It was time to go out and visit the boat. Never mind that the temperature was in the ‘teens, that the wind chill was in the basement, that Upper East Tennessee was in the midst of a cold spell the likes of which hadn’t been seen in years - IT WAS TIME TO GO OUT TO THE BOAT!
At least the sun was out and the sky was a bright blue. That was one of the things that was new to me down here. In Ohio, it clouds up in October and you don’t see the sun until April (at least that’s what I tell my Tennessee friends). The only problem is the low sun angle, which seems to get in your eyes no matter which direction you drive.
The only concern in going out to the boat is the access road to the marina. The several liveaboards and those who live year ‘round in a few of the cabins around the marina just call off of work if the weather is too bad. So I take the twisty road slowly, ready for ice, snow or oncoming traffic. On a road that is barely 1-1/2 lanes wide and has at least three major switchbacks, this is a concern.
Coming down off the last hill, you can see down into the marina, a view you don’t get during the summer with the leaves out. Going through the marina gate, the rows of blue tarped floatboats are obvious. There is a plume of smoke coming from the workshop on the upper parking lot, the guys are probably working on some new dock sections for the spring. The lower parking lot is almost empty. The only cars there belong to a few people who either live aboard their houseboats or have good heaters in them.
The walk to the docks gets longer and longer each time I come out. The water level is down about 35 feet, pushing the floating docks and offices farther down the shore line. Soon that will stop, as the spring thaws and rains begin to fill the lake back up. The docks look deserted, no one is in sight. There is a strong wind blowing from the Northwest, which is good since the mountain behind us shields the marina. There are still strong eddies and an occasional gust to remind us of the term “wind chill”.
“Ternabout” sits complacently at the dock , moving slightly to and fro with the gusts. The fenders are all in the right places, there is no chafe on the dock lines and the cockpit is clear of any snow or ice. Down below, the cabin thermometer registers 34 degrees, a good thing since I haven’t taken the canned food and drinks out of the quarterberth lockers. I rig the heavy duty extension cord to the dock outlet and plug in the electric heater I recently bought for the boat. A thousand watts of heat doesn’t sound like much, but was enough to heat the boat almost uncomfortable hot the last time I stayed overnight.
Staying overnight is not in the cards for this trip so I putter around the cabin. Replacing the batteries in the fluorescent light and the battery powered anchor light. “Ternabout” actually has two anchor lights, neither of which is in the proper spot on the masthead. The first one is a plain old kerosene lantern, smaller than the one I used last year. Found this one in an old hardware/craft store in Hartville over Christmas. The second one is a battery powered light, used when the breeze is too much for the kerosene lantern. Either one is hung from the boom under the awning. I have no faith at all that the local fisher folk will be looking up far enough to spot a light on the mast and don’t want to be nailed by a 50mph fast fish finder (bass boat).
Contemplate several projects, the best way to mount the cabin curtains, the best place to install a shore power connection. The extension cord comes in under the companion way hatch board now, leaving a gap at the bottom and a crack at the top. The wind finds it’s way in through these areas. Fiddling with the hatch I find away to lead the cable in while minimizing the openings. This isn’t a problem in the summer as I never stay at the dock then, too many fast fish finders leaving the dock at all hours (down here, “NO WAKE” means I want to sleep in!)
Checking the thermometer, the cabin temperature is already above 50 degrees. If I had thought to bring a sweater, I would be comfortable without my winter coat. The performance of the heater tells me I can stay out in colder weather than I thought. Maybe next weekend, if this cold spell breaks.
Well, its almost five, the sun is down behind the mountain and the outside temperature is starting to drop. Time to pack or I’ll be the last one leaving and have to lock the marina gate. Roll up the extension cord and close up the boat. Spend a brief time looking at the mountain range that forms the backdrop of the lake to the south. So clear you almost see the individual trees at the mountain crest. At the docks, the resident ducks are bobbing on the water next to the dock, their heads tucked under their wings. Time to leave… Yes, a bad day at the lake is still better than a good day at the office.