09-30-09 Guntersville, AL

As we pulled away from Riverwalk Landing in Decatur, AL, this morning we went by the home of Meow Mix Catfood, so I took this picture for my cat loving friends (Margaret and Ada come immediately to mind). I just hope they don’t make this catfood with the cute smiling catfish we showed you a couple of days ago!

We had a perfectly delightful run from Decatur to Guntersville, AL. A perfect, sunny day. There were very few boats on the water, so we were surprised and pleased to see a flotilla of old wooden ChrisCrafts zoom by. There were at least 12 by Rick’s count, and all were beautifully maintained. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of all of them as they came toward us, but we didn’t realize soon enough what we were seeing, so I got just a few pictures toward the end.

Shortly thereafter we arrived at Guntersville Lock and Dam, and only had to wait about 10 minutes to enter along with a sailboat that was already there.

For those of you that don’t know it, I was a Gunter before my marriage, so this town has a special significance for me. Therefore, there are many pictures at the end of this blog with the word Guntersville in the picture! We had just been here last year on the RiverBarge, and I remember how surprised I was at what a beautiful place this is.

We arrived early enough in the day to pull up to the town dock for a few hours and walk into town. Our first stop was the Chamber of Commerce, which had been closed when we were here last year because all the employees were down at the riverfront welcoming the RiverBarge on her first landing here (and as it turns out sadly, her last). Then we walked up Gunter Avenue where we stopped at Guntersville Pizza Parlor for lunch.

Guntersville was named for John Gunter who migrated here from the Carolinas in 1785. He was the first white settler in this county, where he became a “squatter” at a salt deposit on the south bank of the Tennessee River. This site became known as Gunter’s Landing. He married a Cherokee princess and they raised a large family. Partly because of the geographic location of the land he claimed on the Tennessee River, and partly because of his good relationship with the Indians, he amassed a fortune in land, money and slaves. Among his descendants was the noted humorist, Will Rogers. John Gunter died in 1836.

I hate to disclose that in spite of extensive genealogical research, I cannot claim to be a descendant of this John Gunter. My family is descended from a John Gunter who lived from 1770 to 1840 and died in what is now Lee County, NC. Possibly they were cousins, but my research has not proved this to be true. Still, it is neat to be in a town named for a Gunter. When we were here last year I hoped to go to the local historical cemetery and find some Gunter graves. My first stop was at the local historical society, which had a roster of graves in the cemetery. Imagine my surprise that not a single Gunter is buried in the “Historic Guntersville Cemetery!”

After visiting the town we went on to nearby Alred Marina where we will spend the night. From there we borrowed their courtesy car and drove to Lake Guntersville State Park. This is another place that we had visited last year, and it has some of the most breathtaking views we’ve ever seen. The beautiful lodge was rebuilt just a couple of years ago and is truly magnificient. It is full of beautiful artwork and carvings of wildlife. As we approached the lodge we had to stop for three deer that were just getting ready to cross the road.

The lodge overlooks the incredibly beautiful Lake Guntersville, and we arrived just in time to enjoy the sunset. We then ate dinner in their restaurant.

Just wanted to share this picture of the boat right across from us…sometimes I wonder about people’s choices for boat names!

Tomorrow we will move closer to Chattanooga, and will probably make another stop at Guntersville on our way back downriver. In the meantime, here are a few more Guntersville pictures. (note to my family…the Guntersville souvenir shop was closed, so don’t be looking for Christmas presents from here this year!!!)

09-29-09 Decatur AL Riverwalk Marina

Rick] Today is another highlight of the trip. We left Florence, AL and immediately locked through the Wilson Lock and Dam. Wilson Dam, named for Woodrow Wilson, was constructed between 1919 and 1927. Upon its completion, it had the highest lift in the US at 95 feet. It has since been surpassed by 4 other dams and is now the 5th highest lift. It is actually comprised of two chambers, but the smaller 292 X 60 ft chamber is only used for emergencies and when the main chamber, 600 X 110 feet, is under repair. We got right in, and tied to the floating bollard. It still took about 40 minutes to fill the chamber and raise us 94 feet. The floating bollards float up as the water rises. All you do is hold on and the water does all the work.

This is the side of the lock from the inside....

The upper gate for the Wilson dam is different. Instead of large doors that are hinged and come together in the center, the gate goes completely across the dam and is lowered, including the walkway on the top, under the water. The exiting boats merely go out of the lock over the gate.

