Now we are well into the 17 mile portion of our unmapped part of the trip, and we notice that the fuel gauge is still on full. Wow, this thing gets great mileage! A few seconds later we look at it again and it is on empty and bouncing back and forth like crazy. So, with no idea where we are exactly and if there is a marina anywhere nearby, we did what any other experienced boaters would do. We prayed, or at least we guys did, because we told our wives that everything was fine, no worries. To pass the time and keep my mind occupied on something other than our fuel situation, I began to look at the Loudon Map. After doing some mileage calculations, I realized we had about 10 more miles to go than we were initially told. So, the 60 mile trip is now 70 miles. At our current speed, that is about 2 to 3 hours more than we thought.
We finally make it to the lock, “Thank God”, just before dark. All we have to do now is get through the lock, and we can fill up with fuel just to be sure we can make it the rest of the way. Never been through a lock before, but seen it done, so how hard could that be. Once inside the lock, we tie up to one side, the rear gate closes and the Lock Master begins to fill-up the lock with water to raise us up to the same level as the lake on the other side of the dam. After about 45 minutes the lock is almost full and water starts swirling around inside. Suddenly our boat starts turning around with the swirling water and due to the fact that we only tied off the front end of the boat, we are now going to have to come out of the lock backwards. I’m sure we provided some great entertainment for the Lock Master. It is now very dark and it has begun to rain as we awkwardly back out of the lock, get turned around and head for fuel at the nearby Fort Loudon Dam Marina.
As we pull into the marina at about 9:40 pm, we discover that it is closed for the day. Unable to get any assurance of extra fuel we have little choice but to press on toward our final destination. While waiting for the lock gate to open, I had decided that it might be a good time to check the navigation (Nav) lights. Upon checking them, we realized the front lights didn’t work. I took the cover off to check the bulb and the cover broke. The bulb also didn’t work and we had no spare bulbs. So, since we were so well prepared we had a flashlight. I took the flashlight and proceeded to the front of the boat where I would remain for the remainder of our trip.
I had made this trip before from the dam to Concord Yacht Club, but it was a few years ago and in the day time. I had been on the lake at night before but not that far from the dam. My job was pretty easy, watch out for floating logs of which there were many, and keep us between the Channel Markers. The markers were not lighted and only reflected my light. So, I would have to stop watching for logs long enough to find the markers and then resume watching for logs, all the while continuously communicating the whereabouts of each to my friend who was steering the boat. It was pretty stressful to say the least. About half way, we encountered a part of the lake that I wasn’t familiar with. I couldn’t find any markers and the lake seemed to end. We stopped moving and as I was trying to figure out which way to go, my friend asked what the map showed. I could sense the tension in his response to me after I told him I didn’t have the map and was going from memory. I couldn’t ask our wives for the map, because they had decided to go below when it started raining earlier and were now sleeping soundly through this whole stressful time. In the pitch black darkness of this long night, I was cold, wet, tired, and feeling pretty alone when suddenly out of nowhere another boat passed by and their light revealed a marker in the distance. We decided to follow them and it paid off. We found the main channel again and we figured out we were not far from our destination. A short distance and another hour later we spotted the familiar lights of the yacht club. We made it, tired, wet and happy. All of our troubles we had faced during our journey didn’t seem so bad now. Oh by the way, we later figured out that the fuel tank held 22 gallons. We took the boat to get fuel a few days later and would you believe it only took about 5 gallons to fill it up. Oh well, all that worrying for nothing.
In this life we trust in so many things to help us navigate our journey. But it’s important to know that when we are in the darkest hours of our journey and none of those things are available or working to show us the way, we may need to be still and wait for the light and direction that only God can provide. Psalm 46:1-11