Paris Landing to Aqua Yacht Harbor – Boating for Beginners

So the take-home message from this week’s blog is, just because you’ve parked your boat safely in a delightful anchorage, the sun is shining, the water is sparkling, there’s no one else around, you’ve had a nice dinner, and no adverse weather conditions are forecast, don’t imagine that adverse weather conditions won’t suddenly materialise when you least expect them, with unfortunate consequences for your boat and yourself.

We had a lovely week with the family. On the way, we had an overnight stop at Wytheville, just over the border in Virginia, but it rained all the way from Wytheville to Haymarket, and disappointingly, our view of the Blue Ridge Mountains was obscured by heavy mist. 

But on the way back it was different. Crisp autumn sunshine lit up the tree-covered slopes which were still only just beginning to show their fall colours, in the mountains where Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia all meet. The Great Smoky Mountains dominated the view as we drove through north-Eastern Tennessee. 

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The Great Smoky Mountains from US 321

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We stopped at Johnson City and just down the road from the hotel was the intriguingly named Cootie Brown’s Restaurant. The young woman on the front desk couldn’t recommend it personally, but other guests had raved about it. 

The exterior was not particularly inviting, looking a bit like a post-war prefab. 

Inside, the tables and chairs were painted a bright distressed yellow and were almost fully occupied with people enjoying good home-style food. They didn’t do wine, but the Sam Adams  seemed more appropriate anyway. There wasn’t a frie on the menu and my side consisted of an interesting combination of artichokes, whole bulbs of roasted garlic, roasted red peppers and spinach, garnished with crumbled blue cheese. Another one to try out on our unsuspecting friends when we get home. And our meal wasn’t expensive. 

All was well at Paris Landing, but not for long. On the Saturday night we anchored at Rockport Landing, where an oxbow lake forms a sheltered channel away from the main river. We had it all to ourselves. 

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Paris Landing to Densons Island

The day started overcast but gradually brightened.

012 (4)Just south of Paris landing

Just south of Paris Landing

013 (2)Richard Creek, Mile89

Richard Creek, Mile 89

Moderately strong winds were forecast for late afternoon, but they came and went. Frost was forecast for the next morning, but nothing else of note. 

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Near Rockport Landing

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The anchorage at Rockport Landing

Around midnight, we were woken by a noise on the deck. Ian went up and secured the little steps that we use to get on and off the boat. 

Ten minutes later, a much louder bang had us leaping out of bed and throwing our coats and life jackets on over our pj’s. 

Carina was bashing on a channel marker which we didn’t remember being there before, and was dangerously near the rocky shore. It was very cold, very dark, the winds were  strong and howling, and suddenly Carina was being tossed about in waves which had come from nowhere. 

The diagnosis was that the anchor had slipped, and it was only then that we remembered the words of wisdom and experience in the Captain Bob Guide, ‘the anchorage is relatively narrow and you may want to set a stern anchor’.

We hadn’t set the stern anchor. It had seemed a quiet and peaceful location and the stern anchor is very heavy and a faff to drop.

But now it seemed like a good idea. First though, we needed to reverse Carina away from the errant channel marker and to a safer position. Once we’d done that, and it seemed that the bow anchor was firm again, Ian dropped the stern anchor. Unfortunately, in the darkness and the panic, neither of us remembered that the engine was still in gear, and for the second time in a month, we had a rope wrapped round the prop. 

The boat was now firmly anchored and there was nothing to be gained by continuing to battle the elements. We went back to bed but found it hard to sleep with the winds howling and the worry of how we were going to extricate ourselves from this particular predicament. 

The next day all was calm and the sun shone, though the air was freezing. Ian was out of bed at 6, but I refused to emerge from under the covers. I saw no benefit in tackling the situation before the air had warmed up a bit and we had had breakfast. 

Eventually we went out and had a look. The plan was to lower the dinghy and try to reach the rope beneath the prop with the long boat hook, and lift the anchor that way. Miraculously, and after a lot of effort, Ian succeeded and we had the anchor back on the deck. Of course we still had the problem that the rope was entwined round the prop, and we had to get that off somehow. 

52 years ago I was Swimming Captain at school. No doubt that was what Ian was thinking of when he mused that actually the water was not that cold and I might like to dive down and take a look. Predictably, this met with a John McEnroe-type response but in the end I gave in, took off my many layers of warm clothing and put my swimmers on. 

He was right that the water didn’t feel cold at all. Relative to the air temperature, that is. But although I could feel the rope on the prop, I couldn’t stay under the water long enough to untangle it. 

We resorted to cutting the rope as close as we could to the prop. Then we tried the engine. Amazingly, it worked and Carina moved, so we were able to make gentle progress down the river to an anchorage at Denson’s Island. This time, we set the stern anchor. 

