Navigation charts are essential in making this cruise. The Tennessee Valley Authority publishes a complete set of revised charts to the river, showing underwater conditions, navigation channels and sailing aids. They sell for $10 and may be obtained by writing to TVA, Knoxville.
FORT LOUDOUN TO WATTS BAR—122 miles
A water-minded city, Knoxville, on Fort Loudoun Lake, is the best place to begin a cruise down the Tennessee River. Knoxville has boat-repair facilities for every brand of marine equipment manufactured, 20 public access areas to the lake and over a dozen docks developed by the county, private enterprises, clubs and municipal organizations for public use.
The ANCHORAGE YACHT BASIN near Cates Bridge at Highway 73 has a 500-foot dock with 10 feet of water at the fuel pumps, slips to accommodate boats up to 50 feet in length, 24-hour service and complete marine supplies. The nearby RIVERLAKE MARINA can float boats up to 15 tons and 50 feet. A machine shop at the marina handles work on diesel and gasoline engines and hulls.
Any boat starting a cruise down the Tennessee should be completely overhauled and put in first-class running condition before departure from Knoxville. Extensive repairs are practically impossible along the way. Extra sparkplugs, a tool kit and enough spare bumpers to take care of the many unpadded docks along the river should all be put on the boat here.
Gas can be a problem. The simplest way to avoid running out of gas, this reporter found, was to fill up the tanks at every available spot on the river, regardless of whether they'd been filled only 10 miles before. Even so, I ran out of gas twice; both times, fortunately, within sight of the next pump station.
Running downstream, the main channel is marked with black buoys on the right and red buoys on the left. These buoys are keyed with mileage distances figured from Paducah, Ky. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains all buoys, lights, day marks and safety harbor aids. Numerous secondary channels run from the main channel into tributary creeks, streams and rivers. In most cases these are less clearly marked than the main channel but, in daylight, reasonably easy to follow.
In general, a comfortable cruise is one which requires straight runs of no more than four hours. This permits enough leisure to stop en route and cast into the shore for bass, or to throttle down to trolling speed for baby stripers and crappie. It also insures being moored at a safe harbor before nightfall.
With a fast boat and a before-breakfast start it is possible to run the 116 miles from Knoxville to WATTS BAR RESORT in one day. Even averaging 20 mph, however, this is more than a six-hour trip, allowing time for locking through Fort Loudoun Dam.
Few children can cruise six consecutive hours without making life unbearable for themselves and their parents. For families with children, therefore, and anyone with a reasonably slow boat, plan an overnight stop en route at either LONG ISLAND MARINA or CANEY CREEK. Gas stops on Fort Loudoun Lake are at LOUISVILLE, 22 miles from Knoxville, and at CONCORD (mile 618).