The Last 100 Miles are the Hardest

Somewhere 25 Miles South of the Big Easy
November 15, 2019

Dear Family & Friends:

All of the reports about the journey down the Big Muddy south of New Orleans being the hardest and most dangerous are apparently true.

Brandon showed up with my canoe at 10:30 am in Old Algiers, on the West Bank of the River. I was back on the River at 11 am, with great hope that the rest of my trip would be blessed with good weather and favorable currents. That was not to be!

When I launched from New Orleans, the sun was out, but it was cold and windy, and I could see the whitecaps  on the River. I decided to play it safe and hug the shoreline to avoid the waves, barges, tow boats and ocean-going ships that dominate the main channel. I also installed the spray skirt on my canoe to avoid being swamped.

This was one of the toughest days of the trip. The winds were strong and from the south, meaning I had no benefit from the current. Because of all the River traffic, the water was turbulent and difficult to navigate. I hoped to progress at least 35 miles down River towards my next destination, Venice,  95 miles from NOLA. I was lucky to progress 25 miles. Now, I need to recalibrate my schedule. I will be lucky to reach Venice in three days.

I had two harrowing experiences. The first occurred when I tried to paddle past a convoy of barges parked on the shoreline. I barely avoided colliding with the barges. As I emerged safely around the barges, I immediately encountered a tow boat pushing a barge up River directly at me. The Captain sounded his horn while I paddled with all my might to avoid being run over. I’m sure the Captain was pissed, but I was taken completely by surprise.

After six hours of travel, I decided to set up camp early so I could dry out and cook a nice dinner. That was also not to be. There are no more sandbars on the River or grassy areas to set up camp. It took over one hour to find a barely functional campsite on the other side of a levee. I barely had time to set up my tent before it was dark. Now, I’m suffering from the bone- chilling cold that sets in when the sun goes down.

Tomorrow, I’m hoping for a better day.

Bill

Brandon with my canoe

Brandon with my canoe

Spray skirt

River traffic

Paddle wheel