Saturday, December 10, 2011

Shell Morgan Landing to Houma Days 15 to 18

This is the bar at Bilellos Cafe in Houma, a short walk from the marina where we found good food and excellant WIFI. They allowed us to hang out for hours on our computers.

As you enter Morgan City from the ICW you have to get through this railroad bridge, it is usually left open unless there is a train coming through, then the docks are just on the right where you see the shrimp boat. The bridge looks rust red because it is rust.

Morgan City has a long river history with the Atchafalaya. This river carries at times up to 50% of the water from the Mississippi. The 2011 record snow melt tested the flood walls that protect the town.

Rita Mae's, the name says it all, you just will not find better food anywhere in LA. Maybe just as good but not better.

This is a section of the old flood wall and the previous flood marks noted on the wall, the new flood wall is just behind.

This is the flood gate entrance to the Morgan City docks.

Wand'rin Star making good use of the fender board.

The Shrimp boats kept us company, one of the shrimpers came over and helped us get tied up, very nice guy.

A train passes on the bridge...a lovely sound, We use to Sleepmates (white noise machines) and a fan to sleep soundly.

Here the Bayou Boeuf Locks were pretty easy to navigate. The locks that are built on the East and West side of the rivers along here are designed to keep the saltwater out of the ICW so the farmers can have the fresh water for the farming.

The lock opens on the other end as we near, do not even have to slow down

This Juvenile Eagle looks like he has already had his breakfast. The Admiral says it takes 3 years for them to get their adult colors.

Here a full adult Eagle sits Majestically, We spotted at least 30 or more Eagles who migrate here during the winter to the area between Morgan City and Houma.

The Bayou Dularge bridge opened for us about 1220hrs. Lots of traffic had to stop to allow us to pass.

I asked the Admiral to take a pic of this perfect ICW boat!

Here we are between the twin bridges at the Houma City docks, a small bayou just off the ICW, our Bow is about 50 yards from the intersection. We could not get any further in due to the depth.

Day15 & 16 Shell Morgan Landing to Morgan City
Underway 6:28hrs., 39.2 Km., Avg. speed 6.1 Kts., 15-20 ESW winds, 70 degrees and cloudy.

This leg involved lots of planning since the guidebooks listed lots of warnings about current, locks, bridges. Our routine has become to rise at 0530, have the engine running by 0630, and try to leave no later than 0700. The Admiral was a bit anxious so we spent extra time going over the route, charts and comments in the guides. From this point forward the Admiral is 50/50 in the navigation and research in planning the next leg of every trip. She has become equal in chart reading and interpreting all the information available, in addition she googles the blogs of those who have traveled this way before us and she gleans information not available in the guides. This information adds to our backup plans in the event something prevents us from reaching our planned destination we have a handy backup or Plan B agreed upon. We had a lot of help from tows this leg. One Tow was amazed to see a sailboat had AIS on board...I told him "Don't Leave home without it!". Another tow remarked " I wish the shrimpers had it", another commented, "I wish the damn shrimpers would just answer their radios".

Dean warned us about the strong current running south down the Wax Lake Outlet Canal. We waited for a couple of tows to clear the canal and then I upped the rpm's to 2800. The guide books report that you often have to cross diagonally to fight the current. I just started up high prior to the crossing and even though the current was evident it did not seem that bad, I wondered if the deeper keel of sailboats just help to track better, The tows that crossed before us reported a strong current and they definitely got sideways. Once we got to mile 102 we had to check in with the Berwick Vessel Traffic service on VHF 11. Since there is considerable commercial traffic in the area they control the movement of every vessel in the region and there are several checkpoints entering and leaving the area. They also told us to check in once we were secure at the Morgan City docks. We had to stay an extra day at Morgan City since the Bayou Boeuf Locks were closed for repairs through Thursday. Friends encouraged us to stay a couple of days anyway since there were some good restaurants and other sights within walking distance. We got plenty of walking in since there was a laundry, fuel, and really good grocery store not to far. The best was Rita Mae's, The Admiral got a shrimp gumbo and I had a chicken and sausage gumbo. If we ever go anywhere near Morgan City again we certainly go out of our way to eat here again.
The fender boards that I made prior to leaving Corpus were essential here since your boat rest up against pilings. We now have at least one fender board ready at all times with two fenders permanently attached at the ready. Tows pass by the Morgan City docks all night so the wake can test your sleep. We are pretty used to rolling a bit but one around 0400 woke the Admiral and she was sure we had drifted off our moorings and we had hit something. She announces this by hitting me in the chest and making sure I was on full alert as I bang my head getting out of the berth and I jump up in the cockpit to see nothing, the Tow or whatever it was was long gone by the time the wake hit.

Day 17 & 18 Morgan City to Houma
underway 5:50hrs., 34.5 Km., avg. speed 5.9 Kts., 10-15 N winds, 45 degrees & cloudy.

Our routine is now becoming established. After arriving at a destination and getting the boat secured we get out my laptop with the Seaclear II/NOAA charts, her Ipad with the Navionics chartplotter, Skipper Bob's guide book and the Southern Waterways guidebook and plan our route for the next day. We go step by step and make sure we both see the same obstacles on the charts. I then put the route in our two chart plotters. We called Berwick VTS to let them know we were preparing to depart the Morgan City docks and they said they would get the railroad bridge up for us. As we were tossing off the lines we could see the bridge raising so we wasted no time getting through. Next we had to watch out for a cable ferry at mile 94. They use cables stretched across the water to pull the ferry across so you have to be very prepared to not get caught crossing these areas until you know for sure it is clear to cross. This cable ferry was just around a tight bend so it came up fast, fortunately it was not moving and when we contacted him on VHF 13 he cleared us past. We were making really good time and the Bayou Boeuf Locks came up fast as well, we just had to wait for 1 tow and a Corp or Engineer survey vessel to clear then we just motored through. Here we had to check in with the Berwick VTS to let them know we were exiting their system. We realized that we were making better time than expected as we neared Houma so I cut the rpm's back, the Bayou Dularge bridge is closed during rush hours and 1100 to 1215. We made the bridge by 1210 so I called them to just let them know we were East bound and would like to request an opening. She said at 1215, so we circled shortly and around 1220 the bridge was up for us to pass. This is a major highway bridge so we were stopping lots of traffic just to let one boat pass. This would be common as we neared New Orleans. The short distance to the Houma City docks was pretty interesting. Since the docks are again exposed to the wakes coming from the ICW I wanted to get our bow pointed out toward the ICW. I entered the small channel to the dock slow and tried to leave room to turn the boat 180 for a port side tie but I felt the front of the keel touch so I backed out, turned the boat in the ICW and backed into the docks. This was good experience as I need to become more efficient at backing this boat. The propwalk, high freeboard, and winds 8 mph or more can make backing a challenge so I have pretty much avoided these maneuvers but I know I will find several more circumstances that will require pushing this boat backwards. A small dry front was due to pass through with high winds so we stayed an extra day here but there was nice restaurants, store, laundry in walking distance. Probably could stay 3 or 4 days in Houma and find plenty to stay entertained.

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