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Old Codger's Keowee Misadventure

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As many of y’all know, Old Codger had to leave this year’s B&B messabout early. But, all is not lost in the waining days of Fall here in the mountains and lakes of Western North Carolina. Miss Debbie felt sorry that I didn’t get a good final cruise in Old Codger. Here we worked all year to get him finished in time for the messabout and the Old Man had to go and get sick. She told us we could go play for a coupla days down on Lake Keowee in northern South Carolina. So we loaded up the Real Southern Sweet Tea*, some Vienna sausage* and other necessary gear and set off. (*If ya don’t know what this is all about, you’ll just have to read my stories in the Boating and Cruising Stories section of the Messing About in Boats forum.)




It was a cool Carolina blue sky day as we left the Mile Creek boat landing at 10:30, Tuesday, Oct. 23rd. Only a light breeze ruffled the deep emerald green water. Mr. Hatsu, Codger’s 20 hp Tohatsu engine purred at his cruising speed of 15mph @ 4700rpm. We pulled out of the cove and turned left to follow the general shoreline southward in a counterclockwise direction. Mr. Hatsu is tiller steered, so the Old Man had to sit facing port. Hmmm, guess that’s why the left side of the boat is called the port side. As a matter of fact, my careful investigation has proven that to be factual. The side we are facing is where the ports are on. Hey, I’ve told y’all before that you can believe everything I write. Everything is always “The truth, the half truth, and nothing like the truth.”

Here’s the view from the lake just out of the cove where the ramp is located. This is the mountain range to the north.



Old Codger has a new gadget. It’s a combination tachometer and hour meter. It picks up the electrical pulse from a spark plug wire each time it fires. It will help keep track of how long we run Mr. Hatsu and how many rpm he’s turning. We will try to keep him at about 4700 rpm which gives us the speed of 15mph. I think this is the most economical speed for us. Sorry about the fuzzy picture.



Maybe now would be a good time to give you a few facts about Lake Keowee.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:) Lake Keowee is a man–made reservoir in the United States in the state of South Carolina. It was created to serve the needs of a power utility (Duke Energy) as well as public recreational purposes. It is approximately 26 miles (42 km) long, 3 miles (4.8 km) wide, with an average depth of 54 feet (16 m), and a shoreline measured at 300 miles (480 km) in total, and is approximately 800 feet (240 m) above sea level. It began in 1971 as a massive demolition and building project, including the construction of two large dams––Keowee Dam and Little River Dam––and covered 18,372 acres (74.35 km2) of the state. The lake collects or impounds waters from the Keowee River and the Little River and others, and the outflows below the respective dams join to form the Seneca River which flows into the larger Savannah River. Lake water helps to cool Duke Energy's three nuclear reactors located at the Oconee Nuclear Generating Station. In addition, the force of falling water through gravity helps generate hydroelectric power. The Keowee Hydro Station generates 158 megawatts from the lake's outflows. In addition, Lake Keowee has been touted as a recreational destination for fishing, boating, swimming, sailing, kayaking and other watersports, and the lake has been described as having pure and clean water. The name Keowee (ᎨᎣᏫ) is a Cherokee name roughly translated as "place of the mullberries." The former Keowee River, which was inundated by Lake Keowee, had been part of the Cherokee Lower Towns region, and Keowee Town had been located on the bank of the Keowee River.

From here on, most of the story will be told with pictures. Most of the homes on the lake are owned by folks with a lot more money than this Old Man has ever made. I’ve posted plenty of pictures of these in previous ramblings* so I won’t clutter up this essay with many more, but here are a few examples.


Speaking of houses, here is the biggest one I’ve ever come across on the various lakes we’ve cruised. It looks more like a castle of some European nobleman. But, no, it’s just a home.



This is more like a home the rest of us could afford. The following picture is taken at the end of a cove. Typically, the biggest homes are on the open part of the lake or at the mouth of the coves, then as you travel farther in, the houses get smaller until you get to the end where the more modest homes are.



We soon pass the top side of the World of Energy at the Oconee nuclear power plant and the Keowee Dam.

There are a lot of shoal areas and little islands just barely sticking their heads out of the water. Someone appears to have staked this one out for themselves by planting a flag on it.


Let’s cruise on down the lake to see what else we can see. This is an interesting structure. I’m not sure what it is, but assume that it’s a water intake for something. Maybe city ware supply?


 I’ve told y’all how I don’t like sailing on these mountain lakes, but many folks disagree. Here are where a few of them hang out. It’s the Lake Keowee sailing Club.


This next picture is of a few of the boats Sailing from here. Many more are parked on dry land on the hill above where this picture is taken.


Another type of boat on Lake Keowee is the houseboat. One marina seems to specialize in these. We ran across it at the lower end of the lake as we got to the town of Senica. Oddly, there didn’t seem to be any way to get to town by water even though the chart showed the town touching the lake.

This is Lake Keowee Marina. The second picture is of one of the larger houseboats. There were several of this size.



