Closing In On the Gulf

Homeplace, Louisiana
November 17, 2019

Dear Family & Friends:

Yesterday was a great day on the River.

But, it didn’t start out well. I woke up in freezing temperatures. Frost covered everything, including my tent and gear. I did not want to get out of my warm sleeping bag. Once I got out, I had to put on my wet clothes from the previous day. This was pure torture.

But, the sun was out, and once I got out on the River, I warmed up quickly. The current was swift and the River was like glass. No wind. I made great time in my eight hours on the River, covering over 40 miles. Only one close call when I almost collided with the bow of a parked tanker.

The ocean-going ships present a special challenge for those paddling in a canoe or kayak. The tow boats pushing barges do not throw off a large wake. As previously explained, they roil the water, like a washing machine, for miles behind them, and this makes paddling difficult. By way of contrast, the ships throw off 5-7 foot waves that crash up on the shore. A paddler needs to skillfully ride these waves, like a surfer, to avoid being thrown up on the rocks. It isn’t always easy.

I camped just 27 miles north of Venice, the last city before the Gulf. After making dinner, I sat in the dark, shivering in the frigid cold weather. That’s when a large barge, pushed by a tug boat and carrying heavy equipment, pulled up right in front of my campsite and within feet of my canoe. The front of the barge was lowered and a pickup truck drove off. The driver stopped to talk to me. He said they were going into town to buy supplies and asked if I need anything. I told him I would love a cup of coffee to warm up.

When Charlie and Mike returned, they gave me a thermos they bought for me and invited me to board the ship and warm up in the kitchen with a cup of coffee. I ended up having a second dinner of homemade spaghetti, along with garlic toast and my coffee.

They invited me to breakfast this morning and offered to let me use their shower. That was an offer I could not refuse. This morning, I had biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon and eggs “over easy.” After breakfast, I took a shower which was so refreshing. What a great way to end yesterday and begin my last day on the River. Thanks Mike and Charlie for your kindness.

I learned something from Mike and Charlie about alligators. They are active all the way up the River as far as Memphis. They are also protected. When they encounter a gator in front of their barge, protecting its territory, they are required to stop, constrain the gater and call Fish & Game to remove it. I asked how they can constrain a gater. They replied “jump on its back and tape its mouth shut.” Yikes!

This morning, I will paddle 27 miles to Venice. When I arrive in Venice, I will call Larry Hooper who will meet me with his boat at the mouth of the Mississippi, 12 miles south of Venice, to bring my beloved “Ollie Power”/“livelikedan” canoe and me back to Venice. At that point, my “Source to Gulf” trip will be over. I’ll travel back to New Orleans to fly home, and KAS Trucking will pick up my canoe next week and ship it home.

I have mixed emotions, as you can imagine. This has been the adventure of a lifetime, but I want so bad to be home with my family.

Love and blessings to all,

Bill

Charlie, Bill & Mike

Dinner

Kitchen

Breakfast

Shower