Boating Stories

Learning Curve

mama said there'd be days like this

Tennessee River - Kentucky Lake

Eagle Nest Island, TN

Monday, December 31, 2018

Eagle Nest Island 
on the Tennessee River
Nashville, TN 
Memphis, TN 


Today was frustrating. Bad weather, stupid mistakes, issue list growing instead of shrinking.

The water tank is still an issue. It took some water, but the fill overflowed again with the tank only ½ full.  This is really starting to aggravate me.


Had to do my first pump out and was frustrated by a small chain attached the cap to the inside of the fill. Realized it was just a bad design (how do you suck the brown stuff out with a chain preventing a good seal?) and ripped it off. Probably need to tattoo ‘no drop cap overboard’ on my wrist.

Tried to top up L.T. with gas but gas kept gurgling out of the intake no matter how slow I tried to trickle it in or what position I angled the nozzle – much like my frustrations with the water fill! Felt stupid, especially splashing some gas into the water. Another issue for the list.

All this in between, and sometimes during periodic downpours. At least it was warm - 60s.

Got on the river about noon, just in time to watch a barge go by. I’m still leery about their space and passing, so I fell in about half mile behind it and held close to the left bank at their speed - about 6 mph, 2800 rpm in this current. Normally it would be about 2200.

The Tennessee is running high – locals say highest in maybe 6 months. Not energetic enough to look up actual figures. Lot of debris in river, including big logs that are imperative for L.T. to miss. Strong current, buoys leaning way over. My guess from letting L.T. drift a little is that the current is running about 6-7 mph. Not as many whirlpools as yesterday, but some, and they make a hash out of steering.

About 2 miles out and 1½ mile to TN Hwy 114 bridge, got a heavy downpour with gusts strong enough to push L.T. around. Rock and roll. Keeping L.T. on a straight line impossible. The bridge and barge disappeared in the rain, but I was close enough to the shore to still see it. Had navigation on but the depth wasn’t reading (another issue) so I was not excited about trying to tuck in to shore without knowing the depth.

Finally cleared up in about 20 minutes just when I was passing Riverstone Marina where I could have easily pulled into if it had come earlier. The barge hadn’t slowed for the deluge (I don’t think they slow for much of anything) pulling well ahead of L.T. So not being worried about them and wanting to get at least a few miles done, I gunned it to maybe 4600 rpm to make it to Eagle Nest Island to find some peace and quiet. At Eagle Nest I caught up with the barge and took the inside channel while it took the outside, main channel. It set off my proximity alarm from the opposite side of the island. Just what I needed.

Found a shore eddy big enough for LT, tied up to a couple trees and said the hell with it for the day. 3 hours, 5 miles. The Loop will take a long time at this rate!


When posting this to the website long after I wrote it, I thought I should assure everyone that I survived and have solved most of the issues.

I called Garmin that night and talked to Jeff who walked me through getting my transducer (a fancy depth finder, for those who have been away from boating as long as me) reading again. Garmin takes a beating in several forums but kudos to Jeff’s patience and Garmin having a real person to talk to on New Year’s Eve! Later I found that the real issue was that I had not updated my chartplotter when I bought it. That was another issue added to the list, along with getting Active Captain to work, and eventually taken off.

The water fill problem was that the air vent was filling with water (so couldn’t vent) because C-Dory had mounted the vent hose on the side instead of the top of the head’s water tank. The vent and fill hose serve both the head and drinking water tanks. The head tank fills first, so the water ran into the vent hose before it started filling the drinking tank – preventing the air from the drinking tank escaping through the vent hose and stopping the fill. I fixed it by adding an elbow to keep the vent line above the tank.

I suspect the gas fill may be something similar but haven’t torn into the transom of the boat to find out for sure. I did check the vent intakes which were clean. I developed a work around with a 4 gallon portable gas tank with a skinny discharge tube. I stick the tube into the gas fill and fill both 30 gallon tanks through the portable tank, filling the portable tank  with the normal nozzle from the gas pump. Slow process and it still gurgles some, but I spill much less.


not horizontal!

Slow Fill

Pickwick Lock & Dam