Guntersville to Chattanooga

Ambler Isle
V and S
Sat 2 Jul 2011 15:10
As always we stopped at Guntersville Marina to visit friends Sheila and Buddy Alred, who own and operate the marina.  As usual we were also looking to walk.  Most everyone else we knew there had moved on. Even former owner, Don, was not there.   Buddy and Sheila had made some improvements to the marina since taking it over in 2010.  They'd cleared off the "stuff" from the docks.  That helped immensely.  They'd moved out the derelict boats.  A new sign graced the entrance.  Gone were the old restrooms and in their place were modern facilities.  A combo laundry, shower rooms, and recreation room, complete with a pool table topped it off.  They'd been busy.  Sadly, Buddy was having health problems of his own.  We invited them over for mahi dinner and to catch up.  It was good to see them.  But next morning we shoved off, and entered the channel.  The shore was lines with boat houses.  The beautiful homes had manicured lawns sloping to the river front.   Our old pal Jerry McNeil was 2 miles ahead of us.  This would be the third time we've passed him in as many days.   Hopefully he would not cause us delays at Nickajack Lock. 
We planned to stop just east of the Lock at Shell Mound Park,  but it was early so we pushed on.  Through the River Gorge leading to Chattanooga, we were again amazed by the beauty of the high cliffs above.  Descriptive names, The Skillet, the Pot, and the Frying Pan told a tale of the waters here before the dams.  more beautiful homes dotted the shore.  Lots of small boats were out.  Nearing Chattanooga we saw the UT rowing team practicing.  8 or 10 rowboats each with a pacer boat rowed in and out the channel.  We tiptoed through, trying not to wake them.  At the last bend before town, we dropped anchor.  This bottom was also rocky, but we were able to set anchor anyway.  There was work going on across the river as they filled the bank with sand and topped it with rock.  A tour boat used to speed through that section of river and had destroyed that bank with its wake.  We noted that tour boat passing us at a much lower rate of speed this year. 
We slept in, weighed anchor, and eased the 4 miles to the Ross Landing City Marina.  Although booked out for most of the weekend, they had space for us on Friday night.  We could spend the day walking the beautiful city, then pick up son David and his wife Karen on Saturday morning.  The past few years they've met us here to help us take the boat the rest of the way home.  We walked the city, stopped for a little lunch, then hopped aboard the free electric bus for a city tour.  They manufacture the buses here in Chattanooga.   This city is a model riverfront town.  The riverfront has walking, biking trails, wading ponds, parks, two aquariums and more.  One bridge is strictly pedestrian and bikes.  Flowers and ornamental trees abound.  The marina is a focal point with tiered concrete stadium seating for viewing fireworks, concerts, boat parades, athletic events.  Old folks, young folks, out of shape folks, healthy folks,  even sick folks make their way down to the waterfront to walk, enjoy the water, and to people watch.   A part of the tiered steps has water flowing over it so kids can wade or sit in the cooling water.  Something for everyone.  The city itself has so many restaurant and hotels, it is really a destination. 
We noticed that by afternoon, the river levels had dropped, maybe a foot since we tied up.  We adjusted the fenders and the dock lines.  But next time we looked it'd dropped another 2'.  Again we adjusted the lines.  When we checked again before bed, it was lower yet.  So we pulled out two more lines to wrap around the big pilings and hold us away from the dock.  The problem is the dock was poorly designed.  It is a long, high, stepped concrete wall, with big 4x4' concrete and rubber "pilings"  spaced every 60 feet apart.  Only one boat can fit in each space, whether it is 60' or 20'.  The cleats are huge, normal dock lines cannot loop over them.  Many of the slips have only 30 amp power, and boats today need 50 amp. Their fresh water lines are new, needing replacement already.  The original design had big gas flames burning as dock lights.  But the gas lines have either corroded or broken, and they no longer work.  With no protection on the dock, if the level raises too high, our fenders have nothing to push off against.  We could rub the boat on the concrete!  The docks appear to be designed to hold big commercial vessels, tow, barges, tour boats.  We have never seen any such vessels docked here.  And the city would not like to have such eyesores on its' lovely waterfront.  There is also a wooden dock section of the marina, but that was filled already.  That dock is much more user friendly. 
By morning, the water level  had returned to normal.  Maybe the high water was due to extreme demand for electricity with these hot days.  But the nights have been blessedly cool, dropping to 68 last night.  We rinsed the bugs and river dirt off the boat, wiped down the windows, and refilled our fresh water tank.  We'd be ready to push off when the kids arrive.