Inland Rivers, Part I: Pickwick Lake (Tennessee River) to Lake Barkley (Cumberland River) / August 12-September 2, 2002
August 12, 2002 / Aqua Yacht Harbor, Iuka, MS to Russ Towhead anchorage on Tennessee River
Off to another early start (0638), we had only one obstacle that could slow us down, the Pickwick Lock, and indeed it did. We waited three and a half hours for a double tow to clear the lock headed south, but it was finally our turn, and the cheerful lady lock tender made us feel better about the delay. The main lock is closed for repairs, but Pickwick has an auxiliary lock. It was unusual in that only one of the auxiliary lock walls has bollards for tying up--on your starboard side if you're headed downriver (north), and of course, port side if you're headed the other direction. According to published information, the main lock is scheduled to open again after August 26.
The Tennessee River between the Tennessee state line on the south and the Kentucky state line on the north is actually just one big lake, i.e., Kentucky Lake. There are no dams between Pickwick Dam on the south and Kentucky Dam on the north, so we will enjoy the next few days with lots of open water and no lock waits.
The cruise took us past Shiloh National Military Park (Tennessee River mile 197.8), which we have visited in the past by automobile. We couldn't see much of the site from the river, but looking up at a bluff in the park, we saw a cannon. Fortunately, the people standing beside it were waving, not aiming. We remembered reading about how the Union gunboats anchored off Pittsburgh Landing and how Ulysses Grant directed his forces from a house he commandeered a few miles downriver in Savannah, Tennessee--you can see that house, known as the Cherry Mansion (built circa 1830), from the river (mile 189.0). Besides its association with Grant, the house is also famous for having been built on top of an ancient Indian mound.
The Tennessee hills come down to the river, often ending abruptly in limestone bluffs. If we're lucky, when we pass this way heading south in a couple of months, we'll see the rich autumn colors in the trees as well. The scenery is very picturesque, even in the present leafy green.
The morning's lock delay meant we needed to choose an anchorage instead of making it to a marina. The first recommended anchorage we looked at, Indian Creek (mile 168.3), was too narrow and shallow for our comfort, so we backed out and kept going. The next was far more suitable--a sandy towhead in the river's bend (mile 155.0). As our cruise guide instructed, we anchored bow and stern parallel to the beach, and for the first time on this voyage, had a nice swimming spot. Maggie raced up and down the beach, splashed in the water, and rolled in the sand. She had so much sand caked on her head and snout, she looked like a golden bear. Guess what, Maggie--bath time when you get back to the boat!
We spent a quiet uneventful evening in the smooth-running light current. Overnight the river's water level dropped between two and three feet, so we were particularly glad we had chosen this spot over the Indian Creek anchorage--we would have been sitting in mud by morning.
Today's run was 63.5 miles, run an average of 1950 rpm over about eight hours.
August 13, 2002 / Russ Towhead anchorage to Cuba Landing Marina, Waverly, TN
We left our pretty anchorage at 0608, enjoying the rising sun and placid water. Other than slowing to keep our wake from disturbing the customary contingent of fishermen and docked boats, we encountered nothing to impede our progress. Consequently, we had arrived at our planned destination, Cuba Landing Marina (telephone (931) 296-2822), by 1114, running a total of 39.9 statute miles at 1900 rpm.
This marina is on the river just north of Interstate 40, with a well-marked channel leading in. The only problem with the channel is the fishermen who stubbornly anchor there. One of the marina residents had a lot of trouble bringing his houseboat in around them, and the wind pushed him into a stump. He was still grumbling about it as we tied up.
We docked and hooked up our power cords; Gary saw no evidence of water hookup at the dock space we were assigned, but we had filled our tanks at Aqua Yacht Harbor, so we had sufficient water for our needs. We paid only $24.00 for overnight dockage and power, so we're not complaining at all.
