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As much as we all seek to find joy and comfort during this time of year, these aren’t always easy to come by for everyone; for one reason or another, we frequently wind up chasing ephemeral ghosts, and being carried along on zephyr winds.  This year more than ever, I find myself lost in reverie, and I smile.  In all of the wrapping, exchanging and unwrapping of gifts that goes on during this season, I chanced again on one gift that has brought a smile to my heart for many years now: my old Tennessee River Navigational Charts.


A portion of my favorite section of the Tennessee River detailed here...

Countless hours were spent on the floor as a child, thumbing through and studying this book.

While tweaking and redoing the outfitting in my Journeys, I catch myself intermittently looking back through old photographs, and these nav charts.  Called to mind are long-ago conversations and practical lessons – some learned the hard way – about the lay of the river, which twists and turns to avoid because of hidden and shifting sandbars, and other trinkets of information valuable only to one who finds more comfort on the River than on dry land.

For those not familiar, and particularly for anyone seeking to plan a journey of their own, charts of this type are invaluable resources.  Yeah, I know: Google Earth/Maps and such are literally at our fingertips 24/7, and provide highly detailed satellite images of pretty much anything we care to check out, but have ya taken time to actually look at a navigational chart?!  Maps in general have always fascinated me, but nav charts open up a whole new world once you begin to unroll them and decipher their keys.  Not only do they provide a broad picture of the river and surrounding geography, but the detail – especially on large scale charts – regarding ports, mileage, hazards, river topography and other such information, is incredible and allows you to plan your trip with ease.

The Tennessee River in it's entirety

chart key

scale, warning, and disclaimer(!)

Officially, from the fine print on the front of the chart book in my hand right now, they show, “…underwater conditions, navigation channels and aids and adjacent shore planimetry.”   Got any more questions?!  Good, ‘cause if ya did I was gonna refer you to the Internet since I only know just enough to get myself in trouble (on this subject, anyway!)

The charts I have are from 1983; told ya they came from the WayBackMachine.  The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have since updated the charts for the Tennessee River many times, and these are easily obtainable either in sections or in the entirety for the Tennessee (or any) River.  Being the sentimental sap that I am, though, the 1983 book of charts will always be my own personal favorite version.

Watching and listening to my neighbors load boats and gear, and drive off to go play on the rising creeks and rivers around Chattanooga and throughout the southeast, I realize again how blessed I truly am.  I may not be on the water today, but to have had – and to still have – the rivers and creeks of the southeast as such an integral part of my life for so many years is something that not all can claim.  Would that everyone were able to have such positive and tangible influences in their lives!

OK, back to playing with minicell, dragon skin, Velcro, cordage, caulk and 303 so that I can actually get ON the water instead of merely reminiscing about it!

Happy, warm paddling, and peaceful, joyous holiday wishes to you all!