UPDATE #1 _04/01 - 04/09/06
Well, as most of you know, we have commenced our big trip. We left Houston, Texas aboard our beautiful boat named "AMARSE". The name is pronounced "AM-ARE-SAY".
We got underway on April 1, 2006. Our progress so far is as follows.
4/1 Houston to Steve's Landing at 339 mile west of New Orleans. The waterway is oriented by miles from New Orleans. Therefore, the mileages will start out as miles west of New Orleans and then transition to miles east of New Orleans until reaching Carrabelle, Florida which is 379 miles east of New Orleans.
We had dinner of seafood at Steve's Restaurant. Pretty good stuff.
4/2 Sunday: We traveled the waterway eastward to a lovely anchorage behind Shell Island at mile 271. The weather was great and we fired up the BBQ and grilled Chicken breast served with fried rice and a delicious salad. GRRReat! We had the privilege of being visited and inspected by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden. He examined our documentation, safety equipment, and did a records check. With everything in order, he told us a little about the area and then sped off in his dual outboard powered patrol boat. We slept soundly. The anchorage was nice with good holding ground in mud. The mosquitoes were fierce, however, we were closed up and prepared for their onslaught so they were not much problem for us. One would not want to be out during their arrival since they could be quite voracious.
4/3 Monday: Today we passed through the first of our locks. These devices allow boats to pass through a structure that controls the water levels between bodies of water. They can either raise or lower the boat into the next waterway. Throughout our planned trip, we will need to traverse about 170 locks. We also got to experience various types of bridges ranging from fixed road bridges to pontoon bridges that swing out of the way to allow boats to pass through. Lots of commercial barge traffic along this busy waterway. It is so interesting to see all the different type of vessels plying the routes. We anchored in a wonderful, tranquil place on the Mermentau River. There is a wonderful little oxbow shaped cutoff area that provides an ideal location for the night. There were flowers and cypress trees abound. There was a sweet fragrance that might have been Jasmine that filled the air. The BBQ provided us with some of Emeril's Chicken and Apple sausage served with apple sauce, rice, and a side salad. I can't imagine a more perfect meal in a more perfect place. This anchorage is just off the 202 mile point west of New Orleans.
4/4 Tuesday: Today, we experienced another lock. At this time of year, there is very little change at these locks since water levels are quite stable. We made a quick stop at Intercoastal City, Louisiana to take on Fuel and replenish our ice supply. The docks at Shell-Morgan sell fuel at one of the lowest prices in the country. Prudent travelers usually fill up here. We continued along the GIWW (Gulf Intercoastal Water Way) to the 123 mile fix. We set our anchor in Charenton Canal which was quite nice and mostly quiet
Judy prepared a sumptuous dinner of Beef and Noodles, salad, and apple sauce. Yum. That gal is a gooood cook....
4/05 Wednesday: Day 5 brought us along the waterway to the Atchafalaya River at Morgan City, LA. This is a very busy section of the commercial waterway system. The coast guard has established a "Vessel Traffic System" or VTS. All vessels are required to check in and give position reports for safety advisories at this congested intersection. When the river is running fast, this is a hazardous area. Since the water is quite stable now, we didn't experience any difficulty at all. The area just east of Morgan City, LA is extremely beautiful. The waterway is winding and tree lined for many miles. This section hold the most natural beauty we have seen on the trip so far. We continued that afternoon to Houma, LA. We tied up to the municipal dock located between the twin high bridges. These are relatively new docks established by the city to boost the economy through tourism. It is a wonderful place to visit. The dockmaster and his wife are well known the world over. Bill and Velma treat the cruisers like family. They have been married for 61 years. There is nothing that they wouldn't do to help out. It is so refreshing to see that this kind of hospitality and caring is still alive and well. Velma is a Cajun gal that met the handsome sailor boy those many years ago. They married after only a few days. She told him that she didn't really know him and certainly didn't love him. He told her that he would make sure that she did learn to love him. The rest is history and she seems to have learned well. She loves her flowers and flower garden as well as the cruisers that pass so briefly. Everyone is touched by her generosity and outgoing spirit.
