We cap off our trip down the Tennessee River with a 53 mile run to Grand Harbor Marina, dodging storms along the way.
Start: Clifton Marina, Clifton TN, mm 158.5, 0639
End: Grand Harbor Marina, Someplace on Pickwick Lake in TN, 1641
Total Distance: 49 nm
Average Speed: 4.9 kts
Number of locks: 1
We had a very strange weather forecast for today. Three different apps and weather sites called for winds in the 10-15 mph range from the South and then backing to the North about 4pm. Which is ok, except they all called for gusts to 30+ mph starting at 6am and running through 2pm. Rain is forecasted at 1pm and then again in the evening. The gusting wind has us concerned. We don’t travel fast and the south winds will make our trip to the south slow. 10-15mph is doable, but gusting to 30? Might as well wait another day.
So at 5:30am, I am up and Lucky and I are walking all around Clifton feeling out the wind. Of which there is precisely none. Zero. Nada. No 10-15mph and certainly no gusts to 30mph. So back to the boat and roust Jan at 0615. We are heading out.
Jan is cranky but game. We are spinning a slow circle at 0639 to turn our cat1 around and head out onto the river. Current is still against us, but without any wind we are making over 6 knots (6.6 mph) as the sun rises. We are quickly passed by two fast movers who were also in the marina with us and they quickly disappear. We are alone until we come across a lonely tow with a couple of barges. Jan is driving at the time and she passes her first tow!
The wind slowly picks up as the morning gets warmer and our speed slowly declines as the south wind pushes against our nose and as the current increases as we get closer to the last/only lock for us on the Tennessee River. By noon the clouds are racing across the sky from our right to left and at 1pm the rain has started to fall. Perfect timing–our arrival time at our lock is 1:30pm and we seem to have an affinity for locking in rain.
As the rain starts, we turn the final corner for the lock and the current is wicked. Our forward progress is now down to three mph. Three. As in slower than the speed of an unladen swallow. European, if you must know. We can see that the fast boats that passed us at 7:30 this morning are still sitting in the lock. We pull slowly behind them and wait.
But not too long. We sit long enough to enjoy some crackers and cheese and sip some water and then we get the call to get into the lock. About 45 minutes total. While we were waiting, we decided to call an audible on our nightly arrangements. Original plan was to anchor out in a state park just after the lock/dam. But since we were getting out of the lock by 3:30, we could make it an additional 11 miles to a marina that we were going to be at the following day. We could save a day. So we called the Grand Harbor Marina and they could take us tonight as long as we made it by 5pm.
Gates open and we slam the throttles forward and make it up to 7 whopping miles per hour! The wind has shifted, it is behind us, and the current is gone. We are in Pickwick Lake. And Pickwick is gorgeous. A bit smaller lake than Kentucky Lake which we left a couple of days ago, but the hills are a bit higher, there are some nice bluffs and the trees/forest feels like it is right on top of you.
We make our way the 11 miles to Yellow Creek, take a right and our marina is just up the creek. This creek is the start of the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway, our next piece of the trip to the Gulf. The Ten-Tom waterway connects the Tennessee River (the river we just left) with the Tombigbee River at Demopolis, AL. 250ish miles. Where we pickup up the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway for the remaining 200ish miles to Mobile, Alabama. So 450ish miles to go to Mobile. We are at mile 449.7 at the Grand Harbor Marina.
There are three of us boats all pulling in at the same time…we came through the lock simultaneously and with us putting the hammer down (HAH!) and cutting some corners, we arrive with the fast movers. The winds have picked up and clouds have gotten darker as we move to our assigned slip location–we decide not to get fuel and pump out now–we will wait until we leave. The dock hands catch lines, we get tied up, checked in and power to the boat and about 30 seconds after we are set, the skies open up and the rain begins in earnest. Perfect timing. We hunker down for the night with some Indian food and plan tomorrow’s activities. It was a long, but very good day out on the water.
11 Cat is short for catamaran, not Sid the cat. He is asleep in our bed. As far as you know.