October 1, 2005 Green Turtle Bay Marina on Barkley Lake to Sugar Bay on Kentucky Lake
Barkley Lake is connected to Kentucky Lake by a canal that crosses a narrow ridge between the Cumberland
River and the Tennessee River. Barkley Lake is on the Cumberland River, and Kentucky Lake is on the Tennessee.
The peninsula between them is called Land Between the Lakes. It is about forty miles long
and up to eight miles wide. President Kennedy declared it a recreational and environmental education area in 1963, and
it remains largely undeveloped. Its shoreline is indented with lots of bays with secluded coves that make great anchorages
without a sign of civilization in sight.
We explored Duncan Bay first. It is a large bay with several fingers extending out into protected
coves. The eastern half of the bay is a waterfowl and bald eagle refuge from November through mid-March. Duncan
Cove was beautiful, but lots of other cruisers, house boaters, and bass fishermen had already discovered it. Even
though it was a warm partly sunny Saturday, we had hopes of finding a cove we could have all to ourselves.
We continued on to Sugar Bay, and found just what we were looking for -- a secluded finger of water, surrounded
by wooded shores, with a view back out to the lake off our stern. We weren't quite alone -- far off our bow a bass boat
trolled silently, while a man and a woman stood and cast their lines over the still water. Eventually, they gave up,
and we had the fishing hole to ourselves for most of the afternoon -- until the next bass boat showed up. The bass boats
around here all seemed to have silent little motors on hinges they flipped off their bow when they fished, and they
stayed pretty near the shore, so they really didn't disturb us much -- not as much as we disturbed them when we fired up our
We whiled away the afternoon sunning, swimming, and reading. I'm reading Blink, a book
about intuitive decision-making by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point), and Dick is reading Life
on the Ohio, by third-generation towboat captain James Coomer. Dick got the book at the River Heritage Museum,
because it looked interesting -- he didn't realize until later that James Coomer is the brother of friend
Dottie Weil, who has written her own memoir of growing up on the river and helped edit her brother's book.
After our busy week at home catching up on home projects and appointments, it felt great to have a day to
just relax. After reading a while Dick relaxed by getting in the dinghy and cleaning the side of the boat, while I relaxed
in my own way, by actually relaxing.
As the sun sank lower, and the sky and water both took on a soft pink blush, two deer came out
of the woods, and drank at the shore, raising their heads every once in a while to watch us warily with ears upraised.
Somehow, we found the scene far more buccolic than when we spy deer at home peacefully grazing on our hydrangeas.
October 2, 2005 Sugar Bay to Cypress Creek anchorage
There were whitecaps on the lake when we poked Starsong's nose out of Sugar Bay, but the waves
were small, and the breeze pushing them provided welcome relief from the heat.
We made our way south past gently rolling wooded hills. The shoreline varied from golden gravel, to
eroded soil banks, to gray limestone with very pronounced layers. We could tell that the water was low, because all
along the shoreline bare land was exposed with no vegetation for several feet, at least.
The navigation charts for this area are different than our navigation charts for other waters we have traveled.
Instead of telling the depth of the water, the charts provide a topographic map of the land and water, and label the contours.
At "normal pool" the elevation of the surface of the water is 359 feet above sea level. Right now, the surface
is 355 feet above sea level, or "four feet below pool." To figure out the depth of the water outside the main channel,
we have to look at the chart, subtract the number on the contour line from 355, and hope the answer is more than five.
(Our draft is 4 1/2'.)
There were lots of osprey nests on the navigation marks, but we never saw an osprey. We think they
must have headed south already.
We saw several small boats with diving flags, and a few divers in wetsuits. They were diving
for mussels. One of our cruising guides said that mussels collected here were once shipped to Japan, where they were
used to seed oysters for the pearl industry. That market for fresh water mussel exports dried up in the past --
perhaps it has been revitalized recently, or a domestic pearl seeding industry has sprung up.
We anchored in a pool off Cypress Creek in the early afternoon. This anchorage was a bit more popular
than Sugar Bay. We found a pontoon boat and a speedboat with a Jet Ski alongside already anchored when we got there.
Soon after they left, a houseboat tried to dock against the shore, but gave up after a bunch of clumsy runs at it. Then
a pontoon boat loaded to capacity with ten partiers arrived. The men proceeded to do cannonballs and flips off
the rear deck, and splash around, while the dressed-up women conversed with them at maximum volume from the deck. Fortunately,
they didn't stay too long.
By late afternoon, just Starsong and another cruising boat were sharing the anchorage with the
great blue herons. We hopped in the water for a swim. It was refreshing, but we longed for the clear water of
the North Channel. The river water here is plenty clean, but it is so cloudy that you can't see your knees distinctly.
We took a sunset dinghy ride up the creek. There were lots of pretty, but not extravagant homes with
beautiful views, and a couple marinas that seemed to specialize in houseboats. Our anchorage was on the only undeveloped
part of the creek.
We noticed several very official looking green signs with white lettering, like highway signs, that said
"Entering Kentucky Waters." Based on the placement of the sign nearest our anchorage, we think we were anchored in Kentucky,
even though the mouth of Cypress Creek was in Tennessee. But, we weren't really sure, and our navigation charts were
no help in resolving the matter.
Back on the boat we grilled up dinner and indulged in our latest obsession -- Su Doku. Dick got a
big book of Su Doku puzzles when we were home. They look a lot like crossword puzzles, but you fill in numbers, rather
He denies it, but I think he was trying to even the score on my Scrabble victories. We made two copies
of a bunch of puzzles from the book, and we sat down and did the puzzles at the same time. Not that we were being competitive
about it or anything, but Dick did tend to finish the puzzles before me most of the time. I think if I practice while
Dick is doing his relaxing boat projects, I might be able to beat him in the future. Not that it really bothers me to
lose at a mind game with him.