Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Freedom Boat Club Chattanooga / Guild TN River Cruises

A great joy in life is to explore new bodies of water. The joy is enhanced exponentially when such exploration can be done by boat. That is precisely what we did this recent Thanksgiving week.

The Freedom Boat Club makes such ventures affordable, convenient and hassle free. Through our membership at the Lake Lanier Club we simply reserve at any of 145+ North American destinations, show up and enjoy. No trailering, no white knuckle driving, no prolonged travel.

This trip we cruised the Tennessee River out of Freedom's Chattanooga / Guild Club at the Hales Bar Marina & Resort. We spent 2015 Thanksgiving week in Chattanooga and were charmed by the place. Our only trek on the river that trip was via the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer Riverboat, which will unfortunately cease operation in January 2018. 

We aspired to take in the magnificent waterway piloting by ourselves this time, and the experience was outstanding. These were our first Freedom river cruises. Our vessel for three days was a 21 foot 2015 Starcraft 2000 Deckboat powered by a peppy yet efficient 115 HP Yamaha four stroke outboard.

It's not always possible to secure a boat for 3 days during peak season weeks via Freedom, but when boats are available the Club makes every effort to accommodate member requests.

On day 1 we took a 70 mile round trip cruise - in red - from Hales Bar to Chattanooga. We were the only recreational boat on the water, passing barges and other work vessels along the way. With temps peaking at 49 degrees it was a brisk and "invigorating" day indeed.

Day 2 - in blue - was a more relaxed and warmer jaunt to and from Nickajack Dam. The Day 3 voyage was a hybrid of the first two and the warmest day of the week.

Vistas along the way included fall colors, sheer bluffs and the historic and supposedly haunted Hales Bar Dam.

Video footage of these thrilling treks here, here and here do not do justice to the real life experience. But hey, at least we tried.

The market value of this Starcraft is approximately $25,000. All we paid each day was the cost of fuel consumed plus a gratuity for the dock hand to gas up and clean up for the next reservation.

In a week we take to the waters of the Tchefuncte River out of Freedom's New Orleans / Madisonville Louisiana Club. Our goal in coming years is to complete some fantasy Freedom Boat Club vacation tour across North America. Whether or not we succeed it promises to be a most adventuresome experiment.

For more information about Freedom Boat Club membership contact John Roberge at 404-901-4907. Please tell him Peter Stoddard referred you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Freedom Boat Club Lake Lanier Regal 2100 Bowrider Cruise

Freedom Boat Club on Lake Lanier did Two Big Things in 2017.

1. In addition to their original Holiday Marina location they opened a second at Bald Ridge Marina.
2. They invested approximately $1 million in brand new boats to expand their fleet.

We recently took out a 2017 Regal 2100 bowrider (a/k/a ski boat) for a 4 hour test cruise. A most exhilarating experience.

We had not captained a boat on Lanier since January, so we had pent up boating energy to expend. The Regal 2100 was the perfect vessel for that mission. This was also our first reservation at the new Freedom Bald Ridge "office". 

As we checked the boat out the deck hand informed us, "This boat will get up and go. Like a thoroughbred all she wants to do is run." We replied all we aspired to do was leisurely reacquaint ourselves with the old neighborhood. He just grinned in response as if to say "We'll see."

The Regal console is much like those of the Freedom Ebbtide, Monterey and Starcraft bowriders we had come to know and love. While Freedom maintains their entire fleet with great care, what first struck about the Regal was it's pristine appearance. Though it had been thru a season of use we got the feeling we were its first ever pilots. That in itself is a rush.

We wanted to make a few stops before we put the Regal to any test. Weeks earlier our houseboat became the largest ever to sink on Lake Lanier. Following refloatation BoatUS towed it to a different marina to await restoration. Our first trek in the Regal was to the new slip for a look at whether it sank again. It didn't. Ours is the still floating for the time being vessel with green canvas 4th from the right.

The houseboat sinkage is a subject for another, much more lengthy discussion to come.

Our next trek was across the main channel to the home of Port Royale Marina area friends who had hosted us a week earlier. It had been months since we traveled to their crib by water, and we wanted to see if we could still spot it for certain from asea. That was confirmed with a cell call to our recent host who was annoyed with the report that we were "working". So was he, but not like us.

With those 2 essential errands out of the way we were free to explore. That meant a cruise northeast past Gainesville Marina and under the creatively named "Lanier Bridge". Here we opened things up a little. We are not a need for speed people who must make our gums bleed on every voyage. Let's just say the gums were pulsing. The Regal was indeed more than ready to get up and go.

Note: This is not a picture of us or anyone we know, nor was it taken by us. But it is the correct model Regal 2100.

This November day we saw only 3-4 other boats on the lake, those being work vessels. Waters were therefore calmer than on a high traffic day except for chop stirred up by brisk winds on the main channels. This Regal is heavier than other bowriders to which we are accustomed. It cut thru chop like butter.