Perhaps because of the proximity of the interstate highway, we had a Sprint cell phone signal for the first time since August 3. The marina sells gas and diesel fuel, has showers, a small laundromat, and lots of shady trees where squirrels play. Maggie was quite contented. On the dogworthiness scale, she's giving this marina three squirrels.
Since we're speaking of Maggie, let us share this tale. While we were cooking steaks on the grill, we got involved in a lively conversation with the nice folks docked beside us, Carl and Sandy from Florida, on their Carver 28 Evening Star, who have been living aboard and traveling the inland rivers and Intracoastal Waterway for the last several years. When the steaks were done, Coleen turned off the electric grill so they wouldn't burn, but left them there for warmth. Well, when they had cooled a bit, a certain canine who lives on the Calypso Poet must have decided that her gabby owners weren't going to eat those steaks after all, so they must be up for grabs--and gulps. We had a nice vegetarian dinner of salad and baked potato. Maggie paid for her gluttony next morning when she upchucked the substantial undigested remainders of her feast. Friends, it's wonderful cruising with a dog--you never know what's coming next, but she keeps you entertained! Our next grilled meal will be jealously watched over.
August 14, 2002 / Cuba Landing, TN to Paris Landing State Park, TN
We departed Cuba Landing at 0643, under gusty winds and heavily overcast skies. Fortunately, we were able to run for several hours before the weather worsened. The rain started about 1300 hours and continued off and on for the rest of the afternoon. The river widens so much as it flows north, it's very susceptible to the winds, and the chop resembled what we've encountered on Chesapeake Bay and Lake Pontchartrain.
We arrived at our destination during one of the no-rain periods, and we tied up at Paris Landing State Park's nice transient dock. The harbor is well sheltered from the north, west, and south; in good weather it would be utterly calm were it not for a public launch ramp just north of the docks. In stormy weather, we were glad to have such comforting surroundings.
The Coast Guard station across the way had three tugboats, one of which, the Chippewa, we had seen farther south on the Tennessee, but maybe it was on the Tenn-Tom. The park (telephone (901)-642-3048) charged us $26.00 for overnight dockage, which included electricity and water--a very reasonable fee. Maggie found some squirrels to chase as we walked around the park's campgrounds, which perked her up a lot, even though she had to stay on her leash. Maggie will give this place two squirrels, primarily because it has squirrels. Today's run was 49.6 miles, run mostly at 1900 rpm.
August 15, 2002 / Paris Landing State Park, TN to Green Turtle Bay Marina, Grand River, KY
The wide Tennessee got even wider today as we continued north. We left the state park marina at 0723 (which we now consider to be a late start), with partly cloudy skies overhead and moderate winds. It was a good day for sailboats, and we saw many as we looked across the broad expanse of water for the next set of channel markers. We could see many nice homes on the western shores, while to our east, the Land Between the Lakes looked like the forest preserve and campground that it is.
Just a few miles south of Kentucky Dam, a channel cuts across the Land Between the Lakes peninsula, connecting Kentucky Lake (Tennessee River) and Lake Barkley (Cumberland River) without having to transit a lock. Cool! Sooner or later, we'll have to go through a lock again, but it can be later. We arrived at Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barkley a little after 1 p.m., about the same time that the wind turned nasty. Once we got into our slip, however, the wind died down. Timing is everything.
We'll stay at Green Turtle Bay (telephone 270) 362-8364) for a week, then head elsewhere--where, we're not yet sure, but we'll post something when we decide. We may go marina-hopping in the Land Between the Lakes area, or we may head on up the Cumberland toward Nashville. But for now, we'll just do our laundry, clean the boat, do some maintenance, and relax. The transient slips are in a great location. We couldn't be closer to the dock store, restrooms, or laundry. We've already met another couple on the backside of their Great Loop Cruise--Larry & Diane Hill onWanapum. Even though their web site details their experiences, we still have a lot of questions for them. And there are many tree-filled acres full of squirrel scent for Maggie to explore. She rates the place three squirrels.
Phone signal here is iffy--if we go up on the bridge, we get a small signal. If we go anywhere else, we don't. But we'll be checking e-mail everyday, and maybe we'll be on the bridge--with the phone--if you call.
