Monday, October 12, 2020

Swimming Upstream

Since our last post, we have said goodbye to Kentucky, spent a few days in Tennessee, spent a few minutes in Alabama, and are now anchored in Mississippi.  We moved south by 165 (as the crow flies), but traveled 215 miles of meandering rivers to get here.  We have been anchored in 5 different places, and spent 2 nights at Aqua Yacht Marina (time for our monthly reprovisioning & pumpout). It feels good to be on the move again!

Our final Land Between the Lakes anchorage was in Panther Bay.  This anchorage is in Tennessee, and was on our short list of anchorages because of the hiking trails.  

Pickett Loop was a 3 mile trail that offered a nice combination of interior forest and shoreline.

Yay...there’s our girl, we could see her, but we still had to walk around this cove to get to where we left the Whaler on the other side.  This felt like a long 3 miles!

It’s getting cold here.  We woke up to 48° three mornings in a row. It is time to head south!  The cold air and relatively warm water creates a very dense fog at night, but each morning we were treated to the beautiful ‘smoke on the water’.  Also, this dense condensation wreaked havoc on my teak job.

Before we begin our journey south Keith dives the bottom to scrape the running gear and change the anodes.  He ended up scraping much more than the running gear thanks to a strange black mat type of growth on the hull.

What’s wrong with this picture?  Take a look at the three barges in the front...yep, they are on the beach.  We aren’t sure how this push boat got into this situation, as he was well outside the channel.  It’s possible he pulled out of the channel to sleep for the night and woke up to a much lower water level.  They seemed to be lowering the lake levels in preparation for the rain expected from hurricane Delta. 

We came upon him around 10:00 a.m., about an hour into our trip.  Keith was at the helm and he saw a lot of water disturbance coming from the back of the push boat, but we weren’t sure what he was doing because he didn’t appear to be moving. Keith radioed and asked permission to cross behind the boat. The captain replied, “come on ahead, but don’t come where I am because I’m stuck!”...and stuck he was!  That night we dropped the anchor at 6:00, approximately 55 miles south of this location, and we heard the lock master warn a northbound barge that this boat was still stuck...poor guy, 8 hours later he was still in the same spot.

In case you were wondering how they are able to get 1200 ft of barges through a 600 ft lock, we were lucky enough to capture this satellite picture of the process in action.  They push the first three rows (9 total) of barges into the lock and unhook them from the push boat and other barges. The push boat backs out so the gates can close.  Once the first set of barges are raised/lowered they get pulled out of the lock with a motorized pulley system.  The lock then returned for the remaining barges and push boat.  Once they get through they reconnect and go on their way...COOL!

I know 40 ft is enough space for us to fit under that railroad bridge, but it just doesn’t look high enough from this angle.  Also, I’m not really a fan of crossing under while a train is going over.  It’s a little irrational, but I feel like if something is going to go wrong it’s going to go REALLY wrong with the added variable of the train😬

If you are looking at this picture and yelling at me for being on the wrong side of the channel, let me explain.  Usually, channels are transited like roads where each vehicle stays to the right. However, heading into a sharp bend in the river I could see this barge was nearing the bend from the opposite direction thanks to the AIS system on my chart plotter (I could not yet see him with my eyes). Considering the narrow channel, sharp bend, and strong current I wanted to make sure I was well out of his way.  I radioed the captain and asked him where he would like me to be when I came out of the bend. He requested that I cross the channel to “get on up in that bend, and pass on the 2”! My reply, “copy that, pass on the 2”, which means ‘I will leave you to my starboard’.  So you see, I am not on the wrong side of the channel...I am just getting out of the way👍
Earlier in the day Keith had a similar situation, when he was at the helm, but that captain asked him to stop right where we were and wait for him to pass.  Since there was a second barge right behind the first we just held station until both push boats got out of the bend.

I mentioned strong currents, well this is what it looks like to swim upstream.  At times our speed was down to 5.2 mph running at 1750 rpm. Luckily, as soon as we locked up into Pickwick lake we were making 8.4 mph at 1550 rpm.  That was the last of our upstream journey.  The entire rest of our trip to the Gulf of Mexico will be downstream.

