Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Flotilla Departs

Day 7
Oct. 17, 2014

Depart-Joe Wheeler/8:30
Arrive-Union Hollow Anchorage/5:10

Weather Condition: sunny, windy, very windy

This is the day those of us that are in the very early stages of our loop trip have been looking forward to with just a little bit of anxiety and a whole lot of excitement.  We have been encouraged by all of the seasoned loopers we have met that there is no time like the present to "Just Do It", so here we go.  Some of those attending the Rendezvous are taking this opportunity to do a side trip up to Chattanooga, while 19 of us are headed west down the Tennessee River.  To expedite the process of getting us through the locks at Wheeler Dam and Wilson Dam one very helpful member of our party has contacted the lock tender at each lock to let them know the approximate time of arrival.  We have our respective spots assigned to each boat, so it is time to shove off.  We are number 14 and assigned to the wall on the starboard side with When I'm 64 rafting to us.  This is our first experience locking through with this many other boats and I don't know about Jess, but I am just slightly nervous.

Bama Dream finds her place in line as we pull away from the marina at Joe Wheeler State Park.

The gates open at Wheeler Lock and Dam as we prepare to exit after an uneventful lockage. We had many observers cheering us on as we exited the lock.  Some of the Rendezvous participants who are not actually looping yet drove over to take pictures and wish us a Bon Voyage.  It was fun waving bye to our new friends, Richard and Mary Sauerbrey from Tucson, AR, although we wish they were actually ready to join us on this great journey.

As this pictures shows, by the time we reached Wilson Lock and Dam at Florence the wind had picked up quite a bit. If you have never locked through during strong winds, you just don't know what you are missing!  Everything was going smoothly ahead of us while we waited our turn to move into our assigned spot on the wall.  The process came to a halt when a Grand Banks got caught by the wind, causing her to turn sideways in the lock.  She came back out and gave it another go, finally securing the bollard we were supposed to grab.  No problem, those of us who have not entered the lock will just work it out, right?  As we entered to catch a spot we were doing great until just before we got in position a gust of wind blew our bow to port and around we went.  Exit lock and give it another go.  In we go again, another gust and we are turning around for the second time.  O.K. at this point we decide we will wait for everyone else to get in and get secured before we try it one more time.  I guess the third time really is the charm, because we finally managed to raft up to the last vessel in the lock.  Many of our fellow loopers stopped for a visit in Florence, while several of us continued on to various anchorages for the night.

Our anchorage for the night looked like a good place to catch a fish, sure enough I was right!  Great way to bring a day on the river to a close.

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