Monday, July 8, 2024

Demopolis, Alabama to Green Turtle Bay, Kentucky (part 2)

 In my last entry, I wrote about the first half of the trip from Demopolis, Alabama to Green Turtle Bay, Kentucky. The first half of the trip went well. The boat ran very well, and the weather was calm with no storms. That was about to change.

We were up early again on Tuesday, June 25th. We left Midway marina and headed north. This area of the Tenn-Tomm has many bridges. Many of them are 52 feet. Our mast is 50 feet. That makes for a few tense moments as we pass under each one.

As we approach each bridge we always think they look too low.

Another bridge that we just cleared by about 2 feet.

The good news is that the COE has charts that have the real height of each bridge. The big variable is the pool level. I have to do the math and hope I got it right. 

We had three locks to get through on this day. The first two were the normal lift of about 30 feet. The third one was about 80 feet. It was strange when we pulled into the Whitten lock. The walls towered above us. The lift was really no different other than as we went up, the water was less turbulent. I think that is just due to the distance down to the openings that let the water in. 

After the Whitten lock, we found ourselves in the beautiful Bay Springs Lake. It was a calm day with almost no wind, or we could have sailed across the 7-mile-long lake. We saw many beautiful coves that looked perfect to anchor in. We will have to come back to enjoy this lake more one day.

A shot of some bluffs on the bank of Bay Springs Lake.

The next section of the Tenn-Tomm was very different. This was a man-made canal that went on for almost 40 miles. It was all uniform depth and lined with large rocks. There are a few turns, but most of it is dead straight. The amount of dirt and rocks that were moved to create this waterway is amazing. That is why this is the largest civil engineering project ever completed by humans anywhere in the world. This is the cut through the mountains that connects the Tombigbee River to the Tennessee River.

The man-made trench that makes up this portion of the waterway.

This same rock goes on for almost 40 miles. 

I had been watching the weather closely during this trip. A day of possible severe thunderstorms was predicted for the following day. We had been going for about 10 hours per day for 4 days straight. We decided to take a day off and pull into another marina. I made a reservation at the Grand Harbor Marina on Pickwick Lake. 

The next section after the ditch was an arm of Pickwick Lake. This is a beautiful lake that is part of the Tennessee River. Right at the junction of the Tenn-Tomm and the Tennessee River is the Grand Harbor Marina. It is a pretty nice marina and had reasonable rates at $1.50 per foot per night. Our two-night stay cost us a bit over $100. It turned out to be worth every penny.

It was hot that first day and we again enjoyed having air conditioning. We enjoyed the very nice pool and clean bathrooms and showers. 

A shot of SHIFT tied up to the transient dock

Grand Harbor Resort and Marina

A shot from the swimming pool on land

Lots of dock space here. We met some very friendly boaters here.

Around mid-day the sky darkened, and the wind picked up. The good news is that 2 Hatteras Yachts pulled in right next to us about an hour before the storm hit. They gave us a nice wind break as the wind came from that direction. The maximum wind we saw was about 40 knots or about 48 mph. It rained hard for a couple of hours. It sure was nice to be tied up to the dock during all of that. 

I talked to the captains of the other boats in the marina to get their plans for the following morning. The Pickwick lock was 7 miles away. The lock operators prefer if pleasure boats lock through together. The two Hatteras Yachts were traveling together and were planning to depart at 5:30 AM. 

We are slower than them, so I decided that we better get moving before daylight. Kim was not impressed with my decision. As it turned out it was the right call. Even though the two big boats passed us on the way to the lock we all had to wait because a tow was locking down. 

As we entered the lock there is a bridge that should be 53 feet, but they are doing some work on the bridge and have a safety net hanging down to around 47 feet. I talked to the lock operator and he told us to keep tight on the starboard wall and we would be fine. After a tense few minutes we were in the lock and tied up. This is another 80 foot lock and this time we were going down. We had gained a total of 441 feet of elevation in the 12 locks since we left the Gulf of Mexico in Mobile, Alabama. Now we would go down to 359, which is the elevation of the next pool that includes Kentucky Lake.

Here we are just entering the lock. That bridge was the concerning bridge. You can see the netting was not hanging down as much as I had read.

You can see the two Hatteras Yachts that locked through with us.

The Control room

Down we go.

Down about 25 feet

Now we are down about 50 feet

It was not as turbulent as the locks going up. The water just drained nice and easy.

Kim was able to hold us off the wall with just her hands.

Getting near the bottom.

