We got hit by some bad storms, so Tom maneuvered the boat into a large ship docking area to wait it out. It was rusty, old and we had to do some fancy maneuvering of the lines and bumpers to keep Naciente scratch free. We had lunch, then contacted the lock operator for directions. The books we have were of no help as the phone numbers and channels they gave us to contact the operators were wrong. It wasn't until we actually approached the lock that we learned that they monitor channel 14. Going into the lock is an interesting experience. We were the only ones in the first one. You go in, nudge up to the concrete walls (very slimy) and then this guy throws you a very rough line to hold
. Bev was on the bow and I was on the stern. You have to hold the lines as the gates close and the water starts rushing in. At that point you start pulling the line up and before you know it, you have blisters. Then, to top things off, it began to pour and we looked like drowned rats. When we had been elevated 10 feet, the gates opened on the opposite side and we entered the Mississippi River. It was running hard and fast and we were told it was running three feet higher than normal due to the floods upstream. Tom wisely chose the downstream route via the Algiers Locks vs the Harvey Locks 4 miles upstream so we wouldn't have to fight the strong current. In fact, we set a new 11.5 knot record speed at 1900 RPM's...whoo hoo! I have never seen so much commercial traffic. The large ships had the water really torn up. That, along with the strong current, and we were rocking and rolling all four miles. We finally turned into the Algiers Lock only to discover that there was a large tug pushing a double wide load that would be sharing the ride with us. While they loaded, we were told to hold still thus had to find a spot on the side of the locks to hold the boat (Bev and I) while we waited. We were finally given directions to proceed and it was really tricky. With the current and not much room to maneuver beside the tug, Tom slid Naciente neatly into the area on the left and then we discovered that no one was going to throw us a rope. We then had to quickly wrap a line around a steel bollard located about three feet up the concrete wall
. There was nothing to tie the back end to, so Tom had to stay at the helm maneuvering the back end while I held the front end against the engine strain and Bev held the boat hook out and fended off...we were more sideways than any of us was comfortable with. On top of all that the current was horrendous and then the heavens opened up and we were in the middle of a lightning storm, high winds and pouring rain...fun, fun fun! It is an adventure none of us will ever forget. Bev is still traumatized by the fact that she was holding a metal boat hook in jeopardy of being a lightning rod, nevertheless she hung in there and did not abandon her post. I was having a hard time keeping the bow of the boat from bumping into the concrete wall...I kept thinking "this too shall pass"...and it did. We finally got lowered the necessary 10 feet and then our friendly tug neighbor left. Tom waited until the tug was quite a ways away as he had heard horror stories of boats who followed in the wake of the tugs in the locks only to be slammed into the concrete walls with the current created by the tugs.
Chugging down the intercoastal, with all the delays we had experienced, we realized we were not going to make Houma by tonight. I started looking for marinas and began to think it was a lost cause after my fourth call with no transient slips available (at least any with electricity). Since we have no generator, and the bugs are out in droves, we were not anxious to anchor out
. I finally remembered Skipper Bob's Gulf Coast Cruising Guide and bingo, found a solution for us about 9 miles up the Barataria River. We trudged up the hour it took us to get here only to discover that the electrical boxes were broken thus no electricity! We all looked at each other and resigned ourselves to spend a hot, humid and bug infested night when out of the blue our good Cagian samaritan, Brent, showed up. He was the manager of the place and had a solution for us within 30 minutes. He put us in his uncle's slip, gave us 50 amps, brought us a beer and later fresh caught shrimp which we boiled for dinner. He refused to take a tip. He was a real surprise and we were grateful for his excellent customer service mindset...he took pity on these three scraggly looking travelers.
So, here we are tonight in the comfort of A/C, had a nice meal and even found some internet...
Tomorrow we head off to Houma. I finally tracked down my friends from Waterford, Kim and Corwin Broussard who live in Lafayette and were delighted to hear from me. We made plans to get together when we get to Morgan City. I can't wait to see them again. She is a world-class cagian cook and has promised Crawfish etouffee!
We had a very different day today as we left Slidell, crossed Pontchartrain and maneuvered two locks. There is simply no way I can due justice to the experience...you'd have to do it to truly understand.