Can’t blame this one on the river.

And here comes Delta, our third hurricane this season. Thankfully, once again we will only see a day of rain.

And rain it did! 

We will spend the remainder of October exploring Bay Springs Lake.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Home Is Where The Anchor Drops

Luckily, if we don’t like the neighborhood it is easy for us to relocate!  Every anchorage in Land Between the Lakes offers a beautiful, scenic environment with plenty of wildlife, and no homes or piers along the shoreline.  However, we discovered that a few places (particularly one with a rare sandy beach) can be quite the party central on weekends. I love to see people enjoying the water, and having a lot of boats anchored near by doesn’t bother me one bit...BUT, my tolerance for obnoxiously loud, and incredibly vulgar/obscene ‘music’ makes me very thankful that we can be in a different ‘home’ very quickly!  I know I am getting old (and maybe a little crotchety), but ‘peace and tranquility’ is the only life for me😁

Smith Bay offers a nice sandy beach, but draws the ‘rowdy’ crowd on weekends.  Finally at the stage in my life when I truly look forward to Monday. TGIM

Just two miles south, Duncan Bay is my idea of the perfect home.

This has been my favorite anchorage since we left the Bahamas.  This spot offers easy access to hiking (which leads you through an old cemetery before you reach the gravel road) and a plethora of wildlife.

Birds abound.

There must be an eagle nest in this cove. We have seen 5 individual bald eagles, including two juveniles that don’t yet have their adult coloring.  Did you know it takes eagles 5-6 years to get the white head and tail feathers?  I believe this juvenile is 2-3 years old. I happened upon two juveniles sitting in a tree when I was paddle boarding.  They scared me as much as I scared them!

Eagles are constantly flying overhead, but one evening they were making a lot of noise, and when we looked outside we saw 3 adults ‘chasing’ each other. They would fly and swoop, then land in different trees and chatter at each other.  It was hard to tell who was chasing whom, but they definitely seemed unhappy with the circumstances...while we enjoyed every moment.

We have also learned a few new things this week.  Have you ever seen these root growths coming out of the ground?  This was a first for us, but after a little research it appears these cypress root ‘knees’ are actually fairly common in swampy areas.  Their function is unknown, but scientists believe the most likely purpose is to provide structural support and to stabilize the soft ground surrounding a tree.

And what kind of creature makes these mud ball tunnel holes?  There are a lot of these tunnels alongside the cypress knees.  I believe they were made by burrowing crayfish, or at least that’s what YouTube has led me to believe.  How did I ever learn anything before the internet?

We have been trying to take a nice long walk/hike a few times per week, and there is a path from the beach that leads directly to the back of this cemetery.  There are several old, multi-family cemeteries on Land Between the Lakes, which reminds us that at one time quite a few people lived here.  This particular cemetery tells the story of what a hard life these people faced, and particularly shows a high death rate among children.  There are a disproportionately large number of grave markers for infants, but there were also a significant number of young children buried here. It appears that 1898 was a particularly brutal year.

There are three identical headstones, side by side, that show the heartache one family suffered in 1898.  Rosco (7), Lennie (5), and Lonso (three months shy of his 3rd birthday) each died one day apart between May 7-9, 1898.  Of course there is no way to know what happened to these children, but it seems possible, if not probable,  a childhood disease was responsible.  After seeing this, we walked around the cemetery again and identified three other children under the age of 10 who died in 1898.  Childhood disease data shows that during that time period Scarlet Fever, Tuberculosis, and Diphtheria were the leading causes of death in children.  We are thankful to have the opportunity to walk through this cemetery in 2020, and sorry for those who lived the realities of 1898.

Birds aren’t the only things that have us looking to the sky.  We are also entertained by a local military unit’s frequent airborne refueling practice.

On most evenings we usually see 30-40 carp feeding at the surface, but one evening we could see hundreds of carp, at the surface of the water, all around the boat.

Her wing span is amazing!

Of course we don’t spend all of our time ‘mud mucking’...back to work.  I am still working on teak (and probably will be for the rest of my life).  It only took me 5 days to prep this door😳

And Keith has moved on to refurbishing the bow pulpit.