Other marinas were mostly pontoon boats. These are the most popular type of boat on most all of the mountain lakes. The lake has several campgrounds, some state or county, and some private. If you want to camp and also have your boat at your campsite, there are not many choices of camper sites with a beach or safe area to pull your boat to shore. Most of the waterfront sites are rocky or lined with rip-rap (stones). If you want to anchor you’ll be ok., but if you do want to pull your boat on shore, you’ll need to ask for those sites, or better yet, go look before you reserve one.

Now we’re heading back in a northward direction on the west side of the lake. Hang in there y’all, there’s still more to see. Some of the more interesting coves are on this side of the lake.

We passed this peninsula covered with identical houses that I’m guessing are condos. The other side of the peninsula is similar to the side where I took this picture.


Here’s one of those interesting coves I am referring to. It’s called Cane Creek. The lake map shows a waterfall, Crystal Falls, at the end. Many of the coves are not developed. Old codger wanted to poke his nose in here to see what he could see. He likes waterfalls. So do I.


This is as far as we could get. Guess we’ll not see any falls on this trip. End of the road---or should I say creek.


On the way back out of the creek, we passed this abandoned hunter’s stand.



As we head back north, we are passing many interesting looking islands. Both the Old Man and Old Codger are getting kinda tired, so we decide to pull ashore for a bit and look around. Here’s the Codger resting his chin on the beach.


There are rules concerning the use of the islands. Where we pulled ashore, there were two signs. One said “No Fires”, and here’s a picture of the other.


As I walk along the shore, I notice some foot prints. Lots of them. The first I see are deer prints. The deer will swim across amazing distances. I don’t know why he came across to this island, but I  m told that they will often swim to get away from hunting dogs.


The next prints I see are of a raccoon. These guys are everywhere. As a kid, I had a pair of coons for pets. One day I was out wandering the fields behind our vacation home in Snug Harbor, just north of St. Pete., Florida, when I found two baby coons in their home in a hole in the ground. The hole looked like one dug by a gopher tortoise which were common back then. I had reached in hoping to find a tortoise, but found these guys instead. Naturally, I took them home with me to make pets out of them.  My mom named them Nip and Tuck. It was lots of fun to watch them play together. I had them until they became adults. Turns out that one was a male and the other was a female. One day our pastor was over for a visit and Mom took him out to see cute little cuddly critters. He female bit the pastor! This didn’t set well with my mom, and I was ordered to let them go. We took them out to “Snug” the next weekend and released them. They immediately scampered up an Australian pine tree that was next to the house. For several weeks after that, each weekend we’d call them when we got there for the weekend and they’d come running. Eventually they stopped coming and we never saw them again. By-the-way kids. NEVER reach into a gopher hole. Rattlesnakes like to move in there to live.


As I strolled along the shoreline, I found this plastron (lower shell) of a river cooter turtle. Actually its just the scales, not the shell itself. These scales are called scutes and match the actual bony plates of the shell. Some varieties of turtles shed there scutes as they grow, and others don’t. The ones pictured came off after the turtle died.


Another sign on each island has a number on it. This number is one way to know where you are on the lake. They are shown on the lake map. The number starts at the lower end of the lake and go up as you head towards the top.


Now we get to the “misadventure” part of the story. We were meandering in and out of several coves and were becoming a bit confused as to just where we were. The Old Man was looking down at the chart when Old Codger decided to take matters into his own hands. He tried to go ashore to get directions, and got into a fight with a cranky old dock that took offense and jumped out in front of him. Needless to say, the Codger lost the fight and had his nose broken in the process. Not a scratch on the dock.



As we continue our trip along the shore and into the coves, we come across another campground. It sits on a hill and is the Crooked Creek RV Park.


From there we follow the power lines from the Oconee power station. Here is a collection of old and new houses directly under the lines. The road you see continues on across the bottom of the lake. When the lake was built, many roads were flooded like this. Along with the roads, many homes, farms, and even whole towns were covered. Also many archeological investigations were hastily completed before being covered forever.



I like this picture of the towers stretching into the distance.


One of the towers sets on an island.


It’s now 4:30 and time to find a nice cove to settle in for the night. We’ve used four and a half gallons of gas so far and have run Mr. Hatsu for five hours and thirty four minutes. We anchor in a little cove behind island number 9. When the lake level is down a bit, the island connects to the mainland by a sand causeway. The first picture is facing up lake over the causeway. The next is looking down the lake, and the third is up Barkshed Branch (creek).


After getting the Old Codger settled in for the night, I fixed a fancy supper, or is that dinner, of Ramen noodles and Real Southern Sweet Tea and a chocolate pudding cup. Yummy. Yes, I know that some of you are gourmet cooks and turn your proverbial noses up at my simple culinary efforts. I actually tried to cook something more once. It required boiling water. I burned the water! Ahhh, ya caught me in that one. As the picture plainly shows, I had to boil water for the noodles. So I have finally mastered the fine art of boiling water without burning it. I can also cook canned Beefaroni. But that’s about it.


After dinner, I settled in to listen to some relaxing music on my I-pod and read the latest Clive Cussler book. It was a beautiful evening. And a colorful sunset over the creek.


 I snuggled into my sleeping bag with my buddy watching over me. Garfield has been with me for at least twentyfive years and many boats.