That is a lot of lift. About 80 feet.

 It was a cool and cloudy day, which was nice. The next section was a wide river with some development on both banks. We both agreed that it was the right decision to go early and get down the river. We were now moving downstream with minimal current with us. We were moving between 6.1 and 6.5 knots. 

Our first anchorage was at mile 149. We pulled in behind an island on the river and dropped the hook in very calm water. It was our best night yet, with the cool temperatures. We made it a total of 56nm that first day going downstream.

A nice sunset at Double Islands (mile 149 on the Tennessee River)


The river went from being wide to narrow with rocky cliffs. They built houses all along the river that ranged from beautiful mansions to RV's under a roof. Most were built up on stilts to minimize the effects of the regular flooding on this river

The following day was our longest day of the trip up the river. We decided to push it to shorten the final day, so we went 65.1 NM in 10.5 hours and averaged 6.2 knots. We were able to do this because we had no locks, but we did need to open one notorious bridge. It seems this railroad bridge is maned by a very difficult man. We heard him on the radio giving boats in front of us a hard time. As we approached, I called him and he questioned why I needed it opened. I told him I had a 50-foot mast. He opened and we didn't even slow down. After we were through, he called me and said it did not see why I needed him to open. I told him again I had a 50-foot mast. He called me back a few minutes later and apologized, he could now see my mast. Strange!

We were now into Kentucky lake and it was wide open. The only problem is that there are many shallow areas that you have to watch out for. We just cruised along in the channel to be safe. I chose a nice cove to anchor in. It turned out to be perfect.

A beautiful sunset at Leatherwood Creek

We only had 44 miles to go to get to Green Turtle Bay on our last day. Much to our surprise when we pulled out into the main body of the lake the wind started to blow. At first it was just about 8 knots, but it kept building and before long we had our genoa out and we were motor sailing at close to 7 knots. We idled the engine back when the wind built to around 20 knots. It was not long and just after noon we furled the sail and turned into the canal that leads from Kentucky Lake to Barkley Lake. A mile later and we were pulling into the Marina. We got fuel and pumped out and moved over to our new home on Jetty 2, slip 16.

Here is SHIFT all tied up in her new home at Green Turtle Bay. 

We left Marathon, Florida on April 1 and arrived at GTB on June 29th. We did take a month off to wait for the lock and then 3 weeks in Demopolis to work in the yard, but it felt very good to finally complete this trip. We had cruised 644 NM or 740 SM since we left Gulfport. We put 115 hours on the engine during that part of the trip. 

So, now what is next? Well, it will be a different kind of lifestyle. Come back and I will tell you about our plans and tell you what life is like in GTB in my next entry.

Monday, July 1, 2024

Demopolis, Alabama to Green Turtle Bay, Kentucky (Part 1)

 In my last entry I wrote about our time in Demopolis, Alabama. We worked very hard in the boatyard to get the boat in shape for the next leg of our journey. We ended up staying at Kingfisher Bay Marina for a total of three weeks. The good news is that the boat was now looking great, and we had solved two major problems. The bad news is that it was now late June, and it was getting very hot. This leg of the trip was almost all motoring up the Tombigbee River to the Tennessee River and then down the Tennessee to Kentucky Lake. It would be a total of 419 statute miles (SM) or 364 nautical miles (NM). We have air conditioning in the boat, but we really need to be plugged in to shore power to use it. The boat gets hot during the day with the motor running. The big question in our minds was, could we handle it?

Our plan was to rent a car in Demopolis on June 20th and drive both it and the truck the 6 hours up to Green Turtle Bay.  Then we would both get in the rent car and share the driving on the same 6-hour trip back. Just to make things complicated when I went out to start the truck, it wouldn't start! AARGH! I messed around with the problem sensor, and it finally started, but I told Kim not to shut it off until she was at GTB in Kentucky. She dropped me off at the rent car place and headed north. It took about a half hour to get my car. The good news is that we both had an uneventful trip up and just as I was pulling off of I-24 about 5 miles from the marina, Kim was 10 cars in front of me. We arrived at exactly the same time. We rented our slip that would become our new home and got on the road back south. We arrived at Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis at 11 pm. I was a bit tired, but very happy to have that part of the plan completed. 