The dam at Wilson is also special. It is over 4500 feet long and is built on principles the Romans used over 3000 years ago. It is composed of arches. Over 4000 brickmasons and stone workers worked on the project.


We had been through the Wilson Lock last year while on the RiverBarge trip from Nashville to Guntersville, and return.

After Wilson Lock, we also were lifted 45 feet by the Wheeler Lock. But, after Wilson, this seemed very wimpy. We did have to wait for 30 minutes, but a late arriving boat after us had to wait 3 hours due to a double tow that was southbound and had to be broken into two parts to traverse the lock.

We proceeded on to Riverwalk Marina at Decatur, AL, arriving about 1530. A nice quiet marina but not full of amenities. There are no showers. The men’s restroom, quite a distance away, was described as “I hope it is clean. I think he cleaned it last week.” The ladies room was locked and they cannot find the key, and have been looking for weeks. Dauna would not like it here. They have a restaurant/bar on the property and that is where we ate supper. It was not bad at all. But, we are only spending one night, and tomorrow, off we go to Guntersville, AL for at least 2 nights.
The gate slowly disappears into the water...
A Floating Bollard (or Pin). It rises and falls with the water.

09-28-09 Florence, AL II

[Rick] Well, it was a quiet day on the river today. We stayed a second night at the Florence Marina. Earlier in the day, we used the courtesy car to go to Wal-Mart and to look around town. We visited several parks and rode through the historic district. One of the parks had this statue to honor W.C. Handy, the Father of the Blues. The weather was perfect, sunny with a slight breeze.

Since there is so little to talk about, another river navigation lesson is in order. We have already discussed the fact that there are no Knots and nautical miles on the river, only statute miles. Hence, all of the speeds are in miles-per-hour, not knots. We have talked about upstream and northbound, whenever the current is against you. Today, we talk about direction.

One thing to keep in mind. All of the Western rivers start counting miles at the mouth, not the origin, except for the Ohio River. Because the miles were already established before any formal method was decided on, the Ohio kept its numbering system. Therefore, mile 0 on the Ohio is Pittsburgh, PA, not Cairo, IL. at the meeting of the Mississippi.

Due to the winding of the rivers, the port bank may be East one minute and West the next. In fact, you can be southbound and your compass reads due North, as we did on the Mississippi one day. So, on the river, directions are indicated based on the descending bank. So, if you are going with the current, the left descending bank is on your left. If you are against the current, the left descending bank is on your right.

Remember that the Mississippi River is divided into 2 parts, the lower and upper parts. The Lower Mississippi begins in the Gulf of Mexico and goes northbound (upbound) to the confluence of the Ohio River. The Upper Mississippi begins at the Ohio River and goes northbound (upbound) to its headwater.

Some Examples:
LMR 212.2 LDB means The Lower Mississippi River, mile 212.2 on the left descending bank.
Hoppies Marina is described as: UMR 159.9 RDB. It is 159.9 miles upriver from the Ohio on the port side as you go upstream.

New Orleans is LMR 90 LDB.

This concept extends to the Tennessee, the Cumberland and other rivers, except on those rivers, there is no upper and lower sections. The Florence Marina, where we are tonight is TN 256.2 RDB. We are 256.2 miles from the mouth of the Tennessee River and on the port side as we are upbound.

There you have it. All you need to know to navigate the Western Rivers of the United States. Good Luck.
Historical marker on Wood St....

09-27-09 – Grand Harbor to Florence, AL

Betsy Speaks: OK, we know we missed doing a blog yesterday, but there really wasn’t much to tell. Being a weekend, we stayed at Grand Harbor Marina in Counce, TN, an extra day so as not to fight with the weekend crazies. We woke up Saturday morning to pouring rain, which continued throughout the morning. The sun finally came out early afternoon for the first time in several days and it was hot and muggy. Saturday night we joined a couple of other boats and took the courtesy car to Pickwick State Park for their very good buffet dinner. So that would have been the extend of a blog yesterday.

