When we got back from Key West, we were ready to sail! We have been sailing exactly 3 times since then, and each time has been more fun than the one before.
Trip 1: There’s a lake about an hour away, that Shannon has spent a lot of time on through his life, duck hunting and fishing mostly. Lake Guntersville , (Wikipedia link with info there) near the town of Guntersville, AL, is part of the Tennessee River. It was created by a dam, and named after one of the first settlers to the area, John Gunter.
As a result of the Tennessee Valley Act and the creation of the lake, Guntersville has seen improved agriculture, energy, industry and recreation. Known for its hiking, camping, fishing, boating activities and scenery, Alabama’s Lake City is repeatedly noted as a top spot for bass fishing and one of the top lake towns to live in America. From Wikipedia.org
On this particular day, it was about 48 degrees and cloudy which was an assault after being in the Keys.
There was about 5 knots of intermittent wind, with very few other people braving the elements, which was perfect sailing conditions for us re-beginners. This lake can very often be crowded with people coming and going, fishing, and just riding around, especially when the weather is warm. We were able to take our time setting up the mast and getting the rigging hooked up.
Shannon had driven all 15 hours the day before from Miami back to Alabama, so he was only too happy to let me take the first turn at the helm.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this day, except that it was a great practice day and I got to sail about 5 miles. After about an hour of being out here, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day!
We didn’t have much wind at all, and while that was a good situation for beginners to practice, it also left us wanting more wind.
Trip 2: The following weekend, we went back to Lake Guntersville for a 2nd time to the same place. This time with Jango. We had much more wind this time, and I was feeling confident and ready to go.
We weren’t sure how Jango was going to feel about sailing, but she seemed to like it. She was actually calmer than in the canoe, and I attribute that to Shannon and I both being in the same boat with her. When we are in canoes, she can only go with one of us, usually him. It makes her anxious and nervous when she can’t be in both boats at once.
Because I was feeling confident, and because we had a nice headwind going away from the dock, I sailed and sailed in one direction for a good hour or so. Shannon asked me several times if I wanted to turn back and I couldn’t imagine why? He is very familiar with this lake, and was pointing out several spots that he knew from duck hunting and fishing, each with a unique story. I was keen to sail to those spots known fondly by Shannon and his friends as: “The Twin Shitties” (birds leave their marks), “Bufflehead City”, “The Parade Ground”, “Cattail Slough” and “Birthday Island”. Evidently, we’d gotten much further than I realized, and we were running out of daylight. Not having fully mastered sailing upwind yet, I soon understood what he was concerned about. “Eyeballing” the distance on an open lake, or any open water, is a skill that I have not learned yet. When I finally realized that we were many miles from the dock, and not making any distance sailing upwind, I agreed to let Shannon motor us back. It took us about an hour, meaning that that with the 5mph we were making with the outboard motor, we’d been 5 miles away. I would have guessed no more than 1 mile by sight.
Trip 3 was a few weekends later. Shannon realized that there was a place we could sail that was only about 30 minutes away. It’s known as Ten Islands, and it’s on the Neely-Henry lake, right by the dam. Shannon “mansplained” this to me (because I asked him….) as one of the lakes that’s made from the damming of the Coosa River. Weiss Lake is first, then Neely Henry, Lake Logan Martin and Lay Lake, Lake Mitchell, and Lake Jordan. Ten Islands has a historical marker (linked there) that reads:
Inscription. On July 14, 1864 a small group of brave Confederate Cavalry under General James H. Clanton approximately 300 strong were overwhelmed by a vastly superior Union Cavalry force under General L. H. Rousseau. The Confederates were attempting to protect the Janney Iron Works near Ohatchee and Crowe Iron Works near Alexandria. The superior Union force destroyed both Iron Works and proceeded to Talladega.
As we pulled in to the Ten Islands boat launch, we noticed two interesting small wooden boats docked. As we started to set up the mast and the rigging, one of the small wooden boat owners approached and said “Hey! Is that a siren? That was my first sailboat!” The first thing I noticed with this was his French accent, and as Sirens are Canadian boats, I guessed that he was from Canada.
Andre-Francois and his friend and traveling companion, Marcel, are retired professors from the University of Quebec. They are on a 3 month adventure which included Cycling in Georgia, hiking the Pinhoti trail, and they’re concluding their adventure by floating the Coosa river in their micro-cruisers before they return to their home in Quebec. We got to tour Gorfnik, climbing inside and appreciating how well thought out, organized, and fully functional these vessels are. They can be sailed, paddled, or poled along in the water. They are wide and therefore stable. They have the ability to be completely enclosed and weather-tight. There are you tube videos and articles all over the internet with more information about Andre-Francois Bourbeau and Gorfnik!
Andre-Francois chatted with us for a while as they waited for their portage shuttle they needed to get around the dam. He gave us some tips for sailing the Siren as we mentioned that we were beginners. Shannon provided his contact info in case they ran into any trouble while they were on the Coosa river. He helped Shannon unload the Shinin’ Brite from the trailer and tie her to the dock as I took Jango on a walk. He then stood on the dock and waved goodbye as we set sail.
This day was the most wind we’ve had since Boca Chica. We had some high wind gusts that were listed in the nautical app as being 10-12knots. We sailed all around the lake and had a great time.
Made one stop on a small island Shannon knew about, and got out and stretched our legs. Jango found a goose nest with 8 eggs and a very upset and vocal set of parents
About 3 days later, Shannon got a call from Andre-Francois. It seemed that they were in need of some assistance. Marcel was struggling with an arm injury, and they needed to get to a hotel for the night. Shannon retrieved them, shared a meal of fried catfish, and saw them off for a night in a hotel as they reviewed their options. The next day they sent a text that they were carrying on!
Shannon has ordered a new set of sails, some new lines (ropes), and lots of other odds and ends to help improve the overall sailing experience on the Shinin’ Brite. These first few sailing days have been an absolute blast and we are excited for more!