One of the questions we considered prior to commencing this great adventure was “how do we handle medical issues when we are living the nomad life on our boat?” Our pre-voyage answer was that we would either use an urgent care or, if it was really serious, we would fly home and use our doctors in the Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR, area. What we didn’t account for was something serious that we could not handle by flying home. This is what we have been dealing with for the last four weeks or so.
In our last post, we said we would be heading to Chattanooga, TN, beginning October 16, 2018. We did, in fact, leave on that date and went down the Cumberland River (Lake Barkley) to cut over to the Tennessee River (Kentucky Lake) via the Barkley Canal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) controls the lock and dam operations on the Tennessee River and has been instrumental in the development of the Tennessee River Valley, beginning in the 1930’s.
A little history lesson is in order.
Even by Depression standards, the Tennessee Valley was economically dismal in 1933. Thirty percent of the population was affected by malaria and the average income was only $639 per year, with some families surviving on as little as $100 per year. Much of the land had been farmed too hard for too long, eroding and depleting the soil. Crop yields had fallen along with farm incomes. The best timber had been cut, with another 10% of forests being burnt each year.
TVA legislation was enacted in 1936 and was designed to modernize the region, using experts and electricity to combat human and economic problems. The TVA is not just about hydro-electric generation, although that is what we are mainly taught in our American History classes. TVA developed fertilizers, taught farmers ways to improve crop yields, helped replant forests, control forest fires, and improve habitats for fish and wildlife. However, the most dramatic change in Valley life came from TVA-generated electricity. Electric lights and modern home appliances made life easier and farms more productive. Electricity also drew industries into the region, providing desperately needed jobs.
The development of the dams displaced more than 15,000 families. This created anti-TVA sentiment in some rural communities. On our navigation charts there are symbols for submerged roads and towns, and locations where new towns were formed. For example, we can see Old Eddyville on the chart, as compared to current day Eddyville, KY. We spent time discussing how it must have felt to be told you had to vacate your ancestral lands, especially since many of the original settlers were from Scotland, where the land defines your clan (family).
You can find out more about the TVA here on Wikipedia.
On October 16, 2018, we made our first stop at the KenLake Marina in Hardin, KY, along the western shore of Kentucky Lake. The Tennessee River (Kentucky Lake) is very clear at this point, but we needed to carefully follow the buoy lines on the chart to make sure we did not venture into submerged obstacles along the way. We encountered another Ranger Tug, Just Breathe, at this marina. They had put in at Franklin Furnace on the Ohio River, having trucked it from Lake Erie.
The next night was spent at Pebble Isle Marina in New Johnsonville, KY, with a street address of Old Johnsonville Hwy. Yes, there had been a Johnsonville that was submerged as a part of the TVA lock and dam construction. There we met up with several Looping boats and had an enjoyable time, sharing stories.
On October 18, 2018, we met up with most of the same boats at Clifton Marina in Clifton, TN. Although it was a small marina, the transient slips were very well kept and were just off the main channel of the river. Many of us decided to travel in a convoy to the Pickwick Lock and Dam, figuring it would be easier to get a large number of boats through if we all came at once. That was exactly the case, and, after clearing the lock, everyone but us headed to the Ten-Tom Waterway, which takes you south towards Mobile, AL.
However, we had our plans to head to Chattanooga, TN, so we overnighted at Pickwick Landing State Park in Counce, TN, on October 19, 2018. This marina is managed by the State of Tennessee and rivals most of the high-end private marinas we have stayed at. The docks were well maintained, and the marina rangers came down to take lines for us. There is also a resort hotel and restaurant located nearby, and we can attest to the quality of the food and beverages there.
So far, we were sticking to our schedule that would bring us into Chattanooga on October 25, 2018. But, yet again our lessons about dates and itineraries being flexible came into play. We arrived at Florence Harbor Marina in Florence, AL, on Saturday October 20, 2018, and planned on a two day stay to fuel, pump, do laundry, and re-provision. These are tasks that we need to do at least weekly, sometimes more often if we have burned up a large amount of fuel or used our on-board toilet frequently.
