In The Middle

4/15/2013

By Jim Favors

Long-Distance cruisers can be categorized by their differing “Modus Operandi.” There are those that have an affinity for cruising with a buddy boat, or in small groups, there are also lone wolves who choose to solo cruise. Some choose to anchor out all the time, others prefer to be tied up at a marina at the end of each and every cruising day. All methods have advantages and disadvantages, one is not better than the other, it’s just personal makeup that attracts one to this or that side of the cruising coin. Lisa and I fall somewhere in the middle of those outlined scenarios, forming another group, one that likes to be more flexible to take advantage of whatever situation looks good at the time. We feel we can maximize our cruising time by taking advantage of both options and gain a better return on our time spent cruising. I guess you could say, for that reason, we like to stay “in the middle.”

Here you see remnants of a building that was once a viable business before the flooding of Kentucky Lake.

As we approached the end of a cruising day, on our way into Trace Creek just off the magnificent Tennessee River, we immediately felt the warmth from the folks at Pebble Isle Marina. When we got them on the radio to secure dockage for the night, they pulled us in with their friendly greeting. After being out on the hook for several days it felt good knowing we would be returning to a favorite marina. “You-all need any fuel before we help get you tied up?” said Randy, the owner of the marina. I heard and, as we got closer, eventually saw him standing at the fuel dock. Pebble Isle Marina is known to have some of the best fuel prices on the river, so we stopped to top off the tank before heading to our assigned slip.

As we worked our way back into Trace Creek you can see how serene the day was and how beautiful this area can be on a sunny fall day.

In my mind, one of the reasons we fall into the “middle” classification of boaters is because, we feel one has a tendency to miss a great deal from not varying their experiences. By taking a balanced approach in our boating endeavors, we feel we get the best of all worlds by trying a little bit of everything that cruising has to offer. So, no matter how much we enjoy the peace and quiet of anchoring out, time alone by ourselves as we enjoy nature’s pristine beauty, we certainly didn’t want to miss a return stop to Pebble Isle Marina and to soak up a little of that southern hospitality and charm.

Quickly tied up at the transient dock, we were soon off in the marina’s loaner car for an excursion into town to do errands.

As we got nearer to the fuel dock we were greeted by a guy on the dock, he helped grab a line, so naturally I just assumed that he worked at the marina. While checking in and paying for fuel, Tami (Randy’s wife and business partner), said, “No, that’s so-in-so, he’s a friend of ours who stops by to visit and ends up helping out most times.” “Really,” I say to myself. This is the way they roll at Pebble Isle Marina, just a great bunch of folks that know how, right off the bat, to make a stranger feel right at home – even if they don’t work at the marina. After leaving the fuel dock, we made our way to the west side of the transient dock where we noticed half dozen boats or so that must have also felt the friendly pull to dock at Pebble Isle. After cruising and being on the hook for several consecutive days, we were looking forward to meeting our new dock mates and taking advantage of a few of the marina’s conveniences.

Two of the six boats tied up on our finger pier were flying foreign flags. This is not unusual in and of itself because we have often met folks from Canada while cruising, however the boats we saw that day at Pebble Isle were from the far away shores of New Zeeland and Brazil. It’s a unique experience to meet boaters from other countries; it makes the world seem a little smaller. Many people would think it odd that boaters from distant countries would seek out America’s Heartland Rivers for their cruising territory. Hey, why not? We were happy to exchange boat cards while getting acquainted; it turns out they were both doing the Loop, so we knew we’d be bumping into them occasionally as we all made our way down to Rogersville, Alabama for the 2012 AGLCA Fall Rendezvous.

We enjoyed meeting Jack, Denise and their young daughter Beatriz on Jade H, from Brazil. They live on their boat full-time and are planning a trans-Atlantic crossing in the future.

Like many marinas on the river system Pebble Isle has a loaner car. Randy and Tami’s minivan loaner car (a car they drive every day themselves) has close to 200,000 miles on it but you would never know by looking at it. Transient boaters use the loaner car to make provisioning runs into New Johnsonville. I found the shackles I needed, to complete a project, at the local hardware store while Lisa shopped at the grocery store next door.

