Running Aground in Kentucky Lake

The evening was coming in quickly. After spending the majority of our afternoon completing errands and tasks that needed to be done, we headed into Paducah to see if there would be anything for us to eat at the “BBQ” festival. For those who don’t know, RJ and I both follow a vegan diet, meaning no animal products whatsoever.

Our hopes were high for tacos, but unfortunately for an unknown reason they weren’t able to customize them just a little bit for us.

We settled for ribbon fries, fried pickles (way too salty), lemonade, and some boba tea, knowing full well that we would be making food when we got back to the boat. Which we were excited about anyway, since we had just bought quite an abundance of new options.

Listening to the live music, thanking Paducah for a good time, we stopped at the mural of the Tow again before retreating back to Patches for the night. After sharing some whiskey and chocolates with Jim and Travis of “Ra,” we said our good nights.

The following morning, Friday, I woke up to do yoga on the dock as the sun rose. I was shivering as I completed sun salutations and could barely lay down on my dewy yoga mat at the end of the practice for fear of the chill. But after a solid forty-five minutes of stretching and movement, we released the dock lines and set off. Six other boats leaving at the same time, we were a flotilla on the way to Kentucky Lake.

A few of our companions had called the Kentucky Lock in advance inquiring about status, as this lock is well known for it’s long wait for pleasure craft. We were told the water levels were too low for barges and at current conditions, only pleasure craft were being locked through, so to our satisfaction we were on our way.
Keeping the radio on channel 72 (it was either 72 or 62), we told stories and jokes for the hours leading up to the lock.

The Kentucky Lock was our largest lock yet, taking us up towering walls before releasing us to the beautiful, long awaited Kentucky Lake.
We struggled going up this lock, as the current pushed and pulled us in all directions that we did not want to go. We were tied up to the wall, and our solar panels were close to being crushed along the walls as the current pushed us one way and we scraped our way quickly upwards. Somehow, they were spared, and our poker sticks (that we use to keep the boat from running into things) were torn apart.

As the lock doors opened, we saw boats with their sails up drifting across the lake as fast as the wind could take them. The coasts were lined with trees and the water was no longer completely murky. Making our way across the lake, smiles reflecting the sunshine, thoughts of exploring on our minds.
About an hour passed by simply. “Ra” to our right, planning on stopping near the five o’clock hour with sunset to be just before 6:30 p.m.

Only about twenty minutes before our proposed stopping point and we hear, nay, feel, a large BOOM and RJ and I lock eyes. What could that have been? We looked around us expecting a log to pop up from below the keel when yet again a larger BOOM launched us and our belongings in all directions.

We were stopped. We had run aground. In the middle of a Lake.

You can blame this happening on our stupidity, or whatever you’d like. We should have been more than aware that although Kentucky Lake is a “Lake” by name, it is really a reservoir created by damming up the Tennessee River. We frantically walkied along all sides of the boat, seeing a large rock, larger than I would have been able to wrap my arms around, just two feet off of the port side of our boat.

RJ checked the bilge and no water was coming in.

We radioed our friends on “Ra” and they turned around to try to assist us.

Patches draws a little over four and a half feet and “Ra” only draws about two, so they circled around us checking the depths to help us decide which was the best route to attempt.

The decision was to reverse and take a route around the rock and to get us back to the secondary channel that we should have stayed in, in the first place. While I claimed to be the navigator in a prior post, I won’t completely claim fault in this mistake. Remember, RJ is the semi-experienced boater, and should have been aware that we were out of the channel as he was driving.

We got loose and turned around the large rock. Standing on the bow, RJ wanted me to call out if I saw anymore rocks or blatantly shallow spots. All I could muster up was, “It’s shallow. It’s still shallow. It’s still really, really shallow,” over and over again until we were again, stopped in our tracks. Though this time, it wasn’t as drastic as a hit as the first two times, as we were now taking it quite slow.

“Ra” came over to us and tied themselves up, bow facing bow. We loaded as much weight as we could into our dinghy. Gas cans. Tool boxes. Canned foods. Anchors. Ourselves. While Patches kept bouncing, we couldn’t get her completely loose and had to resort to calling TowBoat US. Thankfully, we have an unlimited membership and double thankfully, there was a location just a few miles away. In under thirty minutes, we saw our savior coming to get us.
Turns out, Kentucky Lake has two channels, a main and a secondary. The secondary channel that we were near, is not only narrow, but much shallower than the main channel on the opposite side of the Lake. We were towed across to the main channel, took some advice of the Captain on where to anchor for the night, followed close behind by “Ra.”

Arriving to a cove within Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area as the sun was going down, we were thankful for being as lucky as we were. Climbing down into our cabin, we saw our belongings scattered. RJ set to cooking a meal for us and the crew on “Ra,” as a thank you for helping us stay calm during a stressful situation. I started cleaning and organizing as much as I could from what got dislodged.

About an hour later, we climbed into our dinghy with butternut squash and rice and paddled our way over to share. Stories were also shared of running aground due to tides and other situations in which TowBoat US had to be called.

Climbing aboard our catastrophe of a boat after a night of nice company, we were altogether thankful that we were safe and unscathed. Opening to the page I had dog-eared in Robinson Crusoe, I began to wonder if reading about all of his bad luck was contributing to our misfortunes.

Luckily, all the beautiful sunsets are gifts given to us despite the bad luck.

0 thoughts on “Running Aground in Kentucky Lake

  1. So glad you we able to call Tow Boat US. Scary stuff. We will be sure to stay in the main channel on the KY lake!
    I ran us aground in the North Channel, know how you feel. That loud bang then stop….YIKES! We had to get hauled and patched up.
    Sounds like you handled it well.

    1. I guess there’s two channels for the first maybe twenty or thirty miles of the lake and after that it’s just the one channel. RJ did say that we would run aground at one point or another! Here’s to hoping it doesn’t happen again anytime soon.

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