We decided to join fellow cruisers from Kemah, Texas traveling aboard "Group Therapy", a Heritage 36 trawler. We dined at the Pit Stop. We certainly enjoyed the company of our fellow cruisers more than the food. We also had the pleasure to meet Jim and Ann aboard the trawler "genesis" out of Corpus Christi. They were experiencing mechanical problems and hoped to get going again soon on their trip around the loop. Hopefully we will get to see them again.
4/6 Thursday: Day 6. This is the day that puts the adventure into this kind of trip. We had learned that the canal that leads to the Harvey Locks was closed due to maintenance cables across the waterway for bridge repairs. This would necessitate the use of the Algiers Lock leading to the Mississippi River. This lock is very commercial and was handling all the east-west traffic thus increasing the congestion. We successfully crossed into the Mississippi River with less that an hour delay due to a cooperative lockmaster. We now had to travel upriver against the current to meet the crossing Intercoastal waterway. We approached the area at 3:28pm. The bridge would not respond to our repeated radio calls and closed just before we could get there. To complicate matters, this bridge has a curfew whereby it remains closed from 3:30 till 5:45pm. Oh well, best laid plans of mice and men...... We decided to travel further up the Mississippi River to view the New Orleans downtown waterfront area. We were treated to some special sights. First we saw the "Natchez", a very large vintage paddlewheeled riverboat that has plied these river waters for many, many years. Additionally, the last remaining paddlewheeler vessels that take cruises were in port. The "Delta Queen", the "American Queen", and the "Mississippi Queen". Many years ago in St. Louis, I would speed out on the river in my runabout and give these fabulous riverboats an escort. I marveled at their propulsion and their historic wooden beauty. I still would like to take a trip on one of these riverboats.
We returned to the locks ahead of the bridge schedule to be ready. There were over 30 vessels awaiting locking sequence. On the second locking, we were placed in the lock with a scrap barge, two tugs, and a 118 foot yacht. We soon were proceeding eastward in the GIWW again. Now the mileage number were increasing because we had crossed the zero at New Orleans and now would count up east of the Locks. Our next delay came soon. We approached a lowered railroad bridge. Along with all the other traffic headed east, we were stopped until the bridge would rise. No answers from the bridge radio to anyone. No one had any explanation. Two hours and fifteen minutes later, the lights came on in the control room and the bridge began to raise. I can only conclude that the bridge tender did not show up for work on time or their was a work schedule mess up so no one was there to open up. Oh well, I guess thing are getting back to normal in New Orleans afterall. We continued on to our planned anchorage behind Rabbit Island in the cut. Well, the cut was already full of stationary barge traffic. We then proceeded to our alternate anchorage just a short distance away. We anchored in what is known as the "Blind Rigolets" pronounced "rig-oh-lees". Less than ideal but certainly adequate. Since it was almost 1am, we decided that the snacking we had along the way was dinner. We fell asleep soon, however, we did do anchor checks frequently during the night. Short night.
4/7 Friday Day 7
The morning was windy. We set out from our anchorage at 6:30am after a short night rest. Today's passage would lead out through the relatively open water of the Mississippi Sound. This area can get quite rough in inclement conditions. Fortunately, the wind was southwesterly and provided a following sea. The boat handled quite well and we actually enjoyed the voyage in these rough conditions. Our destination for the night was Biloxi, Mississippi. We entered from the west side channel and passed along the main waterfront area. We were amazed at the amount of destruction from hurricane Katrina. I haven't seen this level of destruction since the Vietnam War. The most elegant of the Casino hotels, Beau Rivage, had its casino completely leveled and the hotel suffered severe damage. Even now, it remains closed. Numerous other waterfront casinos were also totally destroyed. All manner of buildings were left in total ruin. The power of nature is awesome and quite scary. We are told that the destruction is well inland too. Most of the marina facilities are all but gone. We proceeded to the Point Cadet Marina. They are in limited operation. They have a trailer that provides bait and the only fuel in the city. The pumps are temporary and set way back in the marina. With some help from the people there, we managed to get to the fuel area and filled up. Great people working under much less than ideal conditions. The overnight docks still don't have electricity yet and it will be September before they do. We were tied up at the Isle of Capri Casino so we went in for a little chance of the slot machines and dinner. The buffet was quite good and lucky Judy left with more money than she came in with. We were so tired that we couldn't play for very long. Biloxi is located about nine miles off the waterway mile 85.7 east of New Orleans.