One day (in my spare time) I will make a boat project folder for those of you who might be interested in the realities of restoring a 41 year old boat, while living aboard and traveling.  It’s a wonderful hobby/lifestyle.  I can’t imagine just living on the boat with nothing constructive to accomplish.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Jumping and Jugging

This plan to hide from hurricanes in the inland lake system is working out quite well!  

This cloud bank is what was left of Laura by the time she reached us 430 miles from the coast.

We will gladly take a day of rain.  

We have ‘officially’ started our slow migration south. After spending 5 weeks exploring Barkley Lake, we are now anchored in Smith Bay on Kentucky Lake. Good bye to our friends at Buzzard Rock Marina! Buzzard Rock was a wonderful ‘home base’ during our time on Barkley Lake.  Everyone was very friendly and helpful! Special thanks to Valerie for keeping track of all of our packages and for always being so welcoming and accommodating!

We anchored in 4 different locations on Barkley Lake, but weren’t able to get into many of the coves I thought we would be able to explore.  The lake level is very low and many of the coves, on that side of Land Between the Lakes, have sandbars blocking the entrance.  We had planned to spend a week exploring Crooked Creek Bay (circled with yellow), but ran aground while approaching the mouth in a location that showed a 15 ft depth on our chart plotter.  This is the first time we have noticed a significant discrepancy between charted depth and actual depth. We had a little trouble getting off the bottom, and were preparing to launch the Whaler (to both lighten the load and use it to help pull the boat), but Keith was able to wiggle us off the bottom, and back us out of the very tight situation. Glad he was at the helm during that fun adventure😬

Unfortunately, all of the LBL coves between Mammoth Furnace (circled with blue, also where we were anchored during the last post) and Crooked Creek were too shallow for us to visit.  We backtracked north and anchored in Hurricane Creek on the east side of the lake.  The east side has much deeper coves, but it is also populated with houses and piers...oh well, back to civilization!

Not long after we dropped anchor a fishing boat came along side to let us know they were planning to net Asian Carp right next to us.  They explained that it was a noisy process and their boat would probably make some waves.  We offered to move if our position was hindering their operation, but they assured us that wouldn’t be necessary as long as we were okay with noise and waves.  We were excited to have a front row seat. 

They explained that they had to run the net from shoreline to shoreline, because these fish are very ‘smart’ and would go around or over if they get the chance.  In this picture, the net looks like a black line on the surface of the water.  Their boat is on the other side of the net where they are setting up to chase the fish into the net (those orange balls mark the net so they can see it).  Once the net was set, they went to the back of that cove and turned on the noise maker.  It sounded like a jackhammer echoing through the water.

And that was the beginning of a great show!  The fish immediately started jumping over the net.  We watched hundreds of fish escape by jumping over the net.  Some of these fish easily jumped 5-6 feet into the air, and their re-entry into the water sounded like cannon balls falling around us.

The crew of Asian Remedy sped back and forth ‘herding’ the fish toward the net.  

Once they were finished making a lot of noise and running the boat back and forth, to drive the fish into the net, it was time to haul the net in by hand.

They caught a lot of fish, but I’m pretty sure the same number escaped by jumping over the net.  It was great to learn about this invasive species, and the steps being taken to control the population.  We had frequently seen large numbers of these fish at the surface in the early evening, and Keith had cast many baited hooks to entice them...little did we know these fish only ‘eat’ plankton!  They are filter feeders, you can’t catch them with a hook (unless you snag one).  