Next morning dawned cold and calm. Steam was rising off of the water all around us. It’s my theory that when the Sun sets into the water, it heats the deep waters of the lake and causes this steam. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


There are plenty of nice beach areas to pull ashore and swim and pic-nic. One of the nicest is near just south of the Fall Creek boat launch area. This one is clear of rocks, and is actually white sand rather than the more typical mixture of sand and red clay. Guess I should explain that the lake level was down about 18 inches exposing these beach areas. When the lake is at full “flood”, most of these beaches are covered. Duke Power controls the water level according to power generation needs and also to control flooding during heavy water flow into the lake. Going into winter, beginning about now, they begin reducing the level in anticipation of snow melting in the higher elevations and flowing into the lake. This is typical of most of the mountain area lakes.



Now it was time to pack up my sleeping bag and straighten up the cabin in anticipation to our day’s cruising. After completing my morning “ablutions”, I woke up Old Codger and Mr. Hatsu, weighed anchor, and off we went. We soon passed under the Hwy. 11 bridge. All of the bridges have signs on them saying “No Wake, Idle Speed Only”, so we slowed down to pass under. Back in my fiberglass boat repair days, I occasionally got a boat in for repair that didn’t slow as it passed under one of these bridges and hit a support piling. One in particular sticks out in my memory. An older man brought a bass boat in with three feet of it’s bow gone. His son had hit the support head on. He was killed! If I was that dad, I wouldn’t want the boat repaired.



Just past the bridge was a rare sight. An old house from before the lake was built. Just about all of the homes around the lake were built after the lake was filled. All of the old houses are at the bottom of the lake. It occurred to me that back then, the house was sitting on a mountain top overlooking the river. Now it is waterfront property.


Our next destination was the Jocassee dam. We’re looking up at the dam from Lake Keowee towards Lake Jocassee. Just as we reached this point and was about to stop to take a picture, Mr. Hatsu drank the last of his fuel and I had to switch to a new gas tank. We had gotten over 8 hours of cruising on just under six gallons of gas. I’m very pleased with the economy of my Tohatsu 20.


After leaving the dam, we ventured up Eastatoe Creek passing a golf course built along the edge of the creek. I suppose that the entire creek qualifies as a water trap.


Those of you guys that have been with me for awhile know that I’m a “turtle guy”. I like to catch and keep turtles. I couldn’t resist this picture of cooters on a log. I suppose that the phrase “as easy as falling off a log” comes from the way turtles slide off a log as danger approaches.



And so the adventure ends. We are back at the dock where it all began only a day ago. It’s 3pm. We’ve run Mr. Hatsu right at ten hours according to his new hour meter, spread over two wonderful days of cruising. This is just what Old Codger was designed and built for. He did a great job meeting all of my expectations. Well, except for his altercation with the dock of course. Now it’s time to head back home and begin dreaming about our next excursion. This will come after Codger’s nose heals and a few little details are acompleted that I didn’t have time for before last week’s messabout. Like a proper ice box/cooler and a comfortable helmsman’s seat. We’ll look forward to being back with y’all then.














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Steve. We'd enjoy that. I'll ad it onto my long list of adventures to dream about. And---I'm the "Old Man", the boat is "Old Codger". Don't confuse my other reader.


Thanks, Paul.


I noticed that some pictures were stuck at the bottom that were supposed to be back where we stopped for the night. I fixed it.


Also, I mistakenly posted this under the B&B section. It's supposed to be in the Boating and Cruising Stories section. How to I move it????? Frank moved it for me---thanks Frank.


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Thanks for this great write up and photos.  When you get to rebuilding the bow pulpit, do that is some hardwood for the next time. ;) But that will do double duty for "ballast while not folding up the next time you get side tracked. We all have done that from time to time.   I know, I know, the designer cringes when we talk about adding additional weight.   Between that and the cooler for the tea up forward you never know you may increase your speed and lower the trim angle too and even remove the whale tail.:rolleyes::lol:. [okay running for the hills now.]

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It woulda been strong enough if that dang dock hadn't attacked! Besides, we ain't gonna get side tracked again! Hmmm, I hadn't thought of filling the anchor locker with ice and sweet tea. Great idea. Maybe a long straw to suck the tea while sitting back aft.


I know how to get rid of the DoelFin. I could make a helm seat in the forward end of the cabin and sit with my head out of the forward hatch. A long tiller extension to steer and twist the throttle. A pole attached to the shift lever. Why didn't I think of this before? ?


[...running for the hills?] Ya comin' for a visit?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just thought I'd let y'all know. Old Codger is repaired and ready for his next adventure. Of course it's cold and raining. Today. Yesterday. Tomorrow. EVERY day! Ain't summer EVER gonna get here? Seems like it'll be nine more months until it's decent enough to go boating again. Yeah, I know. I exaggerate a bit. But it WILL be a long time. BUT, if we DO get a warm, dry day, I'll try to convince the Codger to get his bottom wet. He's very contrite and promises to not take it upon himself to get into any more fights with a dock!


Meanwhile, how 'bout y'all? Hasn't ANY of you had an adventure you could tell us about to help us get through the long, cold winter?

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