Thursday, June 23, 2011

No More Locks, Please!

We cruised from 6:00 this morning to 3:30 this afternoon and made it to Nickajack Marina, locally known as Hales Bar Marina and pronounced as Hells Bar Marina.  One lock today which we're sooo thankful that the tow and barge on our tail and the lockmaster decided to let us lock through ahead of the tow.  Otherwise, it would have been a couple hour wait in the strongest current we've seen yet.  We've been cruising over 8 mph, but were at 4.9 mph as we were passing the tow just below the lock.  It was truly a case of the racing turtles.  Fortunately, we put the pedal to the metal and beat him to the lock by.....well, seconds.  But the tow had to break down his barges to go through the lock.  So, the lockmaster and the tow captain agreed to let us go first.  Awesome!!!!

We've had threatening skies for what seems like a week.  Sometimes they turn into vicious storms, like the one at Guntersville.  Sometimes they don't amount to anything except "I'm watching you, Tide Hiker."  Today was no exception.  We have very limited connectivity here, so will add the pictures later.  BTW, we crossed into Tennessee today; and, tomorrow we change back to Eastern Time Zone.  Imagine that!

Lynnie Tierney asked me a while ago how the locks have been.  I told her " a piece of cake" and most of them have been easy.  Must have jinxed it-- we've had three that got the heart pounding.  The first was the one where we tied too loosely to the bollard and I fell into the lazarette.  The next was the tallest lock on the TennTom - the Whitten Lock.  It has depressed panels along the wall that a fender could easily get caught it and there's no way to position the fenders to avoid all those panels.  We ended up repositioning fenders along the way up the way -- a bit of a panic.  The other challenging lock was probably our fault again -- we tied very tightly to the bollard so there wasn't enough room for the boat to float away from the wall.  We thought the forward fender was going to tear right off the boat and both of us pushing off couldn't budge the boat from being mashed up against the wall for much of the vertical trip.  No more locks for awhile - thank goodness!

We're practically within spittin' distance of Chattanooga, our first destination.  Only 35 miles upriver, 4 hours tomorrow if the weather cooperates.  Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stormy in Guntersville AL

We tooled around Guntersville today in the courtesy car and saw many trees down from yesterday's storm.  Winds were reported at 60 mph.  Had a great lunch at The Rock House and Vicki got a nice pedicure at the nails place in downtown Guntersville.  Then, off to Walmart.  We hadn't accounted for the small cab in the truck we were driving, so most of the groceries resided in the truck bed as we raced to the boat to avoid yet another storm.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sitting Pretty in Guntersville, AL.......

Here's our cruise map from Columbus, MS (the last time we posted a map) to our current location, Guntersville, AL.  Just click on the following link.  Sometimes you will have to wait for the entire course line to load up and sometimes you will have to use the + and - keys to zoom in or out.  Let us know if you have any problems.

We departed Ditto Landing early this morning to outrun the 40% chance of forecasted  thunderstorms this afternoon.  Again, we didn't.  It was our intent to make it to Scottsboro, AL, a 45 mile run with only one lock.  But the clouds started thickening much earlier than expected.  After 24 miles, we pulled into the Guntersville Marina in Guntersville, AL. One bright spot along the way today was the Painted Bluff.  Here's a shot of it:

Painted Bluff--Tennessee River

There were several nice anchorages in the area and one free dock in downtown Guntersville; but again, it was 93 degrees and steamy.  So, we were coveting the electric hookups for the AC.   Once again, we were greeted by 3 very nice folks.  They helped us tie up and hook up the electrical connection, and offered their courtesy car if we wanted to explore the area.  Looking around the marina, we could see some of the metal roofs over the covered slips missing or twisted.  You guessed it--results of this spring's vicious string of tornadoes.  Another marina just up the river had all of their transient slips just blow away.  They, therefore, are only open for permanent slip-holders.  Another marina we passed on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway was hit especially hard and the owner was killed.  It's not been a good spring for the Tennessee Valley.

After getting settled in, we borrowed the courtesy car and went off to Huntsville, AL and the Rocket and Space Museum.  Friends have told us that the museum is only so-so if we have already visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  So, the purpose of our trip was to view the new IMAX movie on the Hubble Space Telescope --awe inspiring!  All right, all right, the real purpose of our trip was to have lunch at the Blue Plate Cafe in Huntsville.  This restaurant was recommended to us by Jenny, the dockmaster when we told her we were looking for homemade southern cooking.  AND, we were not disappointed.  We had two of the three Tuesday "Blue Plate Specials".  Vicki had the cube steak, macaroni and cheese, fresh peas, cornbread and peach cobbler.  Norm had the pot roast, brussels sprouts (soaked in ham hocks and bacon), hash brown casserole, cornbread and peach cobbler.  $7.95 each!!!  Needless to say, no dinner out tonight after splurging like that.

The storms have hit here and we are writing this as sheets of horizontal rain drape the boat, the marina and surrounding area.  Loud clasps of thunder are echoing off the surrounding hills and streaks of lightening are flashing the darkened landscape. The tin roof on the covered slips in front of us is beginning to peel away; still not secured from the spring tornado's.  By the way, we made it back to the marina in the car, just when the drizzling started.  Again, Vicki averted another storm-related meltdown.

Roof peeling off in storm

We expect that we will be here another day and explore Guntersville tomorrow.  Another gloomy, stormy day predicted.  Not good boating weather.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Northern Alabama is Beautiful

Our last blog displayed a couple video's of Tide Hiker locking up in an 83-ft Lock.  Here are some more in the very next 93-foot Wilson Lock.  Some different views show spectacular construction.  Hope you enjoy the ride:

Gates Closing in the Wilson 93-foot Lock

A Video walk up the wall of the 93-foot Wilson Lock

Check it out...112 feet INSIDE THE LOCK!!!

Last night we were at Bay Hill Marina in who-knows-where Alabama.  It's west of Decatur - that's what we know.  While the people were very nice we thought the marina was a bit of a scruffy place with a few randomly placed cletes.  We tied to the uprights supporting the roof.  Probably not a good place for a 65,000 lb. boat in storms-- fortunately the weather was clear.  We spent the afternoon at the pool, reading in the shade in 101 degree heat index and taking the occasional dip in the very refreshing pool for relief.  Our dock was near the public ramp.

We thought this was an unusual boat tow vehicle.

Today's cruise (in zero % probability of storms, much to Vicki's relief) was to Ditto Landing Marina just south of Huntsville AL.  The US Army's Redstone Arsenal and the Marshall Space Center is nearby.  We can hear the explosions every once in a while and feel the vibrations. Very nice marina with great docks. No courtesy car here, so we rested and caught up on in-boat stuff out of the 97 degrees outside. 

What an incredibly beautiful place is northern Alabama.  We are in eyesight of the low mountains in the area.  Trees and hills are everywhere.  Our cruise on the wide river is gorgeous.