Guess whose inquiry scored a donation of two Asian Carp (it wasn’t me). We were told they were very good to eat, but very hard to fillet, as they are full of bones.  I really only wanted one fish since cleaning two seemed like a lot of work, but they said “take two so you can practice on one.” After watching several YouTube videos I was ready to give it a try.  I didn’t have any problem getting the primary fillet off the fish, but that beautiful fillet sitting on the cutting board still has two rows of Y shaped bones running the whole length.  By the time I finished with the first fish we had a bowl full of fish nuggets. However, after watching the videos a second, third, maybe fourth time, I was able to remove the bones and ended up with strips of filleted carp, from the second fish.  We have since eaten the carp on two different occasions and we both agree it is a wonderful, white, flaky, firm, mild flavored fish.  Is it worth the work to fillet it?? Keith says yes😉

If you would like to learn more about the amazing efforts to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes here’s a link to a PBS NewsHour segment

In a different anchorage, we were able to learn the finer points of jugging.  We have seen a variety of bottles, jugs, and noodle apparatuses that we assumed were for the purpose of catching fish, but we didn’t have the details...until we were apparently anchored in the middle of someone’s favorite fishing spot.  This fisherman had very ‘official’ jugging gear, and dropped them all around our boat.  The apparatus is simply something that floats with a hook, line, and sinker attached.  The trick is to use a floating item with enough buoyancy to stay afloat even when a catfish is trying to swim away.  These items are free floating, and many people put them out at night and come back to check them in the morning. I’m guessing the catfish don’t usually go very far.

This is so EXCITING!! When a fish gets on the hook the float stands up.  I am like a little kid watching these floats move through the water, and point up into the air.  This fish decided to seek refuge under our boat, and literally swam until the float got stuck against the bow.

This looks too easy.  This guy just floats around in his boat and watches his jugs (noodles).  When he has one hooked he is clearly in no hurry to retrieve the fish.  I’m jumping up and down yelling “over here...over here,” and I’m pretty sure he rolled his eyes at me.  He told me that he likes to let them tire themselves out before pulling them in.  

We have decided that instead of collecting bottles or noodles to construct our own jugging gear we would just use Right Hand as the float, and hang lines off the sides.  We have had one catfish dinner using this method. However, we suffered the loss of our freezer last week and found ourselves in the position of needing to quickly downsize our frozen until further notice, no fishing is allowed.  

We should be able to start fishing again in a week or two, and I will be ready to catch the bait!

This is the first time I have ever seen turkeys while kayaking.

We have taken advantage of the opportunity to hike around the forest of Land Between the Lakes.  Keith is daring me to walk across this log...he knows I have an irrational fear of heights, which seems to be getting worse with age!  Clearly if I were to break a bone at this age it would take forever to heel.  I did cross the log over the 4 ft ravine/ditch, and when I got to the middle my heart was beating like I was 400 ft off the ground...ugh!  

SAND!  This beach is actual sand...WOW! We haven’t seen sand in a very long time, and there is a lot of it since the lake level is so low.  We were told they intentionally lower the lake this time of year to be ready to handle flood waters.  Thank goodness Hurricane Sally is forecast to stay southeast of our location!

The best thing about Fall is the amazing sunsets!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Cruising with Bison?

When we started this adventure 14 months ago I never imagined that a bison prairie would be on our list of sights to see, but you just never know.  We rented a car last week and did the all day tourist thing in Land Between the Lakes.  LBL is a 170,000 acre National Recreation area that is located between Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake.

There are two bison prairies where we saw two different herds.  Please remain in your vehicle!

Turkeys clearly love this place.

We came upon one of the old iron producing furnaces, that is still standing.  If you saw the last blog post, I shared a picture of some rocks sticking out of the lake. Well, this is what that furnace looked like before the lake was flooded.

If you’re interested in how it’s the gist.

We visited an 1850s working farm and museum.  I think everyone who works here truly believes the year is 1850😁

I found my new tiny house.  Needs a new roof, but there is a pile of freshly cut shakes seasoning close by. Actually, this is the blacksmith shop for the farm.  It has a small fire box with chimney in the back corner, and a huge bellows hanging from the ceiling.

This is the wood shop where one young man recently finished a chair and another was making a pipe.  Everything is built using 1850 technology. I love old tools!

We received a personal weaving lesson, and if Covid weren’t around I could have been in there weaving with her!  In fact, before Covid, buildings were open and people were encouraged to touch everything!  The farm showcases many buildings, including houses, smokehouse, barns, corn crib...etc. It was very interesting to see all of the people going about their day like they really lived and worked on this 1850!

Hummingbirds love this place too!