However, on Monday, October 22, 2018, Louise woke up with some medical issues that took us to the local Urgent Care. Things turned out to be more serious than what Urgent Care could take care of, but they called around and got her an appointment the next day with a local OBGYN medical group. Things moved very fast after that and she was admitted to the Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, AL, for robotic surgery on Monday November 5, 2018. Unfortunately, conditions became too complicated for the robotic surgery, so she had full on abdominal surgery. An overnight stay turned into a 4-day hospital stay. Monday’s highlight was a tornado warning at about 11:30 pm that caused the nurses to move everyone out of their rooms and into the interior corridors. (Tornados are a “Code Gray” event.) Fortunately, the hospital was spared. We just can’t seem to escape those darn tornados.
Recovery has been progressing well, although it has been a longer duration than we originally thought it would be. And, now we know we were half right in our assumptions about medical care: Urgent care is a good place to start, but something serious will probably not wait until we can get back to our regular doctors.
While waiting for the operation, we were able to do some touring in and around Florence. Florence is called the Renaissance City because it was named after Florence, Italy, by Italian surveyor Ferdinand Sannoner. Florence has a multitude of historical markers in the downtown/historic districts, many of which mention Sannoner’s influence. It is a college town, with the campus of the University of Northern Alabama (UNA) located on the edge of the downtown/historic districts. Thanks to the generosity of Kyle and Eva, our marina hosts at the Florence Harbor Marina, we were able to attend a performance of the Shoals Symphony at UNA on October 28th, which featured Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, and two more modern pieces that did not exactly catch our fancy.
Florence is also home to the Rosenbaum House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We have toured many of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes, especially with Larry and Terry Stout, Louise’s brother- and sister-in-law. Louise also worked in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, CA, for several years. We were shocked to find one of his homes this far South. The home was designed to be modular and, as the Rosenbaum family grew, they were able to add on some extra space, such as a “real” kitchen and a bunk room for their sons. Mrs. Rosenbaum lived in the house until she had to move to an assisted living facility. She was an invaluable resource to those who were interested in preserving it. There were only two other people on the tour with us, so there was a lot of time to ask questions.
Because of Louise’s medical issues, we had to scratch the Chattanooga trip off our list. Although we don’t mind a little cold, we also had to be mindful that many marinas have limited hours or close up entirely at this time of year. However, since we had planned to be in Chattanooga, TN, for a while, we had to make a couple of trips to pick up packages we had routed there. On one of our trips we stayed overnight at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel in a refurbished rail car. During that trip we took advantage of the music scene to attend a performance at Songbirds, which has a vast collection of electric guitars as a part of their museum.
We saw The Big Revival Radio Show Goes LIVE, with three inspirational artists sharing songs and inspirational stories. Les Taylor (who performs with Exile), Jeff Bates, and Cody McCarver (formerly of Confederate Railroad) were the stars of the performance. The show was a blend of personal testimonies and country/blue grass gospel music. We enjoyed the show much more than we anticipated, especially since it was in a small setting with only about 100 seats, and we could meet the performers personally.
In keeping with our goal of visiting unusual places, we spent about 90 minutes at the International Towing and Recovery Museum as a part of this trip. Yes, there is a museum dedicated to tow truck drivers and their equipment. Although small, all the vehicles were extremely well preserved/restored, and the history of tow trucks was actually quite informative. Like the other museums, there were very few people here so we could really take our time.
Other places we have visited included the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, in Tuscumbia, AL, featuring artists, musicians, song writers and producers with Alabama roots. We were surprised to learn that many of the Motown artists such as Aretha Franklin and Lionel Ritchie and the Commodores first recorded in the Muscle Shoals area, along with many country western stars like Hank Williams Sr. and Tammy Wynette. Nat King Cole was based here for a long time. W.C. Handy is considered the father of the Blues and spent his musical life in this area. Most recently the super group Alabama has been based here, and the museum has their actual tour bus on display. (Then Again is named after one of their songs.) Here was a very rich musical heritage that we probably would not have been aware of had we left on our original schedule.
In an effort to make effective use of our enforced break, Lenny took Then Again down to Aqua Yacht Harbor in Iuka, MS, for bottom paint and other repairs and betterments. By having this work done now, we will be able to avoid an extended stay in Mobile. He arrived there on November 14, 2018, and returned to the hotel in Florence a day later.
We hope to be able to move back on board some time before the first part of December and then resume our journey down the Ten-Tom Waterway towards Mobile, Al. We continue to be blessed with so many kind and caring people on our journey, which is something that helps us to bear these ups and downs.
Our Trip So Far
As of Sunday November 25, 2018…
- Days: 162
- Locks Passed Through: 42
- Miles Sailed: 2,311
- Engine Hours: 297
- Gallons of Diesel: 939