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  • Writer's pictureBruce Tate


Looking at the placid river you'd never know it's is running fast. The Chickamauga Dam is releasing at over 60,000 cubic feet per second, a number that probably means nothing to you. We know the number well. We have an inboard so we have almost no steering in reverse, so the amount of current determines the amount of time we have for the river to slam our beautiful trawler into the opposite side of the slip. We know the feeling well because two days ago, we pumped out waste, filled up water, and topped off diesel, so we had to subject our little tug to the whims of the mighty Tennessee.

As we docked the boat, the current took us from one side of our slip to the other in a brief four seconds, leaving us no time to react. All we could do us gun the engine as the sides of the dock screeched against our freshly polished gel coat and hope for the best.

Today, we're trying a different approach. We've untied all of the lines but one, and rigged it so that Maggie can untie it from within the cockpit, and retrieve the line from the river with a boat hook. We positioned our friend Richard at the end of the docks, and posted his mom Deidre as a lookout to scan for river debris or the numerous bass boats that scream by our marina without warning. We start our engines, say our goodbyes, and Maggie unties the line. I gun the Volvo Penta diesel in reverse, and it's a race.

The Tennessee seeks to log a protest by reuniting our boat and the dock. Before that can happen, I seek to make it out to the main current. Our bow and stern thrusters are our normal defense, but the current is too strong. Today, they are worthless.

As the boat gains speed and moves across the marina slip, it slips sideways downstream, no longer constrained by the 20' dock lines. Richard gives our boat a little nudge, and we're free. We're looping.

I have an exciting realization that we're leaving home and might not see this place again for ten months. I glance back to Maggie to smile. She says she can't find the boathook.

Which means I can't put the boat into forward gear without a risk of the prop getting tangled in our lines. Which means we're adrift, and shortly spinning down the river with the remainder of the docks a mere twenty feet away.

Earlier in the day, I had read about the many waves and wakes we'll encounter on the loop. I decided to move our boat hook to a more secure location and tie it down.

I risked a short burst of the engines to keep us off of the docks. Then, Maggie found the hook, retrieved the line, and we were off, adrenaline pumping and hearts racing.

We saw our neighbors in the riverside community. Some were on platforms overlooking the river, waving their lit iPhones like some teenage concert. Some were on their second story decks waving. Some were running along the river path, smiling and laughing. We felt the welcome mix of melancholy departure with the euphoria of new adventure.

We'll travel 85 miles today in our first of several hundred mini-voyages that form the great adventure of the great loop. We don't know what's in store, but we're already accumulating memories.

Like the time Bruce cleaned the boat and moved the boathook.

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