Swimming with the Big Fish

La Place, Louisiana
November 4, 2019

Dear Family & Friends:

Paddling in the busy ports is a whole new experience and challenge. When I entered the Port of Baton Rouge, I felt like a tiny minnow swimming in a pond with Killer Whales, Great White Sharks, barracuda, alligators and piranhas.

I bid farewell to Pat in St. Francisville on November 1. This was one of the best paddling days of the trip. I covered 37 miles in six hours and arrived in Baton Rouge at 5 PM. I set up my camp just below the Southern University & A&M College. As I was pitching my tent, two students were practicing their trumpet skills on the high bluff above my campsite. I was tempted to climb up the bluff and make a friendly suggestion for a change in their major, but the foliage was too dense.

On November 2, I entered the Port of Baton Rouge. This was a whole new experience and challenge. The entire Port was like a washing machine on  fast cycle. This is because of the fast current, heavy River traffic and industrial structures that line both banks of the River. I encountered my first oceangoing vessels, which will be my neighbors for the rest of the trip.

Paddling in this kind of Port requires constant diligence. I was constantly asking: Is he moving or stopping? Is he not moving, but planning to move? Is he moving forward or backing up? How do I safely pass between a container ship as high as a ten story building and a tow boat pushing 40 barges? The smaller tugboats are a special problem because they move fast and often dart in and out between the barges as they move the barges in place for the tow boats.

All-in-all, it was a harrowing day, but I survived.

November 3 was a bad day on the River. The stiff headwinds erased the benefit of the current and the River was constantly rough. At one point, I took advantage of a drop in the winds and decided to cross from one side of the River to the other. Big mistake. One hour into the crossing, the winds picked up and I encountered swells that exceeded four feet. Whitecaps were everywhere. In order to keep my canoe from being swamped, I had to keep the bow directly into the waves. But, this was a problem since the waves were coming from every direction. I paddled furiously for over two hours to get to the other side . I emerged from this cauldron safely, but I shook for over ten minutes.

At that point, I decided to beach