I’m Behind, Imagine That!

Okay, if you’ve been keeping up with our travels, you must be thinking that we are REALLY enjoying Ditto Landing.  From all appearance, blogwise, we four are still there after almost two weeks.  Like they say, “don’t believe everything you read.”  I can justifiably blame being behind, waaaay behind, on poor internet connections.  You know the old sales pitch, “American Express, don’t leave home without it.”  Well, I’ll never leave home again without my Verizon card after this trip!

Enough griping, and back to the trip at hand.  We wake, potty the girls and say a good morning to Jim and Sue.  The night before we had all agreed that Barefootin’ would pull out first.  We would head on to Decatur to see if the Hard Dock Cafe would be open for lunch.  If so, we would let Fruition know, then hang around there, take the dogs on a long, long walk, dwiddle our thumbs and maybe go on another long, long walk and wait for Fruition to arrive.  (smiling as I write this, Jim)  With that agreed upon, we set sail alone and move out into the river.

Barefootin’ arrives in Decatur as planned and pulls into River Walk  Marina at mm305.5.  We tie up.  Dang, the dock is hot when you’re barefoot!  (The four of us boaters will make this assessment over and over again throughout this trip.) Mackie and Presley leashed, we four head up to the restaurant to gather info, potty, and stretch our legs.

We are bummed to find out the Hard Dock Cafe is closed Mondays, hmmmm, thinking now that I remember that from our last trip down this way.  (Ah, the memory of age…not so effective as it once was.)  Heading back down to the boat, we call Fruition to give them the disappointing news, then time to loose the lines, haul up the fenders and shove off.

A fun little thing about going through Decatur, is that short period of feeling like we’re a big boat when we call the railroad bridge and ask for passage.  The guys that work the bridge are always jovial and informative.  The one working today asks how soon we can be at the bridge.  Clint proudly responds that we’re moving 27-28 knots and will be there quickly.  A train is on its way, so we hurry towards the bridge as it rises before our eyes.  We feel so important.  Snicker.

Then, it’s onward to Wheeler where we will all be docking for two days.

You may not believe this, but Barefootin’ arrives at Wheeler first.  Dogs walked and pottied, Clint and I head up to pay our bill and see if I have wi-fi available.  (I guess you know the answer.)

Waiting on Sue and Jim to arrive, we decide to try out the pool on this hundred degree day.  A decision easily decided.  The pool is a balmy 90 degrees we guess. Yuck.  I can only say it felt “sorta” cool as you get out soaking wet.  That last about 5 minutes, then, you’re hot again.  Warm pool and lovely weather.

Time to begin looking out for Fruition, we climb aboard Barefootin’ and give them a call.  They are close.  We get some ice cold water and wait.

Here they come, and as always, Sue makes an impressive “landing.”  Jim guides her in with a language and signals they both understand.  Fruition tied up, it’s not long before Jim and Sue are in bathing suits and ready to cool down, ha, in the balmy 90 degree pool.  (We all left “being picky” at home.)    : )

Our trip’s “this and thats” are shared poolside.  Sue and I do more girl talk, lingering in the pool.   The guys, wimps, lounge in the shade.  Sue updates me on Shadow, their beloved cat, who has traveled with them since they bought Fruition.  She has been struggling the last few days, not herself.  We discuss her symptoms and the “what to do’s.”

 We all head to our separate boats, they are parked side by side, nice.  We’ll clean up and meet for dinner at the park restaurant.

A knock on the boat, Clint goes on deck to check it out.  It’s Joe and Kathy Benson, friends who have their boat docked at Wheeler year-round.  They want to know if we’d like to join them for dinner in town.  We’re all in, we have a drink below in the air-conditioning and Sue and Jim get to know Joe and Kathy a bit. Then, we pile into Joe’s car and off we go into Rogersville for a steak dinner.

During dinner, it comes to light, that Joe and Clint know loads of the same people from the work world.  (I am a gluton for punishment when it comes to “it’s a small world” kinda stuff)  Lots of laughs and bellies full, we all head back to our boats to be lulled to sleep by the gentle roll of the water beneath our hulls.

Sweet Dreams!

Catching Up

We awoke early, that’s just the way it is on the boat, for us anyway.  The weather was not the rainy, cloudy, dreary weather we had expected.  Instead, we woke to an absolutely beautiful morning.  I ate some granola and banana, Clint did the same.  We helped Jim and Sue push off and head on before us towards Ditto Landing Marina in Huntsville.

