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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

UP RIVER 0 REGRETS

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
SO PROUD!  

 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

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