We set out on Friday with light fog on the Tennessee but it burned off in a couple of miles as the sun was coming up on a perfectly clear day. Arrived at GUNTERSVILLE Dam and Lock at 9 am and had to wait for a tow, the Mary L, to move her last barge through the lock. Then they had an electrical malfunction and were waiting on an electrician. A kindly lockmaster, and indeed they are the master of your fate, decided to open a smaller auxilliary chamber to let us through. But boats were piling up and it was packed inside. There will be pictures.
I get ahead of myself. Rather than waste time waiting we went to explore the hidden lair of the Dark Knight! Yes, we went to the Bat Cave! Just before the lock is a cliff with an opening at the base that leads into a large limestone cave where 2 million, yes you read that right, brown bats live. This time of year they are beginning to hibernate for the winter but on a spring or summer evening about sunset you can idle off shore and watch them swarm out. They start trickling out as the brave ones emerge and soon tens of thousands are wheeling silently across the river. They dodge your boat but you are enveloped in bats. Makes you duck but their sonar works great. Wish the boat had such a navigation system.
Once the lock gate opened we followed our two traveling companions Illusion and High Voltage in. We tied to the lock wall on a floating bollard. Then two more boats tied to us: Galapago, a sailboat, and Wanderer. That meant that the weigh of 3 vessels (est. over 50,000 lbs.) was pulling on one line. Jan wisely threw another safety line on the bollard.
After leaving the lock we headed downriver to beautiful scenery. Soon we caught the Mary L and needed to call for permission to pass. That is where the AIS system comes in handy because you have data that tells how fast they are moving and who to call. By the time it was our turn to pass the tow had to turn sideways in a narrow portion of the river in order to spin around and tie up to a pier when a railroad siding was located. Then it will either load up with cargo and eventually go to Paducah, KY. I chatted up the tow’s master. He told me to hug the bank and come by him. This put us between the bank and his stern where huge 6 foot props are churning up mud. I timed it right and we made it.
The rest of the day was made up of seeing new sights and talking to new friends. Our buddy boats seemed in a hurry and went ahead. At one point they were 5 miles ahead of us. But in boating you need not get in a hurry. At Decatur they were held up by a railroad lift bridge with a train stuck on it. When we came through it was wide open. This bridge is operated by a Cajun sitting on a bridge on Lake Ponchetran in LA! He does it all with video cameras and radio repeaters. This is why we have an unemployment problem. One guy operating two bridges in two states at the same time. Probably put 8 people out of work. Like those automated cashiers at Home Depot.
But I digress. The river was over a mile wide after Decatur so Captain Jan wanted to run. She said it would be good practice for our Gulf crossing at speed. So we ran this monster up to 24 mph on plane for 30 minutes. If you complain about your SUV getting poor mileage you can go to the back of the line. We were burning a gallon plus per mile! By doing this we caught up to our fleet within 5 miles of Joe Wheeler State Park.
When we pulled into the marina we were greeted by Dockmasters Paul and Stacy formerly of Sea Sea. We have known them through mutual friends for years. We were greeted like heroes with pictures and cheers. Who would have thought we would be officially Loopy.