together down the Mississippi, up the Ohio, and on the Tennessee until they, Don and Theresa, head south on the Tombigbee.

Saint Louis Arch from the river, SONATA on the way South.

Another view of the arch, a little further down river, showing the tour boats that are along the waterfront. Strange, in St. Louis there are NO facilities for visitors to tie up, no marina, only hundreds of barges and these few tour boats.

Almost 50 miles south of St. Louis is the first, only, marina for miles and miles. Hoppies Marina consists of a half-dozen or so barges tied to the river bank. The location is well known by all loopers and a "required" stop.

The covered shed on the barge is the Hoppies Marina Executive Conference Center where each day Fern, "Mrs. Hoppie", holds her Mississippi and lower rivers educational seminar. Attendance is mandatory!

Fern during her informational presentation. She advises where to stop on the River, how to navigate through the eddies and currents, her experience with the Coast Guard and Homeland Security . . . wanting her to make her marina secure against terrorist!? She and her husband have been on the river more than 50 years, it is said that Hoppie (Fern's husband) is the last of the the river's lamplighters.

Hoppies from the shore with SONATA and the river in view. This is our scene after we returned from lunch at the Blue Owl in Kimmswick, Missouri.

The Boys of Summer resting on the Husband's Bench, Charlie and Don Miller (Great Escape). Where are the girls, Bonnie and Theresa . . . shopping of course!

On the river again, strong current, a picture of the Garmin GPS screen showing our location, speed (13.1), time (0914), and depth of water (22.3'); we are racing down the river with the current providing a big push.

Down nearly another 50 miles we arrive at the Kaskaskia River Lock and Dam which is just off the Mississippi and the entry way to the port of New Athens, Illinois. We were allowed to tie off to the lock wall for the evening. There are no services here . . . but at least you are safe and off the river for the night.

Another 50 or so miles and we are at the Little River Diversion Channel which is a small channel off the Mississippi. We anchored for the night then are ready to proceed to the Ohio River.

In conversing with the tow (tug) captains found out that tow boats run from some 6,000 to 10,000 horsepower. This one is one of the 10,000 horsepower boats and they move the 20-30 size barge collections from New Orleans to St. Louis. This one has 29 barges. In St. Louis the barges are separated and moved on up the Mississippi or the Illinois by smaller tows, 6-7,000 horsepower.

The end of our Mississippi River journey. Here we made a left turn into the Ohio River. The water changed from swirling muddy brown water to relatively calm blue/green water. On our way up the Ohio...............