Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Orleans

This should have been our way into New Orleans if we could have transited the Harvey Locks, it is the more scenic, welcoming route. This is the New Orleans Great Bridge. These first four pics were taken from a free ferry ride across the Mississippi at Canal Street.

Here is the skyline entering New Orleans coming Down the Mississippi from the Harvey Locks.

One of the two riverboat cruise boats passing in front of Jackson Square.

This is Jackson square and one of the oldest Catholic Churches in the Nation. We just happened on a free concert at the church and had a great experience there.

We were amazed at how many people bring there dogs to the French Quarter but this Gentleman was displaying the proper French Quarter dog walking style.

The dogs love it just as much, they belly right up to the bar!

December is a great time to visit, not HOT, actually we have had very nice weather.

Everything is decorated for the Holidays.

Our first dinner in the Quarter at Fiorellas.

When the eggplant appetizer is this good you know the entree will be killer!

The Admiral discovered on our second day at the Marina that the RV park next door had a shuttle for $5 a person for all day to Downtown and the French Quarter. Here he comes to pick us up on Toulouse St. after a full day.

This is Brian, our driver, he is becoming our best friend and resource!

We arrived at our new home port for the next 30 days around 1430hrs. We got the boat squared away and then went to the office to check in and get some local info. This marina has been recording record transient traffic this season. I think it's due to pent up demand due to hurricanes and last years oil spill. I think we are at the back of the pack since it has been just us all along the way when it comes to recreational vessels. They put a neat little packet in our hands of FAQ,s with nearby stores, car rental, restaurants, and cab companies. The Admiral just wanted to take a walk to stretch our bodies out a bit after our big test from Boomtown to Seabrook Marina. We took a long walk on a not so friendly pedestrian road along this industrial district. On the way back Lynn noticed a shuttle like van zooming by, it entered the drive to the next door RV park. The Admiral filed that up front. The next morning she fired up the IPad and found out there was indeed a shuttle at the RV park so she insisted that we walk over and see if we could get in on it. They were very friendly and explained we could ride for $5 a person all day. We bought 2 tickets and came back for the 4pm ride in to the French Quarter. We had a great time just exploring Decauter, Toulouse, and Royal. We used up a Groupon at Fiorellas' and had a great dining experience to start. Then as we were walking by Jackson square the Admiral recalled reading about free concerts at one of the oldest Catholic churches in the US, so we walked in and saw a great classical concert. The next day we came in early on the 10am ride and learned about the $3 all day passes to ride the water front, Canal St. and the St.Charles trolley's. Here was our way to the rest of New Orleans. I just wanted to get back out on the Mississippi again so we found a free ferry ride on the Canal St. Ferry. This way we could see the city from the water the way we should have seen it if we could had passed through the Harvey Locks.

Living in Austin, the Music Capital of the world, we were amazed at all the incredible music venues and the streeet musicians. The French Quarter is at least 100 X 6th Street in Austin. There is added excitement since LSU/Alabama is coming for the Sugar Bowl, then then there is the NO Saints doing well heading to a Superbowl. The Ragin Cajans, University of Louisiana Lafayette came for the New Orleans Bowl and won against San Diego the town is full of excitement at every turn. We plan to start looking for a weather window to depart 1-6-12 but Jeff, one of the marina owners advised us to stay for the Sugar Bowl dates since the French Quarter will resemble the same atmosphere as the Mardi Gras. I think we will probably concentrate on getting to Gulf Port, Mississippi then on to Biloxi.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Houma to New Orleans Seabrook Marina Days 18-19

We were thrilled this bridge opened on request, it took us a moment to realize that both the Missouri Pacific Railroad Bridge and the Belle Chase Lift Bridge were on the same structure.

A fog begins to assemble as we near the Highway 407 fixed bridge just 1 mile from the Algiers lock.

Here we are instructed to stay up close near the North Shore & wait for a Tow to be locked Westbound through the Algiers.

After a little over an hour we are invited in and instructed to starboard tie to a pin on the wall.

Her the midships line is on the second pin, I would move the line to the pin just above my head and it would be at waist level as we departed.

You can just make out a huge ship in the fog ahead of us as we venture out into the MIGHTY Mississippi.

Just one of Lots of poles, trees, and other debris to avoid. You can see the industrial nature of the scene on the banks going North up the river from the Algiers.

Is this Guy moving?

