White hot spears of agony! Flame! Flame in my eyes! Gaaaa! What? Where? Who? Plastic. White plastic. V-birth. Boat . . .
Problem solved. Last night I’d anchored the boat on the west side of the island so that I’d have at least a little shade when the sun rose the next day. Apparently the the sun had found a gap in the trees and was shining in my forward hatch, directly onto the clean white bulkhead right in front of my nose. The sensation on the inside of my eyelids was not unlike having molten lead poured into them while sound asleep. Once I figured out where I was, a quick karate chop to the support holding the forward hatch open resolved them problem.
Breakfast took longer than it should have. Bacon, eggs fried hard, and fried potatoes. Yummy, but I’m still getting used to cooking on just one burner. Plus I had forgotten to put the water on to heat while I was eating, so I had to wait on that. After I finished the dishes, I put the cabin back in order, packed some lunch into the small cooler, and headed into the cockpit to start the outboard. Yes, in fact, there was a little breeze blowing, and I was actually swinging at anchor. Very, very sl
owly. I motored out of the little cove, past the little island, and raised sail.
I was able to sail for about 90 minutes to windward . Of course it was to windward. What kinds of wind are there? Not enough wind, too much wind, and wind blowing the wrong damn way. But it was a light, comfortable sail, and by the time it was time for lunch, I’d managed a couple of miles west, my goal being Swan’s Marina, toward the western end of the lake. At this point, I started looking for a safe place to drop a lunch hook. When I was down on Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, I just hove to for lunch, but there was no motor boat traffic on the lake that I could see. On July 4th weekend on Douglas Lake it was alive with bass boats, ski boats, jet skis, and pontoon boats. No way was I going to set my self up to drift slowly leeward with the tiller tied off an the sails powered down.
It was at this point I got my second object lesson on the difference between “charts” and Google Maps. I tried to skim around behind an island and discovered that what Google Maps thought was a clear channel was, in fact, a ridge of stone and dirt rearing up to approximately 30 feet above the surface of the water. Even with the water as insanely high as it was today, there was no way my boat was getting through without wheels, a winch, and a couple of hefty apprentices. So I turned around and headed back toward deep water. Once I was clear of the well-developed cove I started hunting for a private spot to drop the “lunch hook.”
A lunch hook is a new bit of jargon I’ve picked up recently; it’s an simple anchor dropped and not necessarily set, just for the duration of a meal. Since the crew are awake, alert, and paying attention, a lunch hook needn’t be set nearly as carefully as an long-term anchor, and the scope of the rode can be much shorter. The idea is just to keep you off the beach between the potato chips and the twinkies. Anyway, I found a quiet, unoccupied cove with deep water, clear to the back, and was able to relax for sandwiches, pickles, and a single beer. (I do not hold with getting liquored up and operating a two thousand pound vehicle.)
After lunch, there was enough wind to sail back out to the main channel, but once I got out of the little air funnel the cove provided, the lake turned to glass, and I saw the last of the wind that I was going to see that weekend. Running the stinkpot, I continued west, checking out the shoreline, my fellow water-men, and watching the depth finder. My goal was Swan’s Marina, about two-thirds of the way up the lake. My initial thought had been to transit the lake from one end to the other, but that would be later in the day. First, there was an afternoon stop at the Dandridge Point resort. I wanted to top off my fuel talk and check the ice level in the coolers. Um, I also needed to empty the Porta Potti. The less said about that the better. Except to say that my first instinct: don’t use it unless it’s absolutely necessary was a correct one. I will continue to work very hard to make sure that those kinds of transactions stay on land. Still, better to have one than not, when, um, push comes to shove. As it were.
*ahem* To continue!
I had a little excitement as I approached Dandridge Point. There’s a bridge across the lake where Chestnut Road crosses Douglas Lake, right before you get to Dandridge Point. And unlike a power boater, I have my limits. Crossing under a bridge is always interesting, because while the bridges all look plenty high from a distance, as you get closer, the somehow seem to stoop lower. At the same time, your masthead seems to go up higher and higher, almost stretching out to meet the under side of the bridge. East Tennessee has seen some insanely wet weather this spring and summer, and with the snowmelt coming down from the north underneath it, all of the TVA lakes are running insanely high. So the clearance below the Chestnut Road bridge was even less than usual. The parrallax view of the masthead and bridge from the cockpit of the boat make it very hard to tell if the masthead is actually going to clear the bridge or not. Fortunately, there was absolutely no current there, and no wind, either, though that’s a mixed blessing. I cut the motor down to a slow walk, and carefully eased past the bridge, clearing the masthead by about two feet.
