Sometimes you get an idea so crazy, the only thing you can do is figure out how to make it happen. That’s how we found ourselves joining the Vol Navy this year, crossing off a very outlandish bucket list item!
The University of Tennessee’s football stadium sits right on the bank of the Tennessee River, making it one of the only college stadiums you can travel to by boat. The concept of the Vol Navy was born over 60 years ago. And it’s, perhaps, one of the coolest traditions in all of college football.
Brent and I both graduated from the University of Tennessee. As college students we were both very aware of the Vol Navy, but never dreamed of actually being part of it. Fast forward to our purchase of a boat, and the seed of possibility began to grow.
Knowing we’d be taking our boat around the Great Loop, Brent mentioned how “convenient” it would be to take the opportunity to boat to Knoxville. However, I learned how to read a river map enough to know that Knoxville wasn’t “on the way” to Florida. Ultimately Brent didn’t disagree with me.
The Vol Navy dream died a little as we navigated off the Tennessee River and towards the Gulf.
We completed our Loop on the East Coast in May 2021 armed with a plan to spend the summer in Hilton Head Island. (Our favorite place in the whole world!) 5 months later we headed south to Fort Myers after confirming our reservations in Hilton Head for the following summer.
Sometime in February our HHI marina called to take the first month’s payment. Just as I was getting out my credit card, Brent asked me to wait. He had a crazy idea.
Let me just say, most of Brent’s ideas are crazy. However, few of them are as elaborate as the adventure he hatched up to be part of the Vol Navy this year.
It took 2 months, fifteen hundred miles and a new transmission to get to Knoxville.
And I can honestly say, it was worth every drop of diesel! Docking our boat just outside of Neyland Stadium is easily one of the most incredible things we’ve ever done.
As the schedule worked out, we were able to dock for 3 games. The first one was a Thursday night game on September 1st. We did leave after that game, and returned 12 days later for the next home game. During the next week we actually left our boat downtown to be in prime position for the Florida game on September 24th.
We quickly made lots of new friends, and got the reputation for being the most diehard fans as we boated the farthest to be part of the Vol Navy this year. The first two games had about 70 or 80 boats show up. And the Florida game had over 300!
Here are a few highlights from our Vol Navy days:
- Between the 3 games we hosted over 100 friends on boat.
- Each time Tennessee scores, all of the boats honk their horns. This was particularly thrilling because of the high scores in all 3 games.
- We were interviewed twice by TV crews and our boat was in countless shots of the river. We got a laugh at one point during some coverage before the Alabama game when we clearly saw our boat. They were obviously using footage from earlier in the season, but we might be the only people who noticed!
- For the Florida game some of our best friends from Florida drove up (they are a house divided) and another friend flew in from Ireland. We slept 9 on Light & Salty all weekend.
- Miller and Brent went to the Akron game (the 2nd game.) Miller actually got the final extra point kick and got to throw it back onto the field. He threw a perfect spiral and got a huge cheer from the crowd.
- Mary Grace and I assumed we were having a quiet girls night watching the game on our boat. However, several of our boat friends couldn’t get the game so we ended up hosting a little gathering.
- Back in February when Brent proposed this adventure he casually said “I bet ESPN College Gameday comes for the Florida game.” I said, no way. And I was wrong. We all went up to the set on Friday, and then Miller went up again on Saturday morning with some friends.
Leaving Knoxville was harder than we anticipated. In future seasons it’s going to be difficult to attend football games any other way that as part of the Vol Navy!
There’s been no shortage of cool places that we’ve taken our boat. But for us, Neyland Stadium tops the list!
As always, thanks for following our crazy adventures. You might also enjoy reading:
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