4/8 Saturday Day 8
We woke to stormy conditions with showers and thunderstorms. It was quite windy. We delayed our departure until storms moved east. The weather forecasters indicated that winds would remain brisk but that the chance for more thundershowers was only 20 percent. We opted to head out since the winds were westerly although strong. The forecast indicated that these wind would turn northerly the next evening and next few days. Since we would be in the Sound again, we felt that the following seas would be more comfortable than head on. Our decision turned out to be a good one and we had a relatively pleasant albeit rough crossing. It is so nice to have the enclosed upper helm station. We have had to do quite a bit of hand steering in these seas since the autopilot doesn't seem to like to keep a very straight course in following seas. It seems to wander quite a bit. Oh well, what would Columbus do....
Our course led us across Mobile Bay in Alabama. This actually marks the official beginning of the Great Loop since we will close the loop right here in Mobile sometime in the next year. A long way to go yet.... as they say, "....a lot of miles and a lot of smiles...."
We crossed Bon Secour Bay into more protected waters. It was lovely and sunny yet breezy. I had read about a wonderful anchorage in this area and we opted to try it. It is Ingram's Bayou located just north of Red marker #72 at mile 164. It is a magnificent place that is very protected. This would be ideal since the forecast was for the wind to switch to the north and howl. We rigged for stiff winds but fortunately the protected nature of this hideaway gave us a gentle night. For dinner, we fired the BBQ and grilled smoked sausage served with Mac n'cheese, apple sauce, and of course, the obligatory cocktails to celebrate another wonderful day.
4/9 Sunday day 9
After a very restful night, we weighed anchor and spent a good while cleaning off the thick mud that clung to the anchor and chain. Yes, its messy but so reassuring to know that you will stay in place no matter how windy it blows. The front had come through in the night but we were protected. Once clear of the bayou, we could see and feel all the wind. Since we were inland, the waters weren't too bad and our full enclosed cockpit was comfortable. The day soon warmed as we pressed eastward. We marveled at the beauty of the Alabama beaches and vowed to return again. By 9am, we had crossed into Florida. The scenery is lovely and the number of recreational boaters steadily increased as the winds subsided and the temperatures increase on this spectacular Sunday morning. We traveled along the Gulf National Seashore with its beautiful white sand dunes and clear waters. Along Navarra Beach, Ft. Walton Beach, and into the Destin, Florida area. We located a little bayou called Joe's Bayou near mile 229.5. We found a neat spot to drop anchor early in the afternoon. We enjoyed a fun afternoon watching the jetskiers and runabouts zipping through the bayou. So many people out enjoying this wonderful area. For many of these folks, the weekend will be over and it will be back to the grindstone tomorrow. For us, however..... onward.
Dinner of the day was sumptuous. Barbequed chicken breast and scalloped potatoes. If it gets any better that this, I won't believe it possible. My friends, this cruising life is wonderful. Its late now so off to beddy-bye.
Don't forget to check out the website. We look forward to hearing from all of you. (Please don't send us any email jokes since we have very limited email capacity and speed is slow. Please do email us with you thoughts and comments and ideas. Thanks
Lot of Love,
Fred Reed and Judy Law
Fred H. Reed
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