The Marina at Dandridge point had the basics: over-priced fuel, ship’s store with over-priced gas, over-priced snacks and over-priced ice. The staff were friendly, competent, and helpful. They even let me into the “renter’s only” bathroom. There is, incidentally, absolutely no way to make yourself think you look cool when you’re carrying a Porta-Potti into a bathroom past a boat full of cute girls in bikinis.
My business concluded, I got back under way. It was beginning to get late now. I wanted to make Swann’s Marina and then find a nice place to anchor for the night.
So once again I pointed my bow to the east, and motored on. The lake continued to present me with interesting shoreline features, moderate to low boat traffic, and no wind. I was pleasantly surprised with the traffic level on the lake, especially for a fourth of July weekend. Now, mind you, I’m not saying I was ever lonely, but I wasn’t constantly having to deal with huge wakes left by giant power-plows. As I approached the final bend in the river before my goal I happened to glace up and ” . . . holy unplanned electrolysis those power lines are sagging awfully low!” I could probably have transited the high-tension power lines without a problem, but seeing them drooping down so low and without warning jacked my heart rate right up there. I had no problem getting under them once I re-positioned the boat over to the side of the lake, rather than at the center. I slid under the power lines and up the side of the lake, into the cove where Swann’s does business and “. . . holy deja vu! That power line is way too low!” I would not be making Swann’s on this voyage or any other. There’s a power line across the front of the cove. No sailboat does business there. Oh well, it was an arbitrary goal, anyway. And I’d spotted a really neat cove about twenty minutes back wherein I would spend the night.
The cove was a little unusual, even for East Tennessee, where the Appalachian mountains provide for many little side coves. It was a dog leg, with a cove off of a cove, allowing me to anchor the boat in the woods, out of sight of the rest of the lake. I was not only protect from any sudden storms that might blow up, but from boat wakes and prying eyes. I dropped anchor and set about preparing dinner. In this heat, I prefer to cook during the daylight, because the lights heat up the cabin of the boat in addition to what the stove does. After dark, I sat quietly, lights off, listening to one of the Dresden Files thrillers. Now, when anchoring at night, the prudent sailor always burns an anchor light. The idea is to make you visible to other boats. Now in the very isolated patch of water I was wildly unlikely to be run across by bass fishermen, or somebody on their way home. But back when I was a teenager, if I had beer, a boat, and a girl, this little patch of water would have been ideal. So not wanting to be run over by horny, inebriated post-adolescents, I lit the anchor light.
Here’s where it starts to get a little weird. I may be a mountain sailor now, but remember, I was born and bred on the coast, and I’ve spent much of my life getting into or out of the water. And there’s a certain type of splash that’s made by someone, or something wading out of the water. Any boat wakes that made it into my isolated spot broke on the rocks with that exact cadence. All night long. It got a little later. And the time came to address the beer I’d been drinking, so I went up on deck. Now, an inordinate number of drowned sailors are recovered with their fly’s open, so this is a task to be undertaken with some care. After checking my footing and wrapping one arm around the shrouds, I looked out into the woods, which glowed with an eerie white phosphorescence. “Moon light, I thought. ” But no, glancing over my shoulder, there was no moon. But the woods on the port side were also glowing. The ones off the bow, while dimmer, were also bathed in an opalescent light. Omnigod, I was in the center of some bizarre . . .
Oh – wait. Normally, at anchor, I’m a good fifty feet from shore, or more. Tonight, for the first time, I was within ten feet of the woods in almost all direction. My anchor light is white. Because I’d been sitting in the dark due to the heat, my eyes were sufficiently adapted to the dark to see the faint reflection of the anchor light on the bark of the trees and the brush.
The sound track to the Outer Limits quit playing in my head, and I decided that it was time to go to sleep. But first, I needed to a make a decision. I consulted weather.com via my cell phone and got the prediction: tonight: no wind. Tomorrow, no wind. Tomorrow night, no wind. The next day, no wind. It’s hot, there’s no sailing, and there’s a shortage of pretty girls. Tomorrow, I’m heading home.