November 9 – 14, 2020 The Tennessee River, Part 2

Time for a side trip. On the 9th, we went just a short distance back to the Tennessee River and started a trip to Chattanooga, TN.  Skies clear, sunshine, but only 38 degrees.  Brrrr.  First stop, Florence, AL.  One of our first “sites” along the way was the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge. The 450 mile Parkway is part of the National Parks.  The Natchez Trace was first an Indian trail, and later used by traders, missionaries and military personnel.  It runs from Natchez, MS in a northern direction to Nashville, TN.  We arrived in Florence Harbor Marina . This area is famous for Muscle Shoals, where there is a recording studio used by some big name entertainers.  Too late to take the tour, but our dockmaster had a DVD about it.  That was our entertainment for the evening after we had a wonderful Italian meal in town with Canadian Loopers on Sequel.

Next day (10th) there were two locks – the Wilson and the Wheeler.  No waiting time for either, as we were seeing very little additional traffic on this route.  We should note that the Wilson Dam raised us 93 feet.  It was once the world’s highest single lift lock, but has dropped to 6thin the US.  We traveled 8 ½ hours this day and arrived at Ditto Landing Marina near Huntsville, AL at 4 pm.  As we moved in to dock, we saw a familiar face from home.  Jeremy P had driven from Augusta to join us for a few days.  Yea – a visitor!

A bit of history at this marina.  On 1807, James Ditto started a ferry service at this location.  He ferried people, horses, and goods across the river. Over time, he ferried many people including American soldiers in the War of 1812 which became crucial for fighting back the British, and he ferried Gen Andrew Jackson and Davey Crockett during the Creek Indian War in 1813.  A replica of one of his boats was on display at the marina.

Set out the next day with a PASSENGER!  Early on we passed Painted Bluff, one of the highest bluffs on the river.  We showed Jeremy “the ropes” at the Guntersville Lock.  He was such a quick learner that he even got some drive time at the helm on his first day of the trip!

We docked for the night at Goose Pond Colony Marina – just outside of Scottsboro, AL.  We were expecting rain the next day, so we would be here a couple of days.  In case you didn’t know, Scottsboro is home to Unclaimed Baggage – the store where unclaimed luggage from airlines is taken.  Supposedly, the contents are sorted and sold.  Looked to us like there was also a lot of new merchandise there.  On the walls are hung some items belonging to famous people.  So my question – if the owners were known, why weren’t the items of famous people returned to them?!!  The rainy day offered a good time to do an oil change – yep, our guest got to help do that, too!

The weather was definitely cold, and when we were ready to leave on the 13th, we found that the rain had soaked the lines tied to the dock, and the cold temps had frozen them.  There was also ice in the dinghy.  Yikes.  We had to pour some warmer water on the lines to defrost them enough to untie them from the cleats.  What are we doing here in a boat?!!

The sun came out and made all of us feel a bit warmer.  Today we were going thru the Nickajack Lock and Dam.  We sent our guest out to tie to a bollard and man the line. Kathy was getting a “vacation” this week – giving all her duties to Jeremy!  We knew we were getting closer to Chattanooga when we started seeing the “See Rock City” red barns in the hillside.

We stopped that night at Hales Bar Marina – perhaps not the most glamorous stop we’ve ever made. There used to be a lock and dam here, as well as the Hales Bar hydroelectric plant.  But almost from the start, the dam leaked and repairs were costly and uncertain as to their effectiveness.  Eventually, the plant was closed and the dam destroyed.  It was replaced with the Nickajack Dam.  The remains of the power plant are still there.  The surrounding area is “junky” at best – and here we were! Oh, another note of interest. The directions to the marina include – “go behind the rock piles, mooring cells and barges…”  There were literally several rock piles in the water with caution flags atop them.   Mustn’t take a wrong turn!

On the 14th, we started on the final leg to Chattanooga.  Another beautiful day for a boat ride.  It was a very scenic ride and no locks.  Kathy sat back and did some knitting as the Captain and First Mate took turns driving and navigating.  Ahhhhh!  We arrived in Chattanooga and headed towards the docking area by the Aquarium in downtown.  Just like the cruise ships, we would be discharging a passenger and taking aboard new passengers.  More friends from Augusta – Rich and Sharon were waiting for us there.  The arrangement was that Jeremy would drive their car back to Ditto Landing where his car had been left, and they would ride with us.  The car would be waiting there when we arrived.  We all spent some time walking around the city and having lunch.  Great to have company with us to share this incredible journey.