OK, we've been cruising the Tennessee River Valley for over a month. Tonight, Sunday Oct 28, we are anchored on the Hiwassee River (link to map). We've been cruising new (to us) territory for six months now. Are we crazy?
Cruising isn't a cutting edge, ka-zing ka-zow, kind of sport... although it can be, if you choose a different boat and/or different venues. It can also be much more relaxing & placid. There are as many different ways to cruise as there are people out cruising, and that includes the 200 or so currently "doing the Loop" along with us.
One of the great things about the Great Loop voyage is that it encompasses so much of North America, geographically & sociologically. It only includes one foreign country, Canada; although our Canadian Looper friends (see Beardstown entry) say that the U.S. is LOT more foreign. However it covers the swampy Southeast, so familiar & dear to us; the Chesapeake, the Hudson River & Erie Canal, the Great Lakes each having it's own individual character & beauty, the inland rivers, the Gulf Coast, and the long & varied Florida coast. There are big cities, small quaint towns, and wilderness, in every area and with every shade of local color. So the Great Loop is all charted & mapped, but there is something to discover almost every day.
This first photo shows Winnie W. and Tom-Kat at the dock in downtown Chattanooga. The third boat beside (to the right) Tom-Cat is another Looper, the Carol Anne.
A true saying: "Cruising consists of fixing your boat in exotic, romantic, and incredibly inconvenient locations." The Winnie W. had a brief unplanned stop in Chattanooga, beset by two problems. Neither were serious, but the combination meant that further cruising without repairs would entail hardship & difficulty. Electricity is vital to modern life, and that's where the problem(s) lay. The alternator and the generator both felt neglected and decided they wanted attention and cuddling.
Here's some real electricity- a nuclear power plant along the Tennessee River.
The alternator, attached to the main engine so that it provides 12 volt DC power to the boat and charges the batteries while we are underway, had not been acting right for some time. It's a new alternator of larger capacity (90 amps) than Winnie W's original, and so the first step was to seek further technical information about it. The problem is that it only provides a maximum of 13.8 volts which is not enough to fully charge the boat's battery bank, compounded by erratic operation. The manufacturer told us the output peak voltage is factory-set and when it senses peak voltage for a certain period of time, it shuts off so as not to overcharge the batteries and boil off electrolyte (a common problem with car batteries). Both these characteristics are built into the alternator as features, and not fixable.
Fortunately, we had had the Winnie W's original alternator rebuilt and kept on board as a spare. So Doug simply swapped alternators, a relatively simple job.
Here's another in the long series of 'Hank Acting Cute In The Dinghy' series, with a slight difference... Kathie took this shot from the stern seat of the dinghy. The rocky bluff is near our anchorage on the Hiwassee River.
Solving our other electricity problem was more complex & time-consuming. Our diesel-powered generator, which supplies 120V AC power to our floating household and also charges the 12V batteries, began making horrible screeching noises and filled the engine room with acrid smoke Thursday (10-24) night. It sounded like a dragging belt, only louder. So Doug let the smoke clear and then began diagnosing the problem... yes it was a dragging belt, and the reason was that the coolant pump driven by the belt had locked up.
This was a more complex problem and required teamwork. First, Kathie got us a short-notice reservation at a Chattanooga marina, no small feat on one of the last weekends of the season. Friday we tied up to the dock. Then, Bob on our companion vessel Tom-Kat dug through the Internet to find a wide range of possible part #s and local suppliers for a replacement coolant pump. Doug sweated and banged his knuckles getting the old pump out (while conserving it in recognizable pieces), then fetched the new pump by bicycle. We all had lunch on Saturday after embarking once again on the cruise, and no shortage of electricity!
Here are Winnie W. and Tom-Kat in a lovely peaceful anchorage far up the Hiwassee River.
So, cruising is witnessing the world's incredible beauty, meeting new people in new places, and it's also self-reliance. It's working with others. Cruising is keeping track of the boat's electricity, and also fuel, food stocks, and water tankage. It is living with a smaller ecological footprint but also taking charge of that footprint. While cruising, we are subject to Nature's whims in a way that cannot be experienced by any other means, but it is also taking control of one's own destiny in a way that is totally opposite to the modern life.
We think it's fun! Best wishes to all, Doug and Kathie