What a neat change to the past 30 days on the river – yesterday I entered the Industrial Canal from the Mississippi and after fueling at the Seabrook Marina near Lake Pontchartrain, began my journey eastward towards Biloxi along the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW).
I knew that it was kinda ‘chancy’ to skirt the Gulf with this particular vessel, but others had done it and so would I, plus – by this time me and the ‘bird’ had a lot of faith and comfort with each other.
This part of the ICW is really straight in comparison to what its been like on the meandering Mississippi, I could actually see distant horizon. The marshes to my right on the Gulf side had the low level sawgrass feel – no waves to speak of, mostly ripple.
Then early last evening I found a place where the breeze was pushing its way inland and tossed the anchor into the shallows (near Bayou Platte). The little motor was off as I walked to the bow and allowed the momentum of the boat to ‘stick’ the anchor – then I stood soaking-in the scenery as the ‘bird’ drifted back and the line became taunt. It only took a simple tug or two on the rope to know that it was sound – there was a noticeable lack of concern; unlike tying down in the current of the Mississippi where two ‘points-of-contact’ (ropes) had been my ‘rule.’ Here, this single anchor ‘held-fast.’
I checked out a nearby crab trap which the boat had drifted into, and it held a several crabs – sure, I considered steaming those ‘suckers’ – (they would have been delicious) but no, its kinda the unwritten code not to mess with anyone’s traps – so just having my curiosity settled was enough (they were darker than ‘blue-crabs,’ but the same size) – I gently lowered the trap back into the water.
Somewhere in this place I found its perfection. I made a simple meal before finding solace, lots of it. This was an awesome coastal setting. As evening closed (and with ice in the cooler), I concocted a ‘boat-beverage’ (a “waggit adder”) and then spent the next few hours of the evening on the roof taking in what I think was an otter family nearby.
The comfort of the evening made me feel all the better about foregoing Bourbon Street and all those “doggone-people,’ sure there was something to be missed – but this seemed so much less encumbering here on top of ‘the bird.’ The setting was flat, calm, and with the coastal breeze keeping any bugs at-bay, it was complete comfort. This was my celebration of the whole trip get……….
I had nothing else to do and was in the perfect place to do exactly that.
I thought about my options for the next day; with only a small chart for the ICW and a promotional poster for the shoreline – the questions I had asked back at the marina were going to be my guide. The plan was to follow the occasional tow out and go East – well, that was my only option…..
once again slept on the front of the boat with the stars as my ceiling…………… it was all very good. Sleeping on the boat is pretty much like camping – its seems natural to get up as daylight strikes. For the entire trip six am has pretty much been the ‘norm’ for being up, and moving by seven-thirty. This morning I fixed a simple breakfast, brushed my teeth, put a new set of spark plugs in the motor (in preparation for the Gulf) and then repeated my ‘bird-bath‘ routine.
I had looked forward to jumping into the water of the Gulf, but not here – maybe gators (signs indicate that this is a federally protected wildlife area).
And yes, like the Mississippi the towboats pass through the ICW, just fewer barges attached – I was a little surprised – but as effective as they can be moving volume it seems a good idea. These must move loads from and to New Orleans from Mobile, was my guess.
The tows do not go fast at all – not ‘on a mission’ like some seemed to be against the current of the Mississippi, no noticeable current here. My speed is just a little slower than theirs – so I waited for one to come along and then fell-in behind.
It turned out to be a peaceful pace, there were ‘crabbers’ and fishermen jockeying for position along the marshes and out towards the shoreline; at this gentle pace I could easily ‘walk’ about the boat, so I did..
Soon I left the protection of the marshes and went into the Gulf, the waves picked up a some, but not bad. It seems like the wind has been in my favor this entire journey – today also – maybe that’s why I’m three weeks ahead of schedule! I kept the tow and the distant ICW markers in sight and held my course – without all the things along the river I suppose I began watching my compass more – pretty handy in maintaining a course (especially when I realized that I could barely see the shoreline)…
Keeping the tow in sight I also spotted another behind (I’ve been watching more behind since the big ships of Baton Rouge), and I noticed the Gulf waves with a little more rhythm – the wind and Gulf swells rolled to the North as I traveled to the northeast. It was a nice flow with all about me maintaining my interest. With plenty of fuel and the markers in sight…. I wasn’t concerned.
A little later I began seeing shrimpers; lots of them.
All still very interesting, but the tow that was once behind me was creeping up. I had some concern about having to change my fuel to another tank if he happened to be alongside me (I have to jump outside to do that) – so I pulled outside of the ‘channel’ and quickly switched it over…. I think somewhere in here I began wondering what the Tow-pilot was thinking when he saw me – then thinking probably that I was the only pontoon ‘out here’ on the Gulf! – that’s when I also didn’t notice land. I could barely make out the square condo’s in the distant haze.
With no other pontoons or pleasure craft in sight – I began to reset my course and angle towards land.
After the tow made it passed and with my fuel tank set – my compass and course were set more to the shoreline in the distance – no big deal, plenty of fuel and time. Generally I was fine and all was well, so I continued on a more gradual inland course away from the markers while keeping an eye out for changing color and waves to indicate a sandbar – on this date all worked out well.
That gradual course took me several hours to get a couple miles off-shore (a much safer place), which enabled me to see further down the coast line. To reach Biloxi, Ms it took 7 hours! It all remained very neat as the porpoises led my charge – seemed like fifty of them out there – just difficult to photograph – they were much closer that this shows.
During the morning I had considered continuing the journey further down the coast to Florida – I really wanted to, but after being hammered swell after swell along the shoreline (where the shallowness increased wave-action), I decided that the little pontoon was not the right vessel for these conditions (and the conditions were not terrible).
If an ‘anti-Gulf’ were to arise from the swells (and I know there is one), it could be difficult for the little ‘bird -‘ besides I already had water coming through some cracks in places that it shouldn’t – it was a good choice to call it an adventure.
A complete month 24/7 living upon a natural wonder capped off with two days amidst the natural beauty of the Gulf Coast – scenic entertainment that I shall never forget…. the word fit’s – the ride was indeed ‘awesome.’
I made it to The Hard-Rock at Biloxi with the feeling of completion, 1800 miles on an improvised ‘craft’ riding the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans and then the ICW on to Biloxi.
Adam Flinchum met me at Biloxi with my truck and trailer – we ate at Hard-Rock, ‘land-food!’ I then drove the 600 miles home
– once home; I stood in the shower until the hot water ran out……..it felt great!