We said our goodbyes around the marina and were ready to depart on Saturday, June 22nd. As usual, we were up before sunrise and headed out in the river to begin the trip. The first thing I had to do was make sure that our prop shaft stuffing box, which I repacked while we were in the yard, was properly adjusted. I had to adjust it many times on that first day, but it is now working perfectly. We had beautiful conditions on that first day with beautiful calm water and almost no current against us. The first thing I noticed was that the boat was now effortlessly moving through the water. We were moving at over 6 knots. That is almost a 2 knot increase from the portion before we cleaned and repainted the hull. We made it 52.4 nm that first day in a little over 9 hours and that included going through our first lock. The lock passage went perfectly and only cost us about a half hour. 

You can see we are going 5.9 knots on the very calm water. It felt great to be moving that quickly.

Here we are moving along in the still water. There was almost no development in this part of the river. It was very beautiful with plenty of wildlife.

At a point that the river took a sharp bend you could see the white rock bluffs. Who knew they have white rock bluffs in Alabama?

We had a beautiful sunset on that first night. 

The very calm conditions and temps falling into the low 70's made it a very nice night on the river.

This is sunrise the following morning.

Calm conditions always make me happy. 

The following day was a bit different. We still had very calm conditions, but the heat was starting to build. The good news is there was no storms in the short term forecast, but it was getting into the upper 90's. We had two locks to go through on that second day both went quickly with no waiting. Each of the locks were about 30 feet, so we had now gained about 100 feet in elevation since leaving Demopolis. Kim and I were now in a routine of each driving for about 2 hours and then switching. I would hate to try to do this trip alone. After exiting the second lock we were just 2 miles to the anchorage we had chosen for the night. It was still early enough that I was looking to go a bit further. It was hot and it felt better if we were moving. Just then, I noticed that the engine temperature was rising. I checked the water outlet for the engine, and it was not pushing as much water as it should have. We decided to slow down and get to that first anchorage. The engine never got over 180 degrees, so no problem, but I had to open up the hose clamps for the inlet water and blow a clog back out the inlet. After testing I determined all was good. I guessed the clog happened while we were in the lock chamber. As the water rises, there is a lot of debris in the very turbulent water. I had been leaving the engine running, and I guessed that it sucked up some debris. We decided then to shut the motor off to make sure that does not happen again. Most of the time debris in the water stays on the surface. The water inlet is well below the surface, so I am guessing that in this situation the water inlet could get debris caught up in the hose reducing water flow. 

The second night we were anchored in a much tighter area. We still had very calm conditions, but not as much swing room.

We decided to put out a stern anchor to keep us from drifting into the trees.

It was significantly hotter that second night and although our fans helped, it was a bit uncomfortable. 

The third day we had 4 locks to go through. Each one takes about a half hour if it goes perfectly. The good news is that there was very little traffic on the river on this Monday and we went through the first three without too much of a delay. The fourth one had a tow boat approaching from the north. They have precedent and we had to wait almost an hour. Then when we got in the lock another boat was trying to make the lock, we waited another 20 minutes for them. We had planned to stop just north of that 4th lock at Midway marina for the night. I wanted to get fuel to see how much we were burning and plugging in and having air conditioning really sounded great. 

Here is a sequence of shots as we go through a 30-foot lock. You can see the water line up at the top. We pull in when they give us the go ahead and get tied up to a floating bollard. Then the downstream doors close.

In this shot you can see the upstream doors and the control room where the lock operator works from. We talk to him on the radio throughout the process. All have been very friendly and professional.

We both must wear lifejackets. The silver thing is the floating bollard.

The wall is about as tall as our mast.

As the lock fills, the water becomes turbulent. Kim has developed this technique to keep our fenders off the very nasty wall.

Getting close to the top.

Kim also puts a fender on the bow to protect the bow pulpit.

Here we are at the top. In a minute the gate will open, and a horn will sound telling us we may untie and depart. 

We pulled into Midway Marina, which is due east of Tupelo, Mississippi, and got tied up. I was shocked that we only took on 18 gallons of fuel. We had traveled 157 nm and run the motor for about 30 hours. The boat was moving through the water so much better than before, and the fuel mileage was dramatically better. It was really hot, and I really appreciated the air conditioning that evening.

We had now made it 3 days further up the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway than we ever had before. We still had 4 days of travel in front of us to reach Green Turtle Bay in Kentucky, but it felt good to get this far. The boat was running great, and we were very happy with the results of our hard labor. In my next entry I will complete this story of our trip to Kentucky.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Change of Plans in Demopolis

We have spent more time in Demopolis, Alabama than any other place since we have been on the boat. We were planning this to be a short stay before we moved further north, but plans changed. We arrived in Demopolis on May 30th. We were tired from the 6-day trip, so it was nice to have a quiet weekend to relax and get rested up for the work ahead. We had our first potluck dinner on Saturday night and really enjoyed talking to some old friends and many new ones. 

