Saturday, September 29, 2012

BIG Locks & Joey and Bailey

Days on cruise:  190

Distance traveled:  20.9 miles

Travel time: 3 hrs, 4 mins

Total trip odometer:  4,224 statute miles

The data above belies the true nature of our day. Our chartplotter records both “moving time” and “total time”, and the 3 hrs, 4 mins above reflects only moving time. Thanks to the Tow Nellie (with barges), we TWICE were held up waiting on locks. At the Wilson Lock, #1 for the day, we were told that Nellie was IN the lock and didn’t want to move OUT because the fog at the top was too heavy, and they can’t MAKE a tow move out in fog, for liability reasons, even if other boats are waiting. So we waited. An hour.

The Wilson Lock is by far the tallest lock we’ll transit on the Great Loop. It lifts you 94 feet! It looks intimidating on approach. Even in the fog which has softened its’ contours.


We entered behind a smaller boat and tied up to a floating bollard. The dock master had warned us to tie up way at the front or way at the back, not in the middle where the turbulence will “give you the ride of your life”. We complied.


Those doors . . . oh, those TALL doors! Cathryn’s mind was incapable of transiting this lock without her imagination running to how things might play out if a lock door failed and 50 MILLION gallons of water were suddenly let loose. Of course that didn’t happen. The ride was fine. But those doors!


On leaving Wilson lock and traveling down Wilson Lake we saw lots of pretty homes on hills or cliffs, most with boathouses and docks.


On arrival at our second lock of the day we were told Tow Nellie was just beginning her journey through the lock and we’d have to wait  2+ hours. It was a double lock-through in which they: push in the first half of the string of barges; unhook the second half;  pull them back out; then after the first half have been raised and pulled out of the lock via a cable, they lower the water and let the second half and the tow enter the lock to be raised. Then they hook all the barges together again and off they go. It takes a loooong time. Groan!

Ok, we know how to make lemonade out of lemons, so we dropped our anchor outside the channel, ate a late lunch, then took a nap. This is not part of the normal routine, of course, napping in the middle of our travel day.


The second lock of the day, the Wheeler Lock lifts you “only” 48 feet and has one  feature we’ve not seen before, shown below in a Found Photo. The concrete circle in the water to the right of the lock is actually a pipe through which the water is pumped when it’s forced out of the lock to lower the water level inside. It was built to prevent erosion on the lake.


Here, from our boat, you can see the 10-foot waves and turbulence raised by this pipe as the water exits.


Finally, only 21 miles but many hours later, we pulled into Joe Wheeler State Park Marina at Rogersville, Alabama. Friends Craig and Barbara on Blue Heron (met in Norfolk, VA in May) caught our lines, and a happy reunion began.


Craig and Barbara are doing their Loop with yellow labs Joey and Bailey on board, and Cathryn is wild about them. She really, really likes other people’s friendly, well-behaved dogs (as well as other people’s friendly, well-behaved children) and regularly makes Bob nervous about how much she enjoys them. Joey is on the left; Bailey on the right.


And Blue Heron, the boat, in the background, parked Next To Me (or next to us).

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