August 16-September 1, 2002 / Green Turtle Bay, Grand Rivers, KY / Eddy Creek Marina, Eddyville, KY / Prizer Point Marina, Cadiz, KY / Lake Barkley State Park
When we planned this trip, we thought that western Kentucky would be a good place to hole up for a month. Lake Barkley would be our northernmost destination in 2002, and it was far, far away from hurricane activity. We also thought being a longer-term resident in a marina slip would give Coleen a chance to get a lot of sabbatical research and writing done. Well, they were good plans, but . . . .
Central to our decision was the assumption we'd have telephone and Internet service. We assumed wrongly, at least for Sprint and AOL, who do not seem to realize that people actually live in Kentucky and that many of them might enjoy using telephones and computers to connect to the rest of the world. The only local AOL number we were able to use was in Paducah, KY, which was a long-distance call from all the places we stayed on Lake Barkley except Green Turtle Bay, but at that marina we could only get Sprint service if we stood on the bow of the boat facing the sailboat pier (not kidding) or took a long walk to a point on the other side of the harbor. At Eddy Creek we were not far from Interstate 24, so the phone signal was great, but no AOL. At least Eddy Creek had its own computer and ISP for transient boaters to borrow (and from which this update is being posted). At Lake Barkley State Park and at Prizer Point Marina, we had neither Sprint nor regular AOL access, being forced to use Aol's charge-by-the-minute 800 number.
The lake is beautiful, however, and the marinas have all been pleasant. We won't provide cruising details between marinas as we never went more than 18 miles between any, the water and weather conditions were comfortable and unremarkable, there was little tow traffic, and we were always docked at the new destination by lunchtime at the latest.
While at Green Turtle Bay we met two other Great Loop cruising couples, Fred & Carol Coffey of Houston, TX (on their trawler Dream Spirit) and Ernie & Anna McKenzie of Seminole, FL (on Island Time), both of whom are on the southbound homeward legs of their trip. We were relieved to hear that the McKenzies' Searay, which is roughly the same size as the Poet, had no trouble with bridges on the Chicago alternate route.
At Lake Barkley State Park (telephone (270) 924-1131), Maggie enjoyed encountering the wildlife--the usual squirrels, but also chipmunks and deer. Our nature walk on one of the park's trails, however, brought her and us in contact with some of Kentucky's less charming critters--chiggers and ticks. The chiggers thought they'd tag along with us for the Great Loop Cruise, and right now, they're getting to travel across a good bit of Lake Barkley and will likely see some part of Kentucky Lake as well. Good swimming spots and dog-friendly marina folks counteract the scratch factor, though, and she'll give Lake Barkley State Park a three-squirrel rating. Similarly, she liked Prizer Point Marina (telephone (800) 548-2048), which also had a couple of rabbits for chasing (and rabbits can't climb trees to get away). It gets four squirrels.
Four squirrels must also be awarded to our favorite spot in this part of the river system, Eddy Creek Marina (telephone (800) 626-2300), which has a good swimming spot, lots of squirrels, and friendly resident dogs Barkley and Chevy. For the humans, all these marinas have very nice facilities, with covered slips available, showers, laundromat, and on-site restaurants (only one of which--the Landing at Prizer Point--was closed for dinner while we were there!).
One regret we'll have is not being on Lake Barkley when the trees change color this autumn. We'll also miss the 26th Annual Trigg County Country Ham Festival, scheduled for October 11-13, which features, among other attractions, a 4,000-pound biscuit, termed by the local newspaper as "surprisingly tasty."
After the Labor Day weekend (when we'll be visited by our good friend Martha McAlister from Little Rock), we'll head back up the Tennessee (which means we'll be going south and east). So be patient, those of you who have been trying to reach us by phone or e-mail; maybe we'll have better service after we get back into Alabama and southern Tennessee. And if not, well, we'll eventually get back to "civilization."