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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goose Pond Reunion

Sailing from Decatur making our way up river to Goose Pond Marina.  Our good friend and fellow River Rat, Dr. Brad aka "doc" is waiting for our arrival and reunion.  We met Doc 3 years ago and have documented our meeting in a previous blog post. 

Doc is a free spirit.  He described his adventure as starting in 2010 when he "quit" work and decided to travel along the rivers.  At this time Doc has logged over 4,000 river miles in his 27 ft. Albin Cruiser.  He lives in 110 SF, alone and in warm weather takes river baths.  His motto is `"do not waste poverty" which I asked him to explain. He added, "well I live on about $1,300 per month and as far as I am concerned I am not "wasting" poverty."  My kind of guy.  I do not think I could be as solitudal as Doc but he is an inspiration.  He has health problems and limited income but challenges life.  He mentioned his next adventure  may be hiking the Apalachian Trail.  Go Doc!

We invited Doc to diner and drinks at the Goose Pond Restaurant.  Great food and fun. They included a 2 piece bank which were good and played all the old, country tunes we enjoy. 

We continued the next day with a bit hung over crew.  Doc invited us to return to buy him food and wine.  What a guy! 

Just prior to entering the secondary channel to Goose Pond Marina we spied these beautifal bald eagles just waiting for their photos.  They are magnificant birds and many occupy the Tennessee River Gorge.  Denise only wished she had packed the 400mm lense.  But a good pic was made and memories. 

 The above pictures are the Guntersville Lock permitting our exist.  We are getting better at the locking experience.  The locking does depend a great deal on the cooperation of the lockmaster.  The above pic is the Painted Bluff which does not do justice to the colors and granduer of the bluff.

More pics and great view to come.  We are enjoying the adventure and river rats fits us. 

Happy sailing,
Capt Barry, Adm. Denise and Deckhands Bailey and Bella

Monday, October 21, 2013


All river runs cannot be good runs.  However, the up river portion of this journey has been without incident and enjoyable to captain and crew.  The next planned port is a stop in Decatur, AL for a reunion with Adm. Denise and a change in crew.  After all, it is stressful, cruising at 7 mph, eating all day, drinking various adult beverages and meeting new pirates along the way.  A change in crew is planned. 

Decatur, Al is an old, river town with an industrial base. The river here is 1 mile wide with several bridges permitting access east to Huntsville and I-65.  The ONLY marina for public use is Riverwalk Marina. 

I would like to report this marina is up to par with others along the Tennessee River, alas that is not the fact.  We cruised into the harbor in late afternoon, not having visited before, nor knowing where the transient docks were located. A call to the marina was answered by the Hard Dock Café/Bar and we were instructed to enter the harbor and pick a slip.  We entered and cruised around till finally deciding to dock at slip with power pedestal. No dockhands were here to help in a 15-20 mph wind with our dockage.  Wind can be an enemy in a single screw boat which just pushed us to port with a little hard landing. No damage was done to boat or crew.  Welcome to Riverwalk.  Things only deteriated from here.  

The pictures here show the Southern Railroad bridge at the lower level and raised to upper level for our passage. I radioed the bridge master identifying our boat and addressing the person as "bridge master" for Southern Railroad asking for raising of the bridge.  He answered "railroad".  He was helpful indicating he was awaiting an approaching train and would give us a raise in a few minutes. 
Bridges remain an interesting part of river travel with a history of their own. 

Upon hard docking in Riverwalk, we walked across parking lot to "check in" at the bar.  Really!  We paid our docking fee, had a beer and planned an evening meal at the Hard Dock.  Needing water on the boat, we checked for available water and found none. Seems the water line ruptured 2 years ago and the owner had not completed repairs.  "No water". Really?  No showers, restrooms and get this NO FUEL.  Two additional boats arrived late in the afternoon, pulling into the fuel dock. I helped in docking, the dockhands tend the bar.  The newcomers found no water or fuel at the fuel dock.  Welcome to Riverwalk Marina.  The docks are adequate and the location is perfect for a stop along the river, however, do not plan on any assistance, water or fuel.  Seems the Hard Dock Café is the profit center and the owner does NOT maintain the slips or marina.  I would suggest any boaters in the area plan to bypass Riverwalk Marina and continue another 30 miles to Ditto Landing in Huntsville.  Ditto Landing has staff, 24 hr. fuel available and all the amenities Riverwalk does not want to offer.  Shame on the owner of Riverwalk Marina.