We did our assigned piddlin’, walked the dogs, cleaned up and headed out the channel ourselves.

We leave the Goose Pond channel, the sign gleaming in the warm sunshine.  Out on the river, the water is as smooth as glass.  We pass bass boats and catch up with Fruition.  We wave and move on ahead.  The plan today is to find a swimming hole and enjoy the water before heading through the Guntersville Dam and onto Ditto Landing.  What a perfect day for this plan.

We arrive before Fruition, as always, in a large quiet cove right past Honeycomb Creek.  We find the perfect spot, I nag Clint not to go too far in, nag, nag, nag.  We drop the hook and get on our swimsuits.  We call Sue and Jim to let them know we’re here.

About 20 minutes later, they call to say they are approaching.  We anxiously await their arrival and our swim…no Fruition…we wait a bit longer...no Fruition…we discuss, we call them on the VHS.  We’re asking them where they are, they are asking us where we are.  Hmmmmmm.  Okay, just where is everyone?  Turns out we are in different coves.  Since we are anchored already, we win and Fruition turns around and moves out of their cove and on down to ours.

Of course by this time, we’re all really sweating.  Fruition comes up on our starboard and we raft up, stern to stern for easy access.  We probably set a record for adults getting in water quickly.  Our dogs are addicted to riding on Sue’s raft with her, so in they go.One thing I can assure you of, on this trip ALL of us have appreciated every moment in the water, river, lake, pool or shower.  We all enjoy a long swim, the fun and laughter of friendship, and a good lunch onboard Barefootin’.

After much relaxation, we loosen our lines connecting our boats, Fruition starts her engines and moves on towards the dam.  We pull anchor and follow.  Sue calls the lockmaster  and we wait.  And, we wait.  This lockmaster is not a communicator.  We wait.  We wait.  Finally, we see the lock doors begin to swing open.  We wait.  The horn blows.  In we go.  No May Flies today, we left them all back at Hales Bar and Nickajack Dam, gratefully.  The above photo is Jim showing off his muscular build and cute little orange life vest.  Thank goodness for some humor and entertainment from Jim as once in the dam, we again wait.  We hear on our VHS’s that a sailboat is upstream a few miles and wants to lockthrough too.  So, we wait some more.  By now our swimsuits, unfortunately, have dried.  Sweat begins to pour off our bodies yet again.  It is extra hot with the sun high and locked with the dam walls.  You would not be envious, I can guarantee.

We do survive the wait, the sailboat at last arrives, and we have an uneventful lockthrough.  Once out, we enjoy the beauty that lies between Guntersville and Huntsville on the river.  There are magnicent bluffs along the way.  It’s a Sunday and the pleasure boats are out in droves!  And, no offense to anyone, but I do not think that they have taken a boating safety class.  Many are parked right in the middle of the channel, sometimes narrow channels.  And, with kids on rafts and floaties, right in the way of boating traffic.  Huge barges travel up and down the Tennessee River, and trust me, they cannot divert themselves to miss a small pleasure craft sitting in the middle of the river with kids playing all around it.

That crumping said, if anyone is ever interested in a safety course, do contact your area’s United State Sail and Power Squadron or the U.S. Coast Guard.  Both offer great classes and they are well worth the short time spent in a classroom.

We dodge all the boats, Fruition cannot weave around them as we can, but one way or another everyone lives through the heavy traffic of the day.  We arrive at Ditto, sweating profusely, tie up with some help from the marina workers.  We get more ice, drink lots of water, walk the dogs, sweat some more, but the dogs down in the air conditioning, they complain.  They are such faithful little tikes that they would prefer the disgusting heat if they can just be with us.  Sometimes, they do not get their way, I’d rather at least THEY be cool.

We shower, piddle, I try to get online, something is messing up my ability to do so, who knows what, but now I am sweating AND frustrated.  Much worse than just sweating.

Sue and Jim round the corner coming into the marina and they get tied up.  It dinner time, we all agree to showers and ordering pizza delivery.  Pizza ordered, we all split up and clean up.  Man, oh man, does a shower in cold water on Barefootin’ feel like heaven.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Deep dish pizza from Jett’s.  It is so good, even though Clint and I like thin crust, we eat with gusto.  I am not getting thinner on this boat trip…my only complaint thus far is too much eating.  Me, I’m a “eat my bigger meal at lunch and snack away at dinner.”  This trip, we are eating later and then pooped, we all head to bed on full stomachs.  Ugh.  But, besides my health considerations, the food has all been good and I’ve never been one to turn down food.  Unfortunately.