_MG_0001 (2)A few miles south of Rockport Landing

A few miles south of Rockport Landing

_MG_0006 (2)Evening at Denson's Island

Evening at Densons Island, the end of a long hard day

_MG_0008 (2)Morning at Denson's Island

Morning at Denson’s Island

After Densons Island, we moved on to the marina at Clifton, and then on to Diamond Island, and through Pickwick Lock to Aqua Yacht Harbour.

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South of Densons Island, the countryside became a little more hilly with limestone outcrops.

_MG_0013 (2)Outcrops at Beach Creek

Outcrops at Beach Creek

We had a couple of nights at Clifton Marina, borrowing the courtesy car, which was in reality a creaking pickup truck, to go to the small town to do laundry and reprovision. The only grocery store was Dollar General, which as the name implies, doesn’t strive to be high-end. Our previous experience of DG was that it sold masses of snack food, processed frozen food, hardware and not much else. So we were pleasantly surprised to find good quality fresh fruit and vegetables on offer, and the frozen salmon we got for dinner was fine. Apparently the stocking of fresh produce has only happened within the last few weeks, so I hope it continues. 

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The CocaCola truck

On the second night two more boats joined us in the marina – Angela and Bob on Aqua Vision and Vicky and Bob on Virginia Hawkeye. We all went for dinner in the little bar in the marina and swapped stories of our various misfortunes. We’ve realised that conditions in the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers are much worse now than when we were there only 3 weeks ago, with water levels higher, and masses of impacted logs blocking the channel. Vicky regaled us with her account of setting off one morning in slightly misty weather, only for thick fog to descend, and getting completely confused and suddenly realising they were going upstream and not downstream. 

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Angela and Bob leaving Clifton Marina on Aqua Vision

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Vicky on Virginia Hawkeye

 

006 (2)NearClifton Highway bridge

Near Clifton Highway Bridge

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Limestone at Mile 169

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Near Mile 182

016 (2)Open country at Mile182

Open country at Mile 182

  There was a little mist and fine drizzle as we left the anchorage at Diamond Island, but we rather optimistically assumed that things would brighten up. They didn’t. The rain and wind steadily increased and reached their high spot just as we had to negotiate Pickwick Lock, where the Tennessee River is dammed to form Pickwick Lake.  Ian always prefers to tie up on port, so I had put all the fenders out and was standing with my midline ready to lasso the bollard on the wall. 

We approached the wall but not closely enough. In the corner of the lock we’d been directed to, there was a particularly strong wind blowing us away from the wall. I’m not very good at moving targets and my attempt at rope-throwing failed miserably. We reversed, and tried again. And again. This went on for a while, before the lockmaster suggested turning around and tying up to the opposite wall. This worked, as the wind was blowing us into the wall, but we then had the problem that we were facing the wrong way to get out of the lock. A 9-point turn didn’t go well so Ian ended up having to reverse Carina 300 yards out of the lock. Steering in reverse is difficult, but we made it eventually, but not before the crew, who had to stand on the back in the rain watching out, got very wet. 

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Disgruntled crew at Pickwick Lock

We left the Tennessee River a little further down Pickwick Lake and entered the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, the Tenn-Tom for short, which links the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers. 

The waterway was first proposed in the late 1700s by French settlers, and engineering investigations were done in 1874. But the project was deemed impractical and although further studies were carried out at various times, it wasn’t until President Nixon finally approved it in 1971 that construction began in 1972. The Waterway was completed in 1985 at a cost of $1 billion. More earth had been moved than had been moved in the construction of the Panama Canal. 

We got to Aqua Yacht Harbor, where we were given a covered slip, which meant we didn’t get too wet walking in the pouring rain to the restaurant for dinner. The next day, Glen, a local diver, came and removed the rope from the prop. It had been twisted several times round the prop and he had to cut it to get it off. There was no way that I could have done it, and that made me feel a bit better.

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Paducah to Paris Landing, and a taste of Nashville

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Just after Paducah, we had the choice of turning south on the Tennessee River, or continuing on the Ohio for a while longer, and then following the Cumberland River.  Both rivers lead to the Kentucky Lakes, the Tennessee forming Kentucky Lake and the Cumberland forming Barkley Lake. However, the Tennessee River carries most of the tows and barges and there is usually a long wait to get into the lock which leads to the lake, so we decided on the Cumberland River, and 3 nights at the famed Green Turtle Bay Resort and marina on Barkley Lake for a bit of a rest and to catch up with the laundry and shopping. 

_MG_0056 (2)Start of the Cumberland River

Start of the Cumberland River

_MG_0059 (2)Mile 9 near Bissel creek

Mile 9 near Bissel Landing

The cool mornings and autumnal feel appeared to have been a temporary blip, and it was very hot. We were a little disappointed to find the pool at Green Turtle Bay was closed for the season, but it was a very short walk to a little beach and we swam in the lake there instead. 