The evening continued with a meal at the Hard Dock Café with good food.  Then, then, finally Adm. Denise arrived after a stressful drive in traffic and construction.  Lloyd had departed earlier due to his "schedule" returning to home port in Madisonville, KY. 

The happy crew will continue this journey with new leadership aboard.  New management team continues to support the deckhands with treats and occasional walks in real grass. 
We will begin our quest to cruise the Tennessee River Gorge from Decatur, AL to Goose Pond Marina and then the final push up river to Chattanooga, TN.  A good Admiral always provides additional provisions. Adm. Denise provided a couple cases of "grog" for the remainder of the cruise and all hands were provided a ration of their daily "grog".  The crew slept better that evening.

Happy Sailing,
Adm. Denise, Capt. Barry, deckhands Bailey and Bella

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Monster Lock and Joe

We continue our journey from just above Pickwick Dam at Grand Harbor Marina up Pickwick Lake to Florence, AL and into Joe Wheeler Lake.  However, this requires riding the "monster" lock.  Seems this lock at Wilson Dam was constructed in 1913 with the greatest lift east of the Mississippi at 90 Ft.  Most locks lift under 50 ft. so this will be a new experience for 0 Regrets and crew. 

The photo does not do the lock justice. It is daunting when open with 90 ft. of empty chamber into which I cruise 0 Regrets to tie on a bollard and ride the current up.  The lock was constructed to navigate the Mussel Shoals due to swift waters and boulders stopping boat travel at turn of the century.  Later Wheeler Lake Dam was constructed to create the lake and help control flooding. 

Exiting the lock you encounter a wide, deep and beautiful lake, much like Kentucky Lake.  A short distance in the lake leads to Joe Wheeler State Park Marina and Lodge.  The marina is a wonderful facility and utilized by the American Great Loop Cruisers Association for their annual Rendezvous.  We just beat the crowd this year and grabbed a good slip in front of the lodge.
That would be 0 Regrets in center of the picture, somewhat dwarfed by the larger boats.  This location permitted a short walk to the lodge for good food and allowed walking our deckhands, Bella and Bailey. They needed some walking and play time after several days on the boat. 
Joseph Wheeler (September 10, 1836 – January 25, 1906) was an American military commander and politician. He has the rare distinction of serving as a general during war time for two opposing forces: first as a noted cavalry general in the Confederate States Army in the 1860s during the American Civil War, and later as a general in the United States Army during both the Spanish-American War and Philippine-American War near the turn-of-the-twentieth-century. For much of the Civil War he served as the senior cavalry general in the Army of Tennessee and fought in most of its battles in the Western Theater.
Between the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, Wheeler served multiple terms as a United States Representative from the state of Alabama.
The above monument depicts some of the accomplishments of the General and is typical of civil war monuments around the south. The history is all along the Tennessee River and is available to all boaters to enjoy.

Well, we continue on to Decatur, AL to take a cruise break for a day and await arrival of the Adm. Denise for the second week of the Tennessee River Cruise.  The cruising couple will explore the Tennessee River Gorge and a longer dockage in Chattanooga, TN.

Happy Sailing,
0 Regrets and crew

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Our journey continued early morning, upon lifting of the fog.  Pebble Isle kept its reputation intact with great chicken diner, many friendly loopers and good adult beverages.  The Fathom trawler below passed us "again" on route to Clifton Marina

The cruise up river from Pebble Isle requires a MUST stop at Clifton Marina.  Clifton only has a population of about 700 hardy souls and two of the most gracious and entertaining hosts, Sonya and Gene.  Gene acquired the marina by default a few years back.  Seems the community needed to keep the marina open but the current owner wanted out.  Gene and two "friends" decided to purchase but prior to the purchase closing the two "friends" backed out. Well, not to be deterred Gene purchased the marina and remains here to greet all who pass by or rent a slip.  Now Sonya is a less known story.  She did admit to owning a family farm in Illinois but preferred the Clifton Marina. She lives nearby and can be seen most evenings handling lines to tie off transient boats, cooking a great hamburger steak diner and polishing off a bottle of Reisling wine. 
This cruise Sonya saved a perfect slip for 0 Regrets adjacent to the store/restaurant which gave us easy access to the entertainment, showers and good place to walk Bailey and Bella.  Walking the dogs brings to mind another training experience for my new deckhand Lloyd.  Seems Lloyd is new to dog walking and the method of clean up.  Well, I know a good opportunity when I see one.  Lloyd volunteered to walk the dogs at Clifton Marina.  I told him he had to clean up after them if they pooped.  He did ask for poop bags but I explained we did not have any on board and he would just have to do his best.  Yep, the hand job.  Lloyd never complained. Therefore, on the next morning walk I bestowed on our friend a new roll of poop bags just for his use while on the cruise. He was