Rather than attempt to express nonexistent boat expertise we share someone else's expertise in a professional review here.We do not know options featured on the model we tested, but list price is approx $45,000. Cost for the day: $50 in fuel and a $5 tip for the mate to gas it up and clean for the next reservation. Tip would be more generous if boat was covered in fish guts etc.

Another shot of what the Regal would look had 2 attractive people joined us, which they didn't.

We look forward to utilizing both Lanier Freedom locations. Holiday Marina is more convenient some days, Bald Ridge others. Members can reserve from a large fleet of boats at either Lanier location. Bowriders, deck boats, pontoons, center consoles and cabin cruisers.

Navionics app somehow erased the November 10 course but this was it. Roughly 65 total thrilling nautical miles.

We were on the Tennessee River out of the Freedom Chattanooga club yesterday and will be out there again tomorrow. Click here for a brief video of that experience. In two weeks we will explore the Tchefuncte River out of the Freedom New Orleans / Madisonville Louisiana club.

Freedom members have access to boats at over 145 North American locations at no additional cost. As in zero. Members simply make a reservation thru their local club and pay for fuel at the destination club.

In the near future we expect to check out boats most often from the Bald Ridge club below:

Do not be deceived by appearances. Freedom is not known for luxury real estate. Freedom is known for luxury boats.

To inquire about membership at Freedom Lake Lanier call John Roberge at 404-901-4907. Please tell him Peter Stoddard referred you.


John Roberge
Freedom Boat Club Lake Lanier


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

CM Houseboat Renovations Breaths New Life Into Vintage Lake Lanier Vessels

Our 1980 Sumerset houseboat sank on October 3. At 15 by 70 feet it may be the largest to ever sink on Lake Lanier. It did not sink to the lake floor - it sank in its slip at the dock. But as any sunken boat owner can attest, if every surface where one might normally set foot is under water, that boat sank.

This is most definitely not our boat. It is one restored by the company to be discussed later. We feature this photo here as our boat looked a little scary, and the top photo is what shows up when this is posted elsewhere.

With the assistance of many to be named and thanked later the vessel was brought back afloat less than 48 hours after it went down. Then came the ordeal to remove all soaked mattresses, carpet etc and dry the thing out. Fans and dehumidifiers for 4 days just like when a basement floods.

We found that a boat insurance claim is unlike an auto or homeowner claim. Whereas we hoped and expected the insurer would promptly direct us to immediate and long term resources, we learned we must research and identify those on our own. That said, the insurance company was extremely helpful once we got folks lined up.

The scary photo of our boat.

Due to the size of the boat we faced the looming challenge to determine a repair destination and vendors. Consulting with dozens of boat owners and experts, it appeared we would have to move the boat by trailer to the nearest yard large enough to accommodate it 40 miles away at significant cost both there and back. We would have to identify people willing to travel that far for carpentry, fiberglass, electric, plumbing and a slew of other specialty work yet to be determined. It would likely take a year to complete.

In our minds we figured we must only be one phone call away from finding someone who could restore the boat nearby - on or near Lake Lanier - making the task exponentially more simple and less costly. It appeared that someone did not exist. As we worked our way down lists of resources we were about to give up and make the dreaded call to a trucking company. Then one resource way down on more than one list jumped off the pages:

CM Houseboat Renovations

Why did we not see this earlier? Because we were working off of emails, text messages, Facebook posts, our iPhone, tablet and PC. Suggestions came in spurts, and acting on them was like drinking from a fire house.

Examples of CM Houseboat Renovations work:

The next dreads were of many we had encountered repeatedly: a disconnected phone number, the person had retired, they were 437 miles away, and so on. Those dreads were unfounded.

Our call to "Cajun Mike" was the 'one phone call away' we suspected we might encounter. In 30 minutes we confirmed CM Houseboat Renovations could likely do or arrange all rehab work necessary - and do it very near Lake Lanier. Whew.

Further research revealed the company is on the approved vendor list for 6 major Lake Lanier Marinas. They are the only company on Lanier that works exclusively on houseboats. What little they can not do with their own employees they can arrange thru their select network of trusted specialists.

Since it's a mouthful we'll call them CM for short. Unlike many marine contractors CM vows not to apply all too familiar "boat surcharges". In other words, any repair on a boat costs 50% + more than on an identical household repair - for no apparent reason.

As photos reveal CM does Ritz Carlton level restorations. We assured Cajun Mike we loved our Holiday Inn, and all we want back is our Holiday Inn. To which he replied, "Well, you should be pleased to learn you might get a Marriott for a Holiday Inn price."

We shall update this as restoration dates approach. Work is to commence in January and should be complete by April.

For more information contact Cajun Mike at CM Houseboat Renovations.


Cajun Mike
CM Houseboat Renovations
678- 997-1873


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

OK Georgia Bulldogs, So You're Number 1!

Too much emphasis is placed on college football. And not enough emphasis is placed on college football. It is a bunch of warriors, most of whom will never be paid to play. Yet for us, it is time on Saturday when we can tune out everything else.

2017 College Football Rankings - Week 10

This is the only hyperlink and photo we will include. One must read from this point forward.