After returning to the marina from our road trip into New Johnsonville, we took a walk over to Johnsonville State Historic Park, located right next to the marina. I immediately wondered why the town’s name has the word “New” in front of it but not the State Park name. What I learned, at the 2,000-acre park, was that the town of Johnsonville existed from 1864 until flooding took place in 1944, to form Kentucky Lake, that’s when they moved the town to higher ground and it became New Johnsonville. Johnsonville State Historic Park was named after our 17th President and commemorates the site for the Battle of Johnsonville, fought during the Civil War, as well as acknowledging the site of the previous, and historic, Johnsonville town. So you see by making good use of a fun marina stop, we were able to take advantage of our marina time by touring the park’s grounds to learn a little more about our country’s rich and varied history. As you can see, staying at a marina is quite different from anchoring out. Both have totally different characteristics to offer boaters, that’s why we like being “in the middle,” we feel we get more out of boating that way.

One of the advantages of being docked at Pebble Isle Marina is having Johnsonville State Historic Park within walking distance. The park includes a beautifully wooded rolling hills and lots of historic markers.

I need to be clear about something regarding Pebble Isle Marina. We’ve stayed with them in the past because, as I’ve stated, they’re friendly caring folks, that’s number one, but they also have some of the best fuel prices on the river; they have a nice loaner car; a peaceful, scenic spot on the river; and they’re always striving to improve. One of the improvements, since our last visit, was the enlargement of their dining area and kitchen. I mention this so you know they have a restaurant, but more importantly, from our point of view, this is where their famous homemade cinnamon rolls are crafted.

Pebble Isle’s homemade cinnamon rolls will make your mouth water, they are that good.

Early each morning the pleasant scent of brown sugar and cinnamon waft from the kitchen and surround the marina much like a swirling fog bank. The aroma makes me feel somewhat like a cartoon character who’s being lifted off his feet and magically transported, by the scent, all the way into the marina’s kitchen. As good as the “free” cinnamon rolls are for all transient boaters, you have to know this is just a tiny bit of the southern cooking that comes out of that kitchen. Shortly after Lisa and I downed the sumptuous cinnamon rolls, we prepared for the arrival of Rob and Gabi; they were driving all the way from Nashville so we could meet. A friend introduced them to us by email because they thought we’d have a lot in common – we share a love of boating, trailerable boats in fact. During the course of our meeting we learned that Rob and Gabi have an Alubat OVNI Sonate 28 trailerable sailing vessel named Can Can.

The newly expanded dining room at Pebble Isle, where southern hospitality and good cooking rules.

We met in the dining room, as we finished up our breakfast, then, went back to Kismet, for a tour. We shared trailering stories, the most recent being Rob, and Gabi’s trip to Canada’s North Channel. It’s always fun sharing boat stories, itineraries, mechanical problems (and resulting solutions), and vessel preferences with other boaters. It never fails to amaze me how often we come away with an idea or two for future trips, maintenance tips or some useful boating information after we’ve had this kind of exchange with another savvy boater.

While talking with Rob and Gabi, who keep their boat near to New Johnsonville, at Paris Landing State Park Marina, they mentioned trailering Can Can to Lake Havasu, to participate in the annual Havasu Pocket Cruisers Convention. Lisa and I listened intently as they told us about this reservoir bordering California, and Arizona, on the Colorado River – a place we have now placed on our boating “bucket list.” We likewise shared our experiences on Lake Powell, just upstream from Havasu, as well as our future plans to cruise the Flaming Gorge on the Green River in northeast Utah/southern Wyoming this coming summer. What comes out of these kinds of interactions with other people is a well-formed network of boaters we can share firsthand cruising information with, being docked at the marina helps to make this exchange possible.

Our gracious hosts Randy, with the dusting mop, along side Tami, at Pebble Isle Marina.

After a couple of days enjoying the warm hospitality at Pebble Isle, as much as we enjoyed ourselves, it was time for us to continue south on the Tennessee River. Now that we had our marina fix behind us, we looked forward to getting back on the water. Cruise a little, enjoy the scenery, and find a nice secluded anchorage for some one on one time with Lisa. You can surely see the benefit there.