We left Grand Harbor this morning, but before going on I want to share an interesting discussion I had with the marina manager. There are several “Slow/No Wake” signs both on the marina as well as in the waters surrounding the marina. This is a full service marina with lots of gas tanks. Still, the bass boats, which are very popular around here, would go flying by without slowing down. We asked the marina manager exactly what constituted “no wake” around here, and he said he had discussed this at length with the local commandant of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard’s response was that they would not enforce “Slow/No Wake” zones in a navigable channel because every boater is responsible for their wake, so they would only respond if actual damage occurred. This seemed very strange to us, and I don’t recall ever being at a place where no wake zone signs in front of a marina were totally ignored.

Anyway, as I mentioned, this is bass boat heaven and they are everywhere and they slow down for nothing. They fly by us, totally air born as they cross our wake. I asked someone about their speed and was told that they can easily top 70 miles per hour. Seems strange to me that we usually slow down for them if we see them anchored with a fisherman standing up in them…maybe we should rethink our safety standards!

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day, sunny and hot. We had a very leisurely run up the Tennessee River to Florence, Alabama, about 42 miles. No locks. Rick drove most of the way while I played the part of hood ornament. The scenery along this route was just beautiful. We arrived at Florence Harbor Marina early afternoon.

We were just here last year on the River Barge, so it is familiar to us. Just across the river is Tuscumbia, AL, childhood home of Helen Keller which we visited last year. Yes, there really is a well pump where she learned the word “water”, as seen in the movie “The Miracle Worker." This picture if from our trip last year, as we will probably not go back there...we spent a half day there before.

Florence is the birthplace of W.C. Handy, “Father of the Blues” and composer of such hits as St. Louis Blues, Beale Street Blues and Memphis Blues.


Tonight we ate dinner right here at the marina, where they proudly advertise all you can eat catfish. (We both had hamburger steak). The restaurant is a floating structure, as are many of the marina structures here on the river. Just inside the front door, there is a hole through the floor with a light shining into the water below. Here catfish come right up to the surface, attracted by the light, and also by the food that is thrown to them through the hole. These fish are huge! The restaurant says they don’t get their catfish through this hole, but it sure would be easy to do that! Just throw in a cracker and they come to the surface with mouths wide open…quite a sight! Some even seem to be smiling at you!
This is simply beautiful country. It makes me wonder why we want to go home to salt water and hurricanes! We plan to stay here in Florence two nights and do some sightseeing tomorrow.

09-25-09 Grand Harbor, Counce, TN

We left Clifton Marina this morning with the goal of getting through the Pickwick Lock. As we left, we took a picture of the gas tank on the hill. Last year, during the flood, the water was ABOVE the tank.

We fought the current all the way to the lock. We were only getting about 1.15 mpg. We, and others, estimated the current to be 4-5 mph against us. As soon as we got through the lock, we immediately jumped up to 1.70 mpg. Quite a difference. In addition to the current, it continued to rain all day and into the night.

As we made our way up the river, we saw some wonderful houses built up on the bluffs of the river. In some cases, they were trailers and in other places, they were wonderful homes. Look at those steps.

We first went to Aqua Harbor Marina. They did not return our phone call, answer our VHF call or meet us at the dock. So, we determined they did not seem interested in our business and we backtracked one mile to Grand Harbor. So glad we did. Grand Harbor is an AGLCA sponsor and will host a cocktail party for us at the rendezvous in October. The marina is clean, the restrooms clean, and the staff seems to want to be of assistance. This is a condo development and marina. We have free wifi and cable TV. We plan to stay at least 2 nights, maybe 3.

09-24-09 Clifton Marina, Clifton TN

[Rick] Well, the rainy season is here. We have been hearing about the rain in the Southeast US, and now it has reached the Tennessee Valley. It rained all night.

I told you yesterday about the complimentary fried mushrooms, fried pickles, and the excellent free dessert at supper. This morning, we were told to report to the restaurant at 0830 for cinnamon rolls. They were excellent, hot and fresh made. I asked for a glass of milk. When we got ready to pay, they said that the rolls were “something we do every morning” and there was no charge. I like this place.

We left the marina at 1000, but immediately the rain came and the fog set in. We returned to the marina. We got a call from our friend Jack saying that 5 miles up the river it was clear. So we waited until the rain stopped, and out we went again. This time, all went well and we had a great day. The Tennessee is a very pretty river. This is a picture from the Clifton Town Park.

We arrived at Clifton Marina in Clifton, TN about 1530, having covered 65 miles. The marina is full but they managed to fit us in on the back side of the fuel dock. We took the courtesy car to town, and let me tell you, Clifton is NOT a happening town. The local bar is only open on Friday and Saturday nights. We were there at 1630 and the sidewalks were rolled up, except for this one. Guess it must be left out since it is historic.

