View from the pilot house of the snagboat Montgomery at the Tom Bevil Visitor Center on the TennTom.
May 4 - Cochran Cut-Off (TennTom Mile 287)
Today we motored an uneventful seventy miles north, passing through our third lock, to a nice anchorage at Cochran Cut-Off. The Cut-Offs are places where canals were cut to shorten the old meandering horseshoes in the river. You don't find them south of Demopolis since that wasn't part of the TennTom project, but the abandoned river channels in this stretch make good anchorages assuming they haven't silted in.
It was a typical day on the move: Laura and I played "Go Fish," Annie crocheted and read books, I listened to music and read a book in the cockpit between course corrections and Go Fish games. Although we had high speed Internet in Demopolis, cell service is scarce on the TennTom so we will probably wait a couple of days to upload this report. Given the low-key nature of the TennTom, that seems appropriate.
May 5 - Hairston Cut-Off (TennTom Mile 318)
Photos: (1) Annie was determined to operate the 45 ton lifting boom on the Montgomery, but I couldn't get the boiler lit because they had it welded open. Imagine my surprise when I accidentally triggered the incredibly loud steam whistle, which is running on a separate compressor. They did that on purpose! (2) In keeping with the surroundings, I thought this fountain might be spouting champagne, but it wasn't. (3) Although propellers eventually proved more efficient than paddlewheels, this one was good enough to move 471 tons of boat for almost five decades.
The Rumsey guide and the chart make it look like there are a lot of anchorages in this stretch, but some have silted in since those references were published. In fact, some are now dry land! Attempting to enter the Hairston Cut-Off, I kept to the downstream side since my cruising instincts told me a shoal would have built upstream. Hmmm, we were aground no matter how tightly I hugged the downstream bank. As usual, my instincts were wrong and the deep water was just upstream of the centerline.
We're now just 400 river miles from home.
Photo: We found another peaceful, if hot, anchorage at the Hairston Cut-Off, just a hundred yards off the TennTom. Laura and I cooled off by going swimming.
May 5 - Canal Section Anchorage (TennTom Mile 366)
Photos: (1) Climbing the stairs up Blue Bluff with the anchorage in the background. (2) We went swimming before and after visiting the playground.
May 8 - Panther Creek, Tennessee River Mile 218
Photos: (1) We used to run a single long line from the bow to stern, wrapping it twice around the bollard in the lock, but lately we're just using a loop or two from an amidships cleat. It's simple and it works fine. (2) Whitten Lock made a lot of bubbles. (3) Our mast didn't even come near the top of Whitten. (4) The Bay Springs Visitors Center was well worth a stop.
This morning we enjoyed the visitors center and a nice nature walk which led us to a view of the dam. Then we motored northward, first through the broad and pretty expanse of the lake and then into the Divide Cut, where the Corps of Engineers connected the Tennessee and Tombigbee watersheds. The Corps dug a 300 foot wide channel through up to 175 feet of rock and earth for 29 miles, moving more dirt here than was removed for the Panama Canal. The mind can't grasp moving that much earth.
At Grand Harbor Marina, the top of the TennTom, we took on 14 gallons of diesel, filled up with water, and ate ice cream, then motored up the Tennessee a couple of miles to the Cooper Hollow Waterfall anchorage at mile 217. Where else, short of Alaska, can you anchor just a few feet away from a waterfall? Well, maybe next time! An expedition was already encamped there, with boats in the anchorage and tents on the beach, so we went a short distance further to Panther Cove on the opposite bank. In contrast to the mud of the TennTom, the water here looks clean and green, although as Laura and I can attest it is still a bit chilly for swimming.
Photo: Seaductress at anchor in a peaceful Panther Cove on the Tennessee River. Not long after this picture was taken, veggie burgers were sizzling on the grill.
May 9 - Joe Wheeler State Park, Tennessee River Mile 277
Although I wasn't expecting this, at this point I am actually looking forward to getting home. Maybe, as Sale Creek's own Captain Jim says, you can only drink so many rum drinks. As fabulous as the Bahamas were this winter, by the end of three months I had seen enough perfect deserted tropical beaches. I was ready to do something different for a while. Exactly what that might be, I'm not certain, and I'll no doubt be wishing I was back on one of those beaches soon enough.
Photos: (1) We did 49 miles and two locks today, including the 93 foot tall Wilson lock shown here. (2) For a girl who is often restricted to a small boat for days at a time, the Wheeler Resort Lobby is a huge place. (3) Here's a 30 second exposure of the boat tonight at the dock at Wheeler State Park, reminiscent of the one I took here on our way south. Amazing how much light the camera captures--it was really quite dark out there on the dock.
May 13 - Revere Ware Cove, Tennessee River Mile 379
Over the next couple of days we saw lots of friends and family, and also visited the Earlyworks History Museum and Kid's Space, one of our all-time favorite playgrounds. What a relaxing, enjoyable weekend! Huntsville may be four days away by boat, but it's only a couple of hours in one of those new-fangled automobiles, so perhaps we'll find time to visit more often in the future.
We are just 90 river miles from downtown Chattanooga and 120 from Sale Creek now. It's definitely a strange feeling to be so close to home.
Photos: (1) Lamont Brown provided good company and good deeds throughout the weekend. (2) As always, Randall Blackwood was the keystone on which the weekend turned. (3) Laura got to meet her newest cousin, Tessa. (4) The only vessel slower than a sailboat--a keelboat. This one is at the Earlyworks History Museum in Huntsville. (5) David, Ryan and Donna Cass on top with Scott down below, joined by Tiffany Blackwood and the Million Dollar Girl. Behind them on the stairs is Brent Blackwood.
May 14 - Shellmound Recreation Area, Tennessee River Mile 425
Cedar Mountain is the preferred anchorage on this part of Nickajack Lake, but I was afraid to look since TVA had completed a controversial land swap that would allow development before we left. We can hear heavy equipment moving earth and trees just over the hill. Instead, we anchored off Shellmound Recreation Area, just above the dam. This was a good stop since we could go ashore and visit the playground. Later Laura and I took the dinghy a couple of miles over the lake to Nickajack Cave. Most of the huge entrance to the cave was flooded when the dam was built, and the cave is off-limits because it's a gray bat sanctuary. This is the cave where Dennis Curry and Buddy Lane saved the life of a SCUBA diver who had gotten lost in the underwater passages inside and given up for dead (see Miracle at Nickajack). When Laura and I arrived at the cave today, a teenage girl was poised at the top of the cliff over the entrance, getting up her courage to make the fifty foot plunge.
Photos: (1) Laura on the Shellmound playground with Seaductress anchored in the distance. (2) As Laura was posing for this picture in front of the flooded entrance to Nickajack Cave, she kept telling me she heard a strange hissing noise. She was right! There were two buzzard chicks under a ledge nearby making a terrible fuss at us.
May 15 - Ross's Landing, downtown Chattanooga, mile 464
"You're right," I said. "And the climate is certainly agreeable." The skies were blue and temperature was perfect springtime. Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga's most famous landmark, came into view looking like the bow of a huge green ship. It all looked so familiar and yet so new.
We agreed: of all the places we had cruised, this was a good choice for a place to settle.
Photos: (1) Seaductress had the dock at Ross's Landing all to herself. Unfortunately, the power was out at this dock so we had to move to another one in the distance. With the Aquarium, the Riverwalk, the museums, and park-like surroundings, Chattanooga has the best waterfront of any town we have visited. (2) The Hunter Museum of Art and the "glass bridge." (3) On the Walnut Street Bridge. (4) The world's longest pedestrian bridge at Walnut Street.