We rented a car in Demopolis on June 3rd and drove 3 hours to Gulfport. Kim drove the truck back to Demopolis and I drove the rent car back. We had a small refrigerator and window unit air conditioner in the truck that we had brought from the ranch. Both systems do not work on the boat when we are out of the water. The AC makes life possible in the yard and we can refrigerate a small amount of food. 

We were planning to haul SHIFT out of the water on Tuesday, June 4th. We would then clean the bottom and then do a light sand and be back in the water by Friday. 

As it turned out, when we got her out of the water the bottom was covered in small barnacles. This hard growth must be scraped off. It was during this process that I noticed that there was some significant play in the cutlass bearing. This is the bearing that keeps the prop shaft centered on the stern of the boat. You can see the play in the bearing in the video below.

Kim and I got to it and in about an hour of hard work, we were ready to be taken over to our slip in the yard. Fred and Rico got us blocked up and we were ready to go to work.  We started the sanding process that afternoon. I did some research because I have never removed a cutlass bearing. All indications were that it is a fairly difficult job, but I decided to go for it. 

Over the next three days we sanded the entire bottom of the boat. I also disconnected the prop shaft from the motor. I was able to then remove the stern tube from the transom. I ordered a replacement bearing and had it shipped in. I took the stern tube to a local machine shop to have them remove the bearing and then press the new one in place.

This is the hull after we scraped it. I forgot to take a picture before we got moved into the yard. Each one of those white dots was a barnacle. 

We both took turns with the sander. It was hard, dirty work. We were covered by blue powder. We looked like Mama and Papa Smurf.

This shows the before and after the work with the sander. We bought a respirator to keep our lungs protected from the caustic paint and barnacles. 

In this shot you can see the prop after I spent a couple of hours cleaning it. There is a missing zinc on the end of the prop. That fell off somewhere between Marathon and Gulfport. The good news is we had put another one on the shaft just in front of the prop. 

It is HOT in Alabama this time of year, so we fell into a routine where we got up at about 5:00am and worked until about noon. It was just too hot to do much after noon. It quickly became apparent that we would not be done in 4 days. The Yard owner and lift operator would be on vacation the following week, so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be in the yard for 2 weeks. We came out on June 4th and were ready to go back in the water on June 18th. 

Here is a shot of our spot in the yard. We borrowed the scaffolding to help with work on the upper hull. The stairs were great. Much better than a ladder. 

After lots of preparation work it was time to paint the hull.

This is Kim in a paint suit. We both got geared up and put two coats of paint on in about 4 hours. 

We think it came out looking good. 

The tape had not been removed in this shot, but you can see the improvement. 

This is a shot with the stern tube removed. 

I spent one day installing the stern tube and another day installing and servicing the feathering prop.

I am happy with the outcome. There is no play in the new bearing at all. You can see the zinc on the end of the prop that was missing in the previous shot. 

We then took the time to wax the hull with the help of the scaffolding and apply a new blue stripe. 

Here is a shot of the new stripe. It was gold before, but much of it had been worn away. It is not exactly the color that we wanted, but we now like it.

On Monday June 17th the yard came and put us in the slings, so that we could paint under our pads and blocks.

We finished the final sanding and paint work and we were ready to go back in the water.

SHIFT on the move. It is always scary to see our home moving in the lift. 

The water is low right now, so here she is over the well about 15 feet off the water. 

On the way down. Rico on the left was a big help while we were in the yard. 

Big sigh of relief as SHIFT settled in the water. 

We had a small issue with the front sling slipping a little bit. The slings are tied together, so all was good, but it still didn't help the nerves. 

I did not like to see that on my brand new wax job, but I was able to get it looking good after we got in our slip.

Here we are back in our slip in the marina. It felt so good to have all of that work done.

I also changed out the packing on the shaft seal while we had it apart. I have spent the last couple of days fine tuning the packing nut tightness. I think we are now ready to begin the rest of our trip up the waterways to Kentucky Lake. On June 20th, we again rented a car and drove it and the truck the 6 hours to Kentucky Lake. We rented our slip and left the truck. We got back to the boat about 11pm. 

I am writing this on June 21st. Our plan is to depart early on the 22nd and head north. The trip should take between 7 to 10 days. In my next entry I will begin telling that story.