We ventured ‘off the beaten path’ during our LBL visit, and did a little off roading to find St. Stephen Catholic Church.  The church was not on our map neither were the ‘roads’ leading to it, but with a little luck, determination, and hand drawn directions from the lady at the welcome center we found it!

The church was built by German immigrants in 1900 and held services until 1945.  This is what it looked like in 2000 when a group of volunteers worked 3,800 hours to restore it to its original design and construction.

This is one of the markers in the cemetery of the church where every marker was covered with coins.  I have never seen (or maybe have never noticed) coins on headstones in other cemeteries I’ve visited, so of course, it was time for a little research.  I found that leaving coins on headstones is a military tradition started for the purpose of letting the family know that someone had visited the grave. Each coin has a different meaning. A penny indicates that the visitor was in boot camp with the deceased, and a quarter indicates the visitor was there when the person died.  Since this person died in 1910, I’m pretty sure 15 people who were in boot camp with him have not recently the jury is still out on the meaning of the coins here.  When we return to Buzzard Rock Marina I will ask the person who originally sent me in search of this church.

On our return trip we stopped at Kentucky dam to see a dam/lock from the land point of view.  This is a turbine used to produce power here at the dam, and you can clearly see the power station in the background.

With our tourist day behind us it was time to get back to boat projects.

I am getting serious about refinishing the teak on the boat.  Of course, my intention was to have it done within 3 months of retiring, but I have several excuses for missing that timeline.  The biggest reason for my delay is the weather has not been conducive. It has either been too wet, too chilly, or too windy.  Also, I have been struggling with the decision regarding which product to use.

I currently have three different products on various surfaces, and I have found serious fault with each of them! Cetol is just too finicky regarding environmental conditions.  Temperature, humidity, and wind must be perfect for several consecutive days, since you can only apply a coat every 24 hours.  Therefore, you need a lot of nice days to get 7 coats on, and if an unexpected shower arrives several hours after a prepared to sand, or settle for a finish that looks like moon craters (I know this from experience)!

Some friends suggested a product called Le Tonkinois, which is a varnish oil that does not crack, peel, or blister.   I really like this product and currently have it on the stern and bow rails.  It is easy to apply, and self levels into a smooth finish.  With much more lenient environmental requirements, you don’t need 7 consecutive ‘perfect’ days.  It has great color and shine, and is easy to repair.   However, this product is NOT very durable in harsh conditions, and needs maintenance coats re-applied every 3-4 months. So...

Currently, I’m trying a new product called Lust, which is a varnish.  My search for a durable product that only needs maintenance coats once a year, has led me here.  One of the reasons I selected this product is that multiple coats can be applied in a single day. However, I will confess that I am already frustrated, and am considering going back to Le Tonkinois.  Lust has turned out to be very difficult to apply.  It doesn’t flow well, and tacks up instantly making it impossible to get a smooth finish.  The instructions discourage thinning the product after the third coat so I’m not sure how to adjust.  The environmental conditions fall within the suggestions, but maybe it will work better if applied in cooler weather.

One thing is certain...this is the LAST time this girl is stripping this teak down to bare wood!  Don’t get me wrong...I enjoy working with wood, but my fingers and elbows are screaming at this abuse (getting old really stinks)!  I probably should have consulted with friends Ken and Barbara, who seem to be brightwork gurus, before plowing ahead with yet another ‘trial’.

Clearly, Keith has more patience with tedious projects.  He is still working on reconditioning the space under the brow on the fly bridge.  His original plan was to chip off old paint and repaint the interior, in addition to reorganizing the wiring mess that you can see in the back.  Progress has been slower than planned due to the discovery of unexpected rot, and the fact that his chipping creates dust that wreaks havoc on my varnish he graciously moves on to other projects.

All of this on top of our new fishing endeavors has made for a busy week.  Our next post will feature some interesting fishing techniques popular in this part of the country.  This lifestyle offers an opportunity for constant learning...and fun!

Swimming Upstream

Since our last post, we have said goodbye to Kentucky, spent a few days in Tennessee, spent a few minutes in Alabama, and are now anchored ...