 As is my custom I presented Sonya and Gene with a gift of adult beverages.  Being a gentleman, I did permit Gene to pour coke over his new Woodford Reserve Bourbon I provided, cringing at the spoiling of good bourbon.  Now, Sonya poped the cork on the Reisling quickly for she had a more than busy, frantic day.  Clifton is a must stop for all loopers due to the current and a 50 mile run the next day to Pickwick Dam and Lock.  The dock was full of transient boat and the many characters aboard. We met two couples cruising to Florida that being the annual follow the sun plan for the winter.  I planted a large bottle of Woodford on the table for all to share, converting a couple of vodka drinkers to bourbon.  I did manage a taste of an Irish Whiskey called "Dew" which was very good.  You know those whiskey's have alcohol mixed in there.  Yep, a little cross eyed by the time we crawled back to 0 Regrets for the evening.

The next day dawned with fog lifting early and we were on the river by 7:45 am making our passage to Pickwick Lake. The current was not strong at this point so we cruised at our planned 7 mph. However, the current would find us later in the day.  This portion of the Tennessee River includes areas of limestone bluffs, low lands and many unique homes along the banks.  These range from river shacks, old mobile homes lifted up 10-14 ft. on poles to avoid flooding and a few "McMansions".

The above photo is the Cherry Hill Mansion used during the civil war, Battle of Shilo, to treat wounded.  A wonderful site from the river.

As we approached Picwick Dam, the current became strong with about 2-3 mph flow, causing our speed to drop to 4-5 mph.  We did have some concern about approaching darkness if held up at the lock.  However, our luck was good and the lockmaster waited for 6 boats to gather at the lock.  He had a sense of humor numbering each boat 1-6 and masterly pulled us into his chamber.  Lloyd, being a new deckhand had fun fumbling with fenders but we secured 0 Regrets to the ballard and up we went. Then all 6 boats exited to enjoy Pickwick Lake.  By the way, the lockmaster informed us he was working without pay due to the stupidity of our legislators. We advised him we appreciated his efforts and checks would be sent to the dam.  He wished us well and we sailed away.  You never know what the lock experience will be but a good lockmaster can make this time of stress much easier.  Flipping a line around a ballard recessed into a concrete wall is not easy and the captain must glide the craft very close to that concrete wall.  Scrapes do occur but if all goes well no damage is done to craft or crew. 

Grand Habor Marina is located at the intersection of Yellow Creek and the lake. Yellow Creek is part of the Tenn-Tomm Waterway which permits access to Mobile Bay and the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  I hope to dip 0 Regrets bow in those waters next October.  Jeff is the manager and he actually remembered 0 Regrets from last October. He docked us behind the fuel dock with again good access to all areas of the marina. We were joined by our new friends aboard Fridays Harbor, a sailing vessel bound for Florida and a captain moving a 52 ft. 1.3 million $ sedan bridge boat to Florida.  Even the million $ boat can suffer problems. Seems the generator would not start and captain with crew were "roughing it" without air conditioning.  Yet, little 0 Regrets had power, food and good company aboard.
A River Story
A lesson in river navigation is necessary for this story. When traveling up river the red bouys are on the right and green left.  "Red right return" is the term as you are returning to the source of the water.  While the Tennessee River flows north, up river generally requires the boat to travel south by the compass.  As explained by a tow boat captain on this leg of the river. Seems we heard a hail by a boat to the tow boat, asking for direction in passing the approaching tow. This is common courtesy on the river.  She informed the captain she was sailing "south" on the river. He gently informed her if traveling up river you always travel "north". Well she corrected the Captain, informing him she was traveling south, with emphasis. At this point the captain informed her if she did not move the boat to his starbord(right) she was going to die. He could not stop the barge, 1,500 ft., and give her a lesson in river navigation. We later heard his comment that she lived for another day on the river. Lessons to be learned; 1). never argue with a captain of a 1,500 ft. boat/barge and 2). traveling up river is always north.     I hailed the captain when seeing the bow of the LARGE tow rounding the bend and he politely asked to pass on the "2 whistle", starboard and we had a pleasant pass.  Never, ever mess with a tow boat captain or a lockmaster.  They carry the big stick.