We made it across to the Industrial lock where we were asked to get as close as possible to the counter weight ( that you see on the right) of the St. Claude Bascule bridge and wait for a Westbound Tow to exit the lock. The Locks control this bridge so it just takes 1 call on the VHF.

The Admiral got this shot of a scuffy little Kingfisher near where we were circling.

Here we exit the Industrial Lock into the Industrial Canal and as we leave we contact the North Clairborn Ave. Bridge, if we had been an hour later we would have to circle for about 2 hours till the end of rush hour.

Lucky for us we have just a short wait and the fog seems to be getting lighter.

Next up is the Florida Ave. Bascule Bridge, another short wait

This is the Almonster RR bridge and it took several calls to get the Tenders attention. In fact the tender for the Danzinger Lift bridge right after it came on the VHF and said "He never answers his calls". Shortly after the Almonster tender came on and said" I always answer my Calls!" Then after another short wait the bridge opened but he never gave the all clear. So I radioed that it looks like it is safe to proceed now and we will pass through. We proceeded slowly.

Finally about 1430 hours we were tied up at our home for the next 30 days at the new floating docks at Seabrook Marina right on the Industrial Canal.

This is the Marina office, they are very friendly and helpful, they said they had a record number of transients this season and had prepared a packet of information to hand out to all their guest for the FAQ's. We sit on the front porch to get access to the wifi since it will not reach out to our boat.

This Flag the pole was the Mast of Why Knot, a Beneteau 41' who belongs to our friends Hal & Jo Cooper. They touched one of the bridges with it as they passed through the Industrial Canal around 2230 hrs. They stayed here at Seabrook where there is a complete boatyard to have the repairs before continuing on to Florida and the Bahamas.

Day 18 Houma to Boomtown
Underway 7:28hrs, 46.5 Km.,Avg speed 6.2 Kts. , 55 degrees,cloudy 5-20 NE winds.

We top off our water and fuel in Houma as we have been doing at every stop along the way where we could get a water hose and fuel even if we had to use jerry cans to add 10 gallons. This gives a little peace of mind and you always have a little down time anyway to get these little task done.
We have a Seapower 5K generator that runs off of our engine. The Admiral did not think it would be so useful and kept encouraging me to just add a traditional Genset. Well since we are motoring so much all you have to do to get 120 power is just turn 3 little switches at at he panel and you have all the power you need. If you want some hot tea, heat up some lunch or just run the reverse cycle heat in the morning at anchor. Of course it runs the 110 battery charger so the batteries are always up to speed. The plan is to add solar panels after we get to Florida but for now the Seapower unit is perfect. Wand'rin Star is proving to be a comfortable, safe cruiser and all the research in finding the right vessel for us I feel paid off.
Now we are both getting a little anxious as we get to the last two legs to NO. The guidebooks give you plenty to be concerned about. The weather seems like it will be OK but it is very overcast and fog is in the forecast. We always check 2-3 weather sources, Intellicast and accuweather, we can usually get the weather on the evening tv news and we listen to the NOAA forecast on the VHF. Cruising East bound from Texas allows you to gain small bit's of experience as you progress so that as you near the Harvey locks it is not so much to figure out and you can manage what comes at you.
The West Larose Bridge opened on our request Light tow traffic, we just passed one slow tow, we saw two smaller west bound sailboats, 1 was being towed by a small pontoon boat and the smaller one was from Texas. They radioed us wanting to know where they could tie up for the night but we were unable to help them with any local knowledge along this stretch. We saw two more bald eagles. One was hunting behind a tow with the laughing gulls. The hawks continue to keep watch over the ICW. The area around Lafitte is pretty with many nice waterfront homes. This would be a place to come back and visit for sure for one of the tours of the bayous and swamps in the area.