_MG_0005 (2)The beach at GTB

The beach at Green Turtle Bay

The resort is in a narrow piece of land between the two lakes, next to the small town of Grand Rivers. The marina operates a shuttle service to anywhere anyone wants to go, so we decided to try the Thirsty Turtle, the marina’s Bar/Restaurant for dinner, about half a mile away in the woods. 

The Thirsty Turtle  was housed in a low, dark wooden building and we weren’t sure whether it was an old building which had been renovated, or a new one made to look old. But it was quite atmospheric, full of other Loopers, including Carol and Tom, and Patrick whom we’d met at Kaskaskia. 

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At the Thirsty Turtle

I’m still puzzled on occasion by American menus. I totally get that biscuits are scones, and cookies are biscuits. And blueberry muffins are little cakes with blueberries in them, not the sort of spongy, rubbery-textured things that are English muffins. I understand that fries are chips, and chips are crisps. But if the menu says ‘Fish and Chips’, I imagine that the fish will be accompanied by chips. Or fries. 

At the Thirsty Turtle, you could choose a side to go with your fish and chips, so I asked for coleslaw. So I was a little nonplussed when the coleslaw came with a more than adequate amount of fish, but no chips. Or fries. 

I looked questioningly at the waiter, who was a little harassed because he was single-handedly waiting on the entire bar. He indicated that fish and chips actually only meant fish. We didn’t say anything. We just ordered an extra side of fries. In the event, because Ian had ordered fries to go with his basket of chicken, there were so many fries that we had to take most of them back to the boat with us in a box and reheat them for dinner the next day. 

We had a treat in store. It was an open mic night. A gentleman in a kilt played a few airs on his bagpipes and got a polite reception. 

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Then a young man with a guitar came on. He looked about 17, his name was Clint and his mum and dad had come with him. But he was very good and didn’t just sing and play his guitar, he engaged with his audience of elderly boaters and entertained us as well. He explained that a song only qualified as country music if it contained references to women, trains, a pickup truck, alcohol and prison. It then transpired that he had got married the previous Friday and that his new British wife was already on her way back to England, where he was going to join her when he had sorted his visa out. Then he hoped to play country music in pubs and clubs in Britain. 

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Clint at the Thirsty Turtle

At the end of the evening we went over and bought one of his CDs (recorded in Nashville, no less) and introduced ourselves, and said we hoped to see him playing somewhere when we were home. 

We stocked up at the village store in Grand Rivers. Village stores are as variable in the US as they are in Britain, but this one was good, with good fresh meat and vegetables and we got everything we needed, except for wine. 

We mentioned this to Elwood, who had driven us down in the shuttle. He indicated the liquor store next door, which we hadn’t noticed because of its very discreet appearance. While Ian went in to replenish our stocks of Pinot Noir, Elwood explained to me that the liquor store had only opened 17 months ago. Despite Kentucky’s economy being based mainly on the production of Bourbon, large parts of the state are dry, meaning that although possession and consumption of alcohol are allowed, it can’t be sold in shops or served in restaurants. Until recently, counties could hold referenda to decide whether alcohol could be sold or not. 17 months ago, the law changed so that communities, rather than counties, could have their own referenda. And Grand Rivers defied the rest of Livingston County, by deciding that selling alcohol was ok. This enabled the liquor store to open, and Green Turtle Bay Resort to open the Thirsty Turtle. Even to someone who generally disapproves of referenda as part of a decision-making process, this seemed like a result. 

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Ian and Elwood in the shuttle

The Captain kept disappearing off to see someone called Miss Wendy, who apparently operated the chandlery at Green Turtle Bay. It seemed we needed all sorts of things that we never even knew existed. During one of these absences, while I was getting lunch ready, something in the boat emitted an alarming noise. I grabbed all the phones in turn, but none of them usually made that sort of noise. Could it be the smoke alarm? Surely not. Then I remembered that that there was some sort of alarm that indicated the bilges were filling and that Carina was in imminent danger of sinking.  Panicking slightly, I tried to assess whether Carina was listing more than normally, and whether I should make a swift exit. 

The Captain came back. A few minutes later, the noise went off again, and this time it was definitely coming from our American phone. 

It was a Presidential Alert. A text appeared. ‘THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.’

Just as well, really, as I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea what to do. 

On our last afternoon, we went to the beach and watched as a flotilla of 12 Looper boats came into the dock, one following the other through the narrow channel,  in an elegant procession. Docktails was quite lively that evening. 