We sailed away from Grand Harbor at 7 am with a destination of Joe Wheeler Lake Marina. Now, this requires two locks on being 90 ft. lift, unique to the east of Mississippi River. The day was stunningly bright with limited boat traffic and the joy of seeing Pickwick Lake. This lake is deep and broad not requiring adherence to the sail line on the chart to returning to the narrower river. The shore is lined with many large homes, boathouses large enough to house a clan.  Lloyd is improving as a deckhand and he took the helm on several occassions to give Skipper Barry time to work a bit, making $ to fund the cruising.  
   Well, time to plan our move to Joe Wheeler Lake and locking up the larges lift on the east coast, Wilson Dam.  More to following in the continuing saga of the 0 Regrets challenging the Tennessee River.

Happy Sailing,
Capt Barry, Mate Lloyd, deckhands Bella and Bailey

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

River Excursion Trawler Style

October 5, 2013

As evident in the above photo, the intrepid explores, Bailey and Bella along with their guides, Capt Barry and 1st. Mate Lloyd began their journey up the Tennessee River in quest of answers to all world problems, life meaning and enjoying fruits of their labor.  REALLY?  However, this did require 278 gal. of diesel fuel, a full medicinal locker(booze) and coin of the realm prior to casting off to the new world.

As predicted the journey began mid afternoon, -6GMT.; as the bow turned south after exiting the Barkley-Kentucky Lake canal.  Due to the predicted heavy weather that evening the decision was made to cruise up river about 20 miles to shorten the cruise the next day to Pebble Isle Marina at New Johnsonville, TN.  While the day was overcast the temp was comfortable and the crew was anxious to start the four state cruise. 

Deckhands Bailey and Bella are accustomed to cruising aboard 0 Regrets as they endured a portion of this journey in a prior year.  However, we are joined by 1st. Mate Lloyd in his first trawler cruise.  It seems Lloyd has a checkered past.  Lloyd is originally from Indiana I am want to admit but years in Kentucky, with toes in bluegrass and brown liquid coursing through his veins, he can claim Kentucky as home.  Lloyd's past included a tour of Vietnam as an artillery officer in II Corp.  Like many he attended Indiana University prior to the war and later completed law school. I know I am on board with a Hoosier Lawyer!  After a number of years Lloyd now cruises by land between Lexington, Middlesboro and Madisonville,KY. representing questionable characters in is law practice.  I do believe this cruise is an attempt to flee court orders and maybe a short term in the witness protection program.  Lloyd will not commit to an answer, typical of a lawyer.

Hence, we are heading south along the famous Tennessee River with nothing good in mind, on the lookout for any booty(gold, trinkets, flotsam, etc) we may encounter.  We managed to successfully by cruising under the Egdner Ferry Bridge with mishap(struck many ships) and docked for the evening at Kenlake Marina, Aurora, KY. Here we encountered no pirates or wenches, just a small marina.
October 6, 2013,

The ships bell range at 0700 hrs. to raise the crew in preparation for the days journey.  While Capt. and crew planned a sumptuous breakfast at the marina restaurant, the restaurant staff did not show.  It was rumored that they though this was "off season".  Well, not aboard 0 Regrets!  A brief breakfast of hard bisque and fetid water, once again the lines were cast.  With a heading south at 172 deg. the intrepid 0 Regrets pushed water across the bow for a 50 mile journey to the Pebble Isle Marina.

Pebble Isle is popular with the Great Loop Cruisers due to the location about 72 miles from Green Turtle Bay Marina(our home port).  October is the busy month with transient boats heading up river to Chattanooga, Yellow Creek, and the Tenn-Tom Waterway to Mobile, AL.  This is an exciting time for boaters like myself to meet with many "Loopers" as they are called, cruising their way around the eastern 1/3 of the U.S. The boats are as varied as their crews. 

Our stop at Pebble Isle found the transient dock near capacity with Loopers.  We wedged ourselves into the tag end of the dock in hopes of the famous chicken diner provided by the marina.   We were greeted by several loopers, enjoyed compliments on our 0 Regrets trawler and met folks from Montreal, Saint John New Brunswick and a Michigan cruiser.  It seems the world remains small. The captain of Irish Wake is a neighbor to the tour guide we enjoyed in a tour of Saint John.  Only a few of these folks could pass a breathalyzer test, so we journey to the restaurant for that chicken diner.  Tomorrow morning promises bright weather and the famous sticky buns for all boaters courtesy of the marina.  Hospitality along the river is a fresh pleasure for many who journey these waters.  Sticky buns are just a warm up to a fine, fall day on the water.

Happy Sailing,
Capt. Barry, Mate Lloyd, Deckhands Bailey and Bella