We made it to New Orleans! Yippeeeeee!
After almost a year of planning, thinking, selling, saving, fixing, scrimping, panicking, worrying, and all sorts of other human emotions, I did it.
I now live on a beautiful boat and have made it from Texas to New Orleans.
I feel like the rubber band on a slingshot that was pulled tight for a year and finally got released.
Now what do I do?!!!
Anyhow – here’s the way the trip went:
LeAnne and her two girls (7 and 9) met me in Berwick, LA where I was tied up to the Berwick public dock. The dock was sketchy with vertical pilings bundled together and not always straight. I docked there after dark the night before single-handedly and luckily the current was almost non-existent. I was a basket case by the time I got Marie Louise tied up to the pilings and finally stepped off onto land.
I’ve known a lot of fear in my lifetime, and conquered more than my share, but for some reason piloting a 42′ boat with no real salt water or river experience is the scariest thing I’ve run up against thus far (at least that I can remember).
The feeling of having LeAnne and the girls come aboard was amazing, however, and my fears subsided as my conscious mind automatically went into ‘provide and protect’ mode. Mercifully shutting down the ‘what could go wrong’ circuit in favor of ‘you’re responsible for these girls now’.
We had no power at the Berwick dock that night, but the weather was perfect so we just hung out and had a few glasses of wine while talking about this new adventure.
We left the Berwick dock at 7:00am, and I headed south on the lower atchafalaya river and then headed south-east, incorrectly. This rivelet (called Bayou Beoff) heads east and the map shows it continuing and connecting to the intra-coastal waterway. I noticed that the little dotted magenta line didn’t go this way, but wasn’t too worried about that.
As we cruised down this waterway we saw many barges tied up to the shoreline (as many as 60 or 70) and that made me feel like this was a safe alternate route to the GIWW. There was no traffic on this run, and it was calm and beautiful. After an hour I began to get worried because we still hadn’t seen traffic and had nearly run aground right in the center of the channel.
As I zoomed in on my mobile map I looked for depth of at least 5′ as we entered back into the atchafalaya river. There was no section on the map that showed anywhere deeper than 1′. Hmmm, this isn’t good. I put the transmissions in idle and looked closer. We were currently floating in 5′ of water.
At this time a little jon boat comes zooming by me with one of those super-shallow mud motors and he goes to the east side of this little cut. I looked at the depth on my map of the east side, it only showed 2′ of water. Ugh.
Next, I looked up the tide. We were at low tide so there was no way that 2′ of water was deep enough for our 3’8″ draft. Darnit!
So, tail between my legs, I turned around. I’d wasted the first hour of the day travelling down a waterway that was a dead-end and it would be another hour to backtrack.
After another hour we were back where we started and I headed downriver toward the GIWW determined to plan my routes better in the future.
When we got to the entrance of the GIWW from the lower atchafalaya I pulled the boat onto a shoal so we could take a break and cook breakfast. It was beautiful and my fear was subsiding, the boat was running great.
After breakfast we headed East again and in just a few short hours made it to Houma, LA. We pulled into the Houma dock and were pleasantly surprised to find that this dock was AWESOME! I’d called the dockmaster that morning and he said he was away because his wife was in the hospital. She’d suffered a stroke and I told him we’d pray for her. His daughter met us at the dock when we arrived and was as sweet as can be.
The dock fee was $25.00 and included 50 amp service plus a wonderful playground for the girls. It was an amazingly successful ending to a pleasant day run. I loved getting to a dock before it got dark!
We walked from the Houma dock down the streets through town (about 1.5 miles) to Christiano’s restaurant. I can’t recommend this place enough. The food and service was fantastic, and we met Christiano himself after a wonderful dinner.
Christiano insisted that he give us a ride back to the dock (which we gladly accepted) and he stayed with LeAnne and I for 20 minutes or so hanging out by the propane fire on the back deck of the boat. We exchanged phone numbers and said we’d be back again.
Note: LeAnne and I did go back to Christiano’s and had dinner again 3 days later on the way back from picking up LeAnne’s car (which we’d left under the bridge in Berwick). I’m also playing a solo gig there on Thursday.
The next day we got up early and headed for New Orleans. The trip was uneventful but awesome. I was gaining confidence in my own abilities as skipper, and in the boat itself. On the way we discovered (from one of the tug captains) that the Industrial Lock was still closed, which meant a 30 hour trip around the lock into lake Ponchartrain, or staying on the south side of the Mississippi until the lock opened.
I elected to stay on the South side, tying up to another casino (Boomtown) on the bulkhead. The tie up here is sketchy but the steel bulkhead is solid. No electric and a short walk to the casino. I ended up staying here for a week due to weather and timing.
Next trip – up through New Orleans on the Mississippi through both the Harvey and Industrial Locks. Wahoo!!!