After Lafitte we came upon a set of gates that was not mentioned in the 2 guide books or the charts. I slowed to idle speed and realized we had to pass through the gates to follow our course. The Admiral finally found mention of the Algiers Flood gate, but by the time we were about to pass through I just went on through not knowing for sure if we should have contacted them on VHF 13. After passing the gate I am sure I should have just stopped, assessed the situation and try to notify them since it could have been dicey if a tow had been entering the area west bound. There is a lot of new flood control construction in the NO area after Katrina. We need to realize that no mater how up to date your electronics or paper are things change and you have to be prepared to manage those moments. On the way into Houma we were looking for a railroad lift bridge at mile 58.9 that we found had been taken out, we asked the next bridge tender about it and he let us know it was no longer there. Just passed the Algiers flood gates I noticed the Y to the Algiers locks and made a mental note just out of interest. Then we were at the Boomtown Casino where there is a free bulkhead mooring. Dean took the time to draw a picture of the area and warned us where not to tie up. We circled a couple of times preparing all our fenders and a fender board to rest up against this rough bulkhead right on the Harvey Canal.Fortunately we were the only ones there and we found the preferred spot where there was a couple of small bollards to tie to. We only needed one of the pieces of rebar sticking out of the ground for a aft line. The weather was calm so we only were concerned about the wakes from passing tows Being only 5 Km. from the Harvey locks we knew there would be considerable barge traffic but to our surprise it was a very calm night and almost no traffic at all? After getting all squared away we went to check out the Casino, we are not gamblers but thought we get a good dose of the local culture and find some food. We dropped 10.00 in the quarter slots and then after feeling overwhelmed by all the cigarette smoke we retreated to fresh air and quickly settled for dinner on the boat.
The number of bridges and plus the Harvey lock and all the instructions on the order of VHF communications had us going over our plan for the next day a third time.

Day 19 Boomtown to New Orleans Seabrook Marina
Underway 13:11hr., 23.7 Km., Avg.speed 4.5 Kts., 55 degrees, overcast,foggy 10-15SE winds

We woke about 06:30 and knew we had plenty of time since the first bridge we would encounter wold not even open till 0830. Several bridges in the NO area are closed during rush hour. We would have to Navigate 3 lift Bridges, two fixed and the Harvey locks. Two of the lift bridges work in conjunction with the Locks so that meant we would only have to contact our first bridge that morning and it would be our first, the Lapalco Blvd. Bascule Bridge. We took the time to go over the days plans 1 more time. We departed Boomtown about 0820 and as we neared Lapalco we saw a huge cloth hanging over the side. I called the bridge and they explained the bridge was closed till 1630 for repairs. I asked them if the bridge would still be closed tomorrow and they said yes. No wonder there was no traffic during the night. Well we just slowly circled in the area trying to develop a Plan B. My first thought was to just go back to Lafitte where we could get a marina and electricity and plan for the Algiers lock. Lynn called Lafitte and they said they could put us in front of their Mechanics shop for the night. Then we discussed the possibility of Algiers. This caused a bit of anxiety in both of us since it could be 1200 or later getting through. We had some friends who were delayed and they did not get through to the Industrial Canal to after 2000 hrs. and then they still had several bridges to negotiate. In the dark, in a very tired state they ended up hitting a bridge with their mast and had to stay in NO several weeks getting repairs. We had also heard of 8 hour waits at Algiers locks. We decided to give the Algiers Locks a call by phone and they quickly resolved our delima, they said recreational traffic would receive priority and to come on down, they would lock us through right away. By then we were already at the Algiers Y and we started down the alternate route. Since we had not researched this route we would have to do it on the fly. The only bridge to request an opening was the Missouri Pacific & Bell Chase Lift bridges which are side by side and only one request is needed. When we got there the Railroad bridge was up and the Bell Chase opened at our request. We knew we were making good time and a bit of the anxiety subsided. As we neared the Algiers I called to let them know we were there and they directed us to hang out near the North shore and wait for a west bound tow to be locked through. As we were waiting we noticed a considerable fog was building and so up the anxiety scale again. The wait was just over an hour and then they called us into the huge lock. They would lock us through alone. I knew lots of tows were waiting to pass and felt sort of bad that we took up one of the valuable slots ahead of them. We heard one tow explain to the Lockmaster that he had been waiting since 2330 the previous night and wondered what his wait position was. We were directed to take a midships line and to go 1/2 way into the lock and tie to a pin on the wall. They told us we would be going up 7 feet to the Mississippi. The Admiral stayed at the helm while I moved our midships line up 3 pins. The fog looked concerning and as we left the lock I made sure the radar was ready to go. you are immediately out into the current and the MIGHTY Mississippi. Fortunately we had at least a quarter mile visibility and could see all the nearby traffic. The one thing on AIS that will not show up are the crew boats and they are scurrying about everywhere. We would have about a 5 Km. trip UP the MIGHTY Mississippi. This means against the approximately 3 knot current since there had been recent rains upstream and the river was rising another 4 feet. So we were making just about 3.5 Kts. at 2300 rpm. The first thing you notice after you get out into the river and make sure you are not about to be run over by traffic is the incredible amount of debris coming at you, at first you try to dodge the 4-5' limbs but there is so much you just concentrate on the trees and the telephone pole type of stuff. We work our way to the North shore and stay out of the middle where the current is not so strong. Back after going through the Sabine-Neches I thought to myself, "I am not sure how Huck Finn felt, but I was starting to feel a little like Huck Finn". Well I am here to tell you right now that there is no way I would know how he felt. Until you have navigated your own vessel in the Mississippi there is absolutely no way you can understand how MIGHTY this river is. I have a whole new level of respect for those who accomplish the Great Loop. We made the Industrial Lock in decent time and most importantly before rush hour. We just had a short wait as they were about finished locking out a westbound tow. The Admiral got a great shot of a Kingfisher and then we were in. They instructed us to move 2/3's of the way in and they dropped two lines at the Port side. The Admiral took care of the bow line & I stayed at the stern so I could take care of the Helm & radio. There was a "Light Boat"(a tow with no barge) locking through with us so as we exited I moved over and let him pass, this could help us navigate all the upcoming bridges, just follow him. We just had an issue with the Almonester RR bridge tender not answering the VHF call, we finally passed him and the Danzinger bridge and made it to our destination at Seabrook around 1430 hrs. The floating dock is right on the Industrial Canal just a short distance to the entrance to Lake Ponchatrain. This pass is under Flood Control construction so you can not pass through to the lake here. This is good for us since there is almost no traffic at all and no wakes rocking the boat.