Tomorrow, we begin a series of dams and locks. Most of the lifts will be over 50 feet. However, weather reports are grim, so we may be rained in for the day.

09-23-09 Johnsonville, TN Pebble Isle Marina

[Rick] We travelled about 73 miles today from Green Turtle Marina to Pebble Isle Marina. It was a very easy ride. The day was very overcast and it did rain for a very few minutes while we were underway, but seas were smooth and there was no thunder or lightning. AND we did not leak (although there was not enough rain to really tell). The current is against us, but it will not stop the Rick ‘N Roll now that we’re back up with both engines. We dropped off a couple of gallons of gas to Meander for their dinghy. They had spent the night anchored in a quiet cove off the river.

The best thing about the trip is that the throttle is fixed. It moves so easily. We had no idea it was so hard to move until we got it fixed. I guess it is like eyesight. You do not realize your vision is diminishing until you get glasses or contacts.

At Pebble Isle, a very small marina, they have a floating restaurant/ships store building. We and 12 of our friends from other looper boats had supper there. It was great. Very inexpensive. They served fried mushrooms and fried pickles, complimentary. Then, after the meal, they brought around a huge sundae and spoons for everyone to have 2-3 bites for dessert. We were told to be back in the morning at 0830 for hot, homemade cinnamon rolls ……We cannot wait and will probably not sleep a wink.
We continue our trip UP the Tennessee River, even though we are traveling South. We are heading to Chattanooga and a visit to the Legendary Delta Queen.

09-22-09 Green Turtle Bay Marina V (Grand Rivers, KY)

Since we spent another day at Green Turtle Bay getting the throttles fixed there’s not a whole lot to tell today. We were successful in getting the repair done, and look forward to smooth throttling tomorrow.

I took advantage of the day with nothing to do and went to town. Grand Rivers is a very small resort town, beautifully located in what is referred to as The Land Between the Lakes. It is nearly surrounded by water, with Kentucky Lake on one side and Barkley Lake, where we are located, on the other side. There’s not really much in town. The biggest attraction is “Patti’s 1880’s Settlement.” Patti’s Restaurant features their famous 2 inch pork chop, which several of us enjoyed when we ate there Sunday night. It is also famous for their “mile high meringue pie” which you have to see to believe. Patti’s Settlement also consists of numerous gift shops, a farm of sorts that has peacocks, emus, llamas, a pony and various other animals. There is also a tiny wedding chapel, a pond, many exotic plants, and a putt-putt course. In the center of all of this is a little memorial garden explaining how the settlement was started by Patti and Bill Tullar in the early 1970’s. Overall, just a mishmash of stuff that you wander around looking at. The entire settlement takes up about half of the downtown area.

Did I mention Grand Rivers is a small town? Here’s a picture of the City Hall! The unlabeled door is the fire station.

Since nothing much more happened today I just wanted to share a few photos. We mentioned day before yesterday that friends on the boat “Biddi and the Beast” crossed their wake at this marina (finished their loop). They had more mishaps than anyone else we’ve heard of. Three times within a week’s time they hit a rocks in Georgian Bay, and had to have their boat hauled out of the water each time for major repairs…and it is a very large boat! Then just a week or so ago they managed to wrap a chain around a prop. So they were very happy to be done with the loop, although they live on their boat so will just continue cruising. Someone purchased a very appropriate shirt for Dan (aka the Beast) which reads: “I’d rather be in the boat with a drink on the rocks than in the drink with a boat on the rocks.”

Rick mentioned in a recent blog that one of the best things about doing the loop is the camaraderie among loopers. We love having docktails (or dock tales) most evenings prior to dinner. Here is a picture of the small group still left here at Green Turtle Bay.

And here’s a picture of some of the goodies!

And, finally, we’ve been tackling a leak in the main cabin since before we left home. As of today we think we have it fixed (knock on wood). Rick got the caulk out yesterday and caulked the overhead hatches (again) and today it poured, poured, poured rain and there was no leak. The leak was not around the hatches he caulked, but it is sort of like a roof that leaks…you never know where the water is really coming from. So keep your fingers crossed that this minor irritation is taken care of.

Tomorrow we will leave heading up the Tennessee River to at least Chattanooga….