We had Oreos for dessert, a discussion ensued.  We know, but do you know where the name Oreo came from and when the first Oreo was made?

Now on to our next day as I try to catch up.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We all rise early (us, our dogs, Sue, Jim and Shadow, their cat), in preparation for our first day on the water.  Everything has been planned, probably too much planning for this old girl who loves “wingin’ it.”  But, I’m happy and all is well, no complaints when we’re about to take off on Barefootin’.

We all had dinner last night on Imagine, Roger had grilled hamburgers and Laura had made all the fixins’.  Roger’s son, Andrew, was there with his daughter, Melody, and by the end of the evening it had been decided that Andrew and Melody would set sail with Fruition in the morning.  Laura and Roger would drive and meet us all for dinner at The Docks (a great place to eat) in Scottsboro, AL, at Goose Pond Colony.

Around 8am, Clint and I went over to untie Fruition‘s lines and watch Fruition move out of their slip and begin our trip.  With both of our trips together, it is almost unspoken now, that we (Barefootin’ crew) piddle a bit and take off after Fruition.   They are a trawler, or as Clint teases, a “crawler,” so we always leave late, but still beat them to our destination.  We are there to untie them from the port we are leaving and there to greet them at the next port when they arrive.  (Clint says we are spoiling them)

With our duties done, we head back to Barefootin’, and piddle (as we are suppose to do), chat with some of our marina friends, walk the dogs one more time, wash the breakfast dishes and we’re ready to go.  We had gassed up and pumped out late yesterday, so we were ready to join Fruition out on the river.

Friends wave us off and we head downstream towards Nickajack Dam.  It is no time before we see our “sister ship” and we move on up to join them.

We arrive at the dam soon after, call the lockmaster, and request a lockthrough.  He is ready for us in 10 minutes, so both Jim and I go out to let down fenders and prepare our lines.

It is a very, very easy lockthrough.  We tie up across from Fruition.  I never even use my boat hook to push away from the wall once.  That’s a first.  Instead, I busy myself, using the boat hook, to break up the spider webs on the bollard, and play with bunches of May flies trying to free the few still alive from the webs, a rather intricate job to say the least, and I am sure one that all boaters would prefer me to not do.  But, hey, I am who I am.  I can’t just sit here bored, looking at all those thousand (and that’s NO exaggeration) of May flies without trying to help a few.  (they only live for 24 hours, so why shorten that small life cycle if I can assist their freedom in any way??)

Soon the dam doors are opening, the horn blows and we’re moving ahead.  Clint calls and let’s Fruition know that we’ll see them at Goose Pond, “call us if you need us.”  And, we’re off and heading down the Tennessee.

The river has become a familiar area for us by now, still beautiful, full of wildlife and changing landscapes.  Lots of bridges, of such varying styles, to pass under between here and Goose Pond.  It is not long before we see storm clouds brewing as we approach our second bridge of this leg, time to batten down the hatches.

In no time, it’s upon us, just a summer shower and not a lot of wind, so wet yes, but none the worse for it.  We watch the GPS and move onward.

Jim and Sue are far enough behind us that they miss this small storm.  We had all checked the weather and discussed it before leaving port earlier (a must when you’re boating).  We open the helm and cockpit canvases again and continue downstream.  Both the dogs have slept through the rain.

We enjoy the ride, chat about the homes, scenery and wildlife along the river and before long, we have the Goose Pond Colony channel in sight.  It’s a shallower channel, one you want to follow precisely.  The water lilies are blooming, making a welcome carpet for us as we glide towards the marina.

Goose Pond Marina and Golf Course

We arrive, the friendly, helpful guy, Jason I believe, comes out to greet us and tie us off while we refuel.  Then we move over and tie up at our home for the night, our slip.

Always our first event after we get secured into our slip upon arrival is to walk the dogs.  They have been to Goose Pond lots of times now and feel right at home, know there favorite little spots to explore.  I seriously think we could unleash them and they’d make their way off the docks, relieve themselves, and head right back to the boat.  They always know which boat is theirs which I find rather cute.  : )

Clint and I get settled in, and to the west we noticed a large black cloud is forming a substantial mass.  This is one that we aren’t going to skirt around, nor is Fruition, who is still making their way down the river.  We give them a call on the VHS to let them know what’s heading our way.