We are lifelong Georgia fans, long suffering Georgia fans. We were in New Orleans in 1980 and expected many such celebrations to follow. You know how that turned out.

We can not channel Kirby Smart. Never met him. But we will attempt to channel him here. What he will say to his players and what he will not say. This is stream of consciousness stuff.

Okay Georgia Bulldogs, So You're Number 1!

No you're not. You are zero. We play South Carolina Saturday.

Alabama will be pissed. Okay, so they're pissed. Haven't you been pissed since kindergarten that Alabama is always ranked number 1? We play South Carolina Saturday. (Insert this last sentence at the end of each paragraph to save us all time.)

You have been great athletes since kindergarten. This is what you have devoted years of effort to get to exactly where you and we are now. This chance will not come again.

South Carolina is already talking trash. They apparently did not pay attention to what we did to Florida after they talked trash. Georgia Bulldogs do not talk trash and care nothing about trash spoken by opponents.

Paul Feinbaum yesterday said "I don't think Georgia poses any real threat to Alabama." Paul Feinbaum went to Tennessee yet is a shameless Alabama homer. But take Paul Feinbaum's comments to heart. Or don't.

Future generations of stellar 17 year old athletes have choices of great football teams for which to play. They can choose Tuscaloosa and a coach who won't let them smile or Athens and a coach who smiles with them. Until the following Monday. Which will they choose?

The above has nothing to do with preparation this week or this year. And it's not something Kirby Smart would ever say. But we stuck it in anyway.

We play South Carolina Saturday. (We interject this occasionally if you forget to remember.)

Will Muschamp. While at Florida he ignored his own seriously injured player on the field in favor of berating his defense on the sideline. LSU showed more concern for Muschamp's player than Muschamp did.

The above has nothing to do with preparation this week or this year. And it's not something Kirby Smart would ever say. But we stuck it in anyway. Again.

Being voted Number 1 the first week of College Football Playoff Rankings is a curse. Yes, so is spilling salt and walking under ladders. Worry more about spilling salt and walking under ladders than being voted Number 1 the first week of College Football Playoff Rankings.

We play South Carolina Saturday.

Everyone has a job to do. Everyone has been doing their job pretty well. But not well enough.

Georgia always chokes. Yes, so did the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. But that is in the past and those other teams are pros who play baseball. Which is not football. And they have nothing to do with Georgia. Only Georgia has to do with Georgia.

Belaboring the same point. The head of the US Patent office once said "everything that can be invented has been invented." Steve Jobs ignored him. Ignore people who are dim.

Though you are 18 to 21 years old do not shoot a BB gun in the quad, carouse past curfew or drive on a suspended license. If you do we have other talented and hungrier players who will take your place. Then you can transfer to Auburn or Louisville.

We play South Carolina Saturday.

Georgia is Number 1 so we will be a target. To offset that we will install new variations of the slant pass, the only one Jake Fromm can throw. Plus we will prove to whoever is targeting us Georgia is indeed a team they lose to.

But what about if Alabama, Notre Dame or Clemson pass us in rankings next week because we only beat South Carolina? What was that question again? What rankings? Who are Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson?

Can I score ten 50 yard line tickets for our BFFs at Stoddard Media? That is an excellent question. We will give that top priority even before practice today.

Let's frame a super enlarged version of the next Sports Illustrated issue and plaster it to the locker room wall. Is that the swimsuit edition? Another great idea.

We play South Carolina Saturday.

Why don't you allow other coaches and freshman players to do interviews? Because they might get giddy and shoot a BB gun in the quad afterward.

In the foreseeable future Georgia will never recruit a candidate for Heisman Trophy. Georgia will recruit players who want to block and win championships. Ask Nick Chubb and Sony Michel how much they care about a Heisman Trophy.

What is for dinner after practice this afternoon? Whatever they serve for dinner after practice this afternoon.

What if I sell a jock strap on eBay? A UGA cop will turn you in and Georgia will get the death penalty. Then Reggie Bush will declare another year of college eligibility and win the Heisman Trophy. Then Pete Carroll will continue to be blame free and make millions in the NFL.

We play South Carolina Saturday.

Can we have someone design our next gnarly uniform? No. You just lost your scholarship.

What football experience does Stoddard Media have? We were a small, slow and dumb center and nose tackle on our 4-6 1974 high school team the year before our school merged with Sandy Springs. That 1975 team went 9-3 with large, fast and smart players. That makes us great. The older we get the greater we were.

Pathetic Ridgeview Record

Forgettable Ridgeview Helmets

You said there would be no more hyperlinks or photos. That was much earlier and we forgot.

What qualifies Stoddard Media to write about this? In 1978 Ernie Johnson Jr interviewed us on WUOG about the Terry College career day we were in charge of. In 1979 Buck Belue and a bunch of teammates came to a party at our apartment then left because no women had yet arrived. Both Johnson and Belue will deny this but we can produce unreliable witnesses.

Then in 1980 Georgia won a national championship. Coincidence? We think not.

We play South Carolina Saturday.