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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Taylor Bayou to Shell Morgan Landing Days 9-14

This is a view from the front porch of the Bowtie Marina, Wand'rin Star is at the fuel dock for the night.

The Admiral finds plenty of birding to do right here.

This little Kestral, one of the smaller falcons, was sitting on the windex on a small sailboat right next to us.

This is a good look at our anchorage in the Menmentau River.

Looking back at the main part of the Mermentau.

The fall colors of the Cypress and other trees in the area.

The Leland Bowman Locks on the way to Intracoastal City and Shell Morgan Landing.

We noticed the more vibrant colors of the Rosette Spoonbills and other birds. The Admiral says it is due to a better diet, of course we have had a drought in Texas so the food sources are lean.

This Osprey is darker in color as well.

This is Shell Morgan Landing, the business is primarily a fuel stop for recreational boats, crew boats and shrimpers. They sell hundreds of thousands gallons of fuel here monthly, also he has a few transient moorings and We needed it!

Wand'rin Star tied up to the bulkhead, the stern was exposed to the wakes coming off the ICW, the tows provide a little rocking all night, but we are used to it and sleep great. This part of the ICW connects to the Vermillion River.

All the Shrinp boats are huge, they carry 28,000 gallons of fuel and are all 80'-130' feet in length.

The ICW here is lined with cypress and thick foliage.

This Alligator was hanging out in a drainage ditch allong the road we were walking down to find some local birds. I think he was 4'-5' long, most of him was under water though.

The Admiral loves the Shrikes, she says they have "Attitude".

Lot's of big Hawks, everywhere.

Day9: Taylor Bayou to Bowtie Marina Lake Charles

Underway 9:00hrs.,54.4 Km.,avg.speed 6.2, 65degrees,sunny,10-20 ESE winds

Well it took 30 minutes to retrieve both anchors. Both anchors settled deep into the mud/clay/grass bottom. I should have been a bit more patient with the Rocna, each time you anchor you learn a bit more. Having a really good wash down system is really important, other wise the bow and anchor locker would become a muddy mess, I guess a bucket would help wash off the deck but it would not help the anchor locker much. We again had favorable Tow traffic and our new obstacle was the Ellander lift bridge. We had to estimate our time of arrival there and call 4 hours early to let them know when we would be there and that our mast was 61'. We called the bridge when we got within eyesight to let him know we were approaching, he said "bring her on up, I'll get her open for you". As we got about 200 yards out he lifted the span and we started under, the Admiral was sure he had not opened it high enough so I called and he said he had it open to 85'...we went on through. It is difficult to judge height unless you are near the same level. The Admiral just had not looked up when we passed under bridges in the 73' range since the bridge heights are posted in the charts. We had a little current against us going up the Calcasieu River to Bowtie Marina, and the small tributary to the marina was very interesting as we had cypress knees stick out of the water on both sides leaving just a small bit of navigable water. We got there just 15 minutes before closing, I wanted to top off the fuel tanks and Lynn wanted a shower so we just had till 1600 hrs to get that accomplished. Fortunately we tied up quickly at the fuel dock where we would also spend the night and the Admiral jumped right off with shower bag in hand. We have 2 heads with separate showers on the boat but 1 shower is filled with provisions and the other is nice but a big roomy shower but having one with all the hot water you want is better. A boat bath is different, 1st a quick rinse, turn off water, then soap it all up, turn on water and rinse fast ,turn off the water quickly to conserve. We walked about 2 blocks and found a Dollar Store, the Admiral said she was amazed how small things would make you so happy, just to find a Dollar Store to get a few items. Back to the boat with just enough daylight to do some birding, a Kestral was on the windex at the top of a small sailboat next to us & several flocks of birds flying over.