Sure enough the storm hits Fruition while they are on the river.  They had no ill effects from it with the exception of Melody, Roger and Laura’s granddaugter (6), who is aboard and rather freightened by the orders to close this, open that, can you see starboard, port, etc.  Andrew, her father, reassures her that they are staying afloat and all is well.  The trip down the river on Fruition is, no doubt, a trip that she will remember with fondness throughout her lifetime.  What a kind gesture by Sue and Jim, to invite Andrew and Melody along for a fun day traveling downstream on a 47′ trawler!

Fruition arrives, it’s still raining.  Clint is there, umbrella at work, to help tie them up at the fuel dock.  Once fueled, Fruition, with Sue again at the helm, heads over to tie up at our dock for the night.  It’s not long afterwards, that the rain dissipates, and we are all able to chat out on the dock.  Laura and Roger arrive by car (remember their boat, Imagine, was unable to make this trip…next time!).  We all walk over to The Docks restaurant for an absolutely delicious meal.  Several of us had shrimp and grits (Falls Creek grits, by the way), some crab legs, pork medallion and a chicken alfredo…Melody had chicken fingers, you might have guessed, huh?  : )   The laughter was plentiful, the talk enjoyable and the food complemented the evening perfectly.

Goodbyes and hugs were done afterwards, Laura, Roger and their crew headed back to Chattanooga.  We and the Kuemmels head to Barefootin’ to discuss tomorrow continued journey and the weather outlook.  The forecast is more rain.  With our goodnights, we settle into bed in our separate boats.  Our last thoughts before we drift off to sleep…

Rain, rain, go away!

Here’s My Story And I’m Sticking To It

Well, somebody needs to pat me on the back, we’re at Goose Pond Colony Marina, I’m up before 6, coffee in hand, and struggling for over 20 minutes trying to get a connection, down below, then on deck, then back down below, moving the dogs with me (Lord knows they have to be glued to my side this morning) just so I can blog.  NOT that I’m complaining.

Okay, thing is, I gave up on connecting and just getting this down on paper this morning and will throw it online when I can…so here we go.

First, it just hit me this morning as I was pouring that first cup of coffee, that I had not explained something of great significance about our send-off last year by the Kuemmels and all that has followed since.  So, here’s the tale, we’ll begin with a short preface…

March 2010 Boat Trip to Mississippi

Last year in March Clint and I set off for our first Barefootin’ journey downstream. We traveled 452 land miles total, traveling down the Tennessee River, our last stop being Grand Harbor Marina on the TennTom, then back to homeport. We easily became addicted to this type of travel and I decided to begin my first blog (this one) all about our Barefootin’ travels.  I was actually faithful to write each day on this first trip (miracles do happen). After our journey had ended, we still went down to the boat for a few days each week. On one of these visits to Hales Bar to our boat is where this tale begins.

…We had packed up food, the dogs, and swimsuits and were back at the marina, to spend a few restful days on Barefootin’. Clint went to find a cart while I walked and pottied the dogs on arrival, our usual routine. The girls quickly took care of business and I headed down the pier towards Barefootin’. I saw a couple, around our age, pulling debris out of the water along the pier’s edge (a very worthy and notable cause at our marina).  I said “Hi” to the man as I passed. When I reached the woman I did the same and she turned around and looked at me. I had walked on past when the lady called out to me and asked if I was the one who wrote the blog and was our boat named Barefootin’? Amazed that some stranger knew this, I turned to answer “Yes.”

She and her husband had found our blog on the AGLA (American Great Loop Association) site that both us and they belonged to.  Now the fact that my blog site had even been put on the web site was new to me, though I was thrilled.  And, even more thrilled to find that this couple, Jim and Sue, had followed our travels day to day down the river.  Jim and Sue, on the other hand, seemed glad to meet the people they had been reading about.  : )

I tell you this little story for two reasons; one, to remind you and me that it truly is a small world, and, secondly, that these two were our “send-off” couple on our next trip in 2010 and have been our travel partners with us, aboard their trawler Fruition, for our two trips this year.

Jim and Sue giving us a send-off in 2010

Jim and Sue, and other great friends we’ve met through boating (Betsy, Ken, Laura, Roger) all up in Lynchburg for a weekender last fall.

Fruition with Sue at the helm, as we left Nickajack Dam yesterday after we locked through together.

So, there’s our story and I’m sticking to it!