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We left Green Turtle Bay to head south down Kentucky Lake, formed by the Tennessee River, via the short Barkley canal which links the two lakes. As we came out of the marina, there was another trawler coming in through the narrow entrance. Between us, there was a small power boat sitting in the middle of the channel, with two men in it, fishing. This is most definitely not the thing. We stopped, and the other trawler stopped. Eventually the fishing boat moved out of the way sufficiently to allow us to get through. As we passed, the men waved. Then I distinctly heard the word ‘motherf*****s’. The Captain heard it too. In my British way, I assumed that they couldn’t possibly be addressing me, so I waved majestically back. 

_MG_0001 (2)leaving Green Turtle Bay

Leaving Green Turtle Bay

_MG_003(2)leaving GTB

Fishing boat obstructing the channel, Green Turtle Bay

_MG_0006 (2)Barkley Canal

Barkley Canal

The long finger of land between Barkley Lake and Kentucky Lake is known as the Land between the Lakes. It’s a National Recreation Area, a wildlife reserve with trails and camping grounds. Parts of the forest have been removed and prairie grasses sown, and bison introduced. But it has not been without controversy. When the two rivers were dammed to allow water flow in the rivers  to be controlled, and  the Kentucky Lakes were formed, a large area was flooded and many people lost their homes.

But the lakes are beautiful. There are numerous sheltered inlets along the lake shores that are good for anchoring. We stopped in Pisgah Bay, 12 miles south of Green Turtle Bay. 

_MG_0007 (2)Pisgah Bay

Pisgah Bay

We had the anchorage to ourselves. There was a little beach and we took the dinghy over and had a swim. Another couple had arrived by kayak, but there was plenty of space for us all. They were from Indiana and the Captain was impressed to hear that they were camping in a tent. 

Later, back on the boat, we could see fish leaping out of the lake, and on the opposite shore, two deer appeared for a while. 

Did I say it was unseasonably hot? We had planned this trip partly to avoid the humidity and heat of the summer months. Now we were sweltering.  The weather man on the radio said it was 20 degrees above the average for early  October. That’s degrees Fahrenheit of course, because we’re in America, but even so. We decided to chill for another day at Pisgah Bay, though ‘chill’ is perhaps not an apt word to use. Ian had a desultory look at the map to see if there were any walking trails we could explore. There were, but we decided we couldn’t face walking in the heat. The little beach was the only place which had any shade, and this time we took chairs, cushions, Kindles and beer with us. Meanwhile, Carina baked in full sun. 

_MG_0013 (2)Pisgah Bay

Pisgah Bay

In the evening, we put the generator on so we could run the air conditioning, and it managed to reduce the cabin temperature from 87 to 78 by the time we went to bed. A battery-operated fan is now on the shopping list. 

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Sunrise at Pisgah Bay

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Early morning sun on the beach at Pisgah Bay

We cruised down to another anchorage at Ginger Bay. Again we were the only people there apart from a few small fishing boats and a family we could see in the distance on the shore.

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Leaving Ginger Bay

The next day day we stopped at Paris Landing, where we’re leaving the boat for 10 days while we take a road trip to Nashville and on through Kentucky to Virginia to see the family. 

We arrived in Nashville just in time for lunch and got an Uber from the hotel to the downtown, a couple of miles away. The driver recommended the Cajun pasta at the Rock Bottom Bar on Broadway. The pasta came with chicken, andouille sausage and shrimps in a creamy, spicy tomato sauce and it was delicious. We sat in the patio looking out at the crowds in a haze of sounds.

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Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant

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View of Broadway and 2nd Avenue from the patio, Rock Bottom

After lunch, we wandered up and down Broadway and along First and Second Avenue. Almost every building was either a bar or a boot store, and the honky-tonk music poured out of every door. The boots were very tempting, but I resisted. 

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Broadway, looking towards the Cumberland River

We were intrigued by the sight of what appeared to be small charabancs, powered entirely by the passengers pedalling furiously and without anyone obviously responsible for steering the vehicle. This was Nashville Pedal Tavern. For $39 you can pedal yourself  round Nashville, in the company of other crazy people, stopping off at carefully selected pubs and bars.

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2nd Avenue, Nashville

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Butler’s Run between 2nd and 1st Avenue

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Nashville Products Co

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Nissan Stadium on the Cumberland River

I didn’t have to wait long for my birthday treat. In the evening, we went back and had dinner at the Pinewood Social. This establishment consisted of a bar/restaurant in a large warehouse building, with a bowling alley at the back.

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Restaurant at Pinewood Social

The food was superb and when we get home I have to try to recreate the salmon with pistachio dish that we both had, and the cherry bourbon tart, served with homemade vanilla ice cream, that Ian had for dessert. 

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Outside the Pinewood Social

We went on to Layla’s, a bar in Broadway that was famous for Bluegrass. The Grass-a-holics were on and they were great. 

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The Grass-a-holics with Jenni Lyn at Layla’s Bar

We had only a brief taste of Nashville, but it was intoxicating.