Day10: Bowtie to Mermentau River anchorage.
Underway 7:36hrs,46.4Km., avg speed 6.1kts., 69 degrees, sunny, 5-10 ESE winds

No matter which way our bow is pointed on this trip it seems it is always right into the wind. I watched the shadow of our mast running down the ICW and thought perhaps I could go into the mast hauling business. Just sell ours and that would give a place to stick one in the hole, build a small rack where we could put 3-4 mast on either side of the one in the hole and haul them up and down the Gulf and Atlantic ICW's.

The guide books tell about the beautiful anchorages in and around the Mermentau River so I was ready for beautiful where the industrial south did not take up half of the view. This was it. This time I was patient with the Rocna and realized I needed to set it slowly in the mud /clay, no grass this time. We lowered the anchor and with about 50' of chain out slowly backed down with just 1100 RPM's, then I put out another 50' (I like to sleep) and backed down with about 1500 RPM's, let that sit awhile then give it the test, 2100 RPM,s...that baby was ready for a storm! The only thing I did different this time was to attach a retrieval line and float to the anchor just in case since we were anchoring in a river bottom and there could be stumps down there. Things got quiet, I got out my. Fishing gear with a wide range of lures that have never caught anything and the Admiral got out the binocs, lots of Great Horned owls were whooing, I saw one fly through the trees but I was unable to get the Admirals attention before it disappeared. We continued to hear them through the early evening. I tried 5 different lures but no luck. Getting dark and the skeeters were talking so I went to the cover of the cockpit and closed up the enclosure, lit the Citronella candle and had 1 more to sleep on.

Day11 Mermentau River to Shell Morgan Landing, Intracoastal City

Underway 6:28 hrs., 39.2 Km.,avg. speed 6.1, 70 degrees,cloudy, 15-20, 30 Kt. gust.

Winds stayed mostly 17-26 Kt. right on the nose, we had favorable current till the Leland Bowman locks. I kept the RPM's up around 2200 and we maintained our speed despite the winds. At least till the locks. The lock master told us to come on through and we entered as a tow was exiting West bound. He said he hoped we had a motor on this sailboat ...I knew what he ment, we would be facing some current in the locks, I replied "yes sir, & I got her souped up! I then pushed her to 2500 knowing he would not be kidding. Normally we would be doing 7.6 Kts. But the current was over 3 Kts., we slowed to just 4. I called the lock master and asked him how fast the current was, he said he did not know but it was rushing. The tow behind asked me what I thought & I said it had to be just over 3 Kts., he was doing 5.6 and it slowed him to 2. The locks are really long so it seems like it is taking forever to clear them. The tow behind us notified the one behind him.....he said he wasn't even going to try, he would just park till it calmed down.

It was blowing 27 and gusting 30+ when we got to Shell Morgan, the owner came out & helped us get tied up and he was great saving our hull from the steel bulkhead at least twice. We felt like we had dodged a bullet and was glad to be here to wait out the oncoming front. We went in and paid for 3 nights since we felt it would take at least that long according to the forecast. We looked forward to having a nearby grocery store and a couple of days of not traveling to just sleep late and rest.

Day 12,13,14 Exploring/Birding in Intracoastal City
We sleep late on the 12th, got up to a really nice day and wondered if we had made a mistake not using this day to get to the next spot. We walked down the main road dodging truck traffic and getting shots of raptors, shrikes, and other little birds. We had our mosquito repellant sprayed on but we still had to swat our way through . On the way back I spotted a small alligator in the drainage ditch, the Admiral got a pic of him before he slid below the water. From then on my attention was in the ditches. The only grocery store in miles was just a short walk away and they fixed hot breakfast and lunch plates. So far we have had 2 of those lunch plates and I have not been disappointed!