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Day 20

Location: Green Turtle Bay Marina, Barkley Lake, Mile 30.5 of the Cumberland River

Distance Travelled today: 31 Nautical Miles

Total Trip Distance: 802 Nautical Miles

We slept in this morning and it was a great relief not to be up and running by 6 am. When I did poke my head upstairs at 7:30, we were completely fogged in and I couldn’t see the shore 30 feet away. However, the warm sun began burning off the fog and by 8:40 we were able to hoist anchor and head up the Cumberland River. The current on the Ohio, which had slowed our progress to sometimes three and four miles per hour, quickly disappeared and we began cruising at a more normal speed of about seven and one half to eight miles per hour. There were a few tugs and barges to get by on the Cumberland and one gigantic gravel quarry with barges lined up to be loaded on both sides of the river. However, the majority of our 30 mile run was through beautiful countryside with old farmhouses and barns to either side.

By 1:30 pm, we had arrived at Barkley Lock and Dam which would raise us 54 feet into Barkley Lake. I called the lockmaster about two miles before our arrival to tell him we were southbound up the river, what mile marker we were near, and that we would be up to the lock in a few minutes. He called back when he understood our position and said “You’re not southbound, you’re northbound.” I told him, no, the river flows north and I’m southbound up the river. He politely informed me that that when you’re travelling up stream anywhere, it’s considered northbound, but that I was not the first person to make that mistake. As we left the lock awhile later, I thanked him for locking us through and told him we were going to continue on northbound until we got to Mississippi.

As we left the lock, an alarm started going off, and after a few seconds checking things out, we determined that it was the engine overheat alarm. The engine coolant temperature has run right at 120 degrees the entire trip and suddenly it was up to 160. I couldn’t check the coolant with the engine hot and it seemed to be stable at that temperature, so we continued to idle the half mile to the marina with the alarm blaring. I went past the marina to what looked like the last channel marker leading in, and entered the channel with the first red marker to my right (red right returning is the rule). Suddenly, we ran hard aground and could not back off the sandbar. While I continued to run the engine up in reverse, we could not budge and the marina tow boat had to come out and rescue us. It turns out that the markers for this channel entrance and those for the next bay run together in such a way that you cannot tell where to enter the channel. Strangely, the engine overheat problem solved itself while I was trying to back off the sandbar.

The overheat problem could either be caused by low coolant levels, a bad impeller in the water pump, or some trash or other obstruction keeping lake water from entering the engine cooling system. I’ll check it all out tomorrow but it seemed to be running at the right temperature when we finally got free of the sandbar and into the marina.

After three nights anchored in the wilds of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, Green Turtle Bay is a dramatic change. It is a gigantic facility with a full boatyard, a yacht club where we will dine tonight, courtesy cars, condos and houses for sale and rent, and the most amazing collection of giant houseboats I have ever seen. We’re happy to be in from the wilderness. I bought 18 gallons of oil for oil changes tomorrow and the lovely Laura Lee and I took a brisk walk to celebrate our arrival. This will be her last night on board and we must have her at the Paducah airport at 8 am where she will head home and George Broughton will sign on for the next leg. George and I will continue south (but northbound) up the Tennessee River for more than 200 miles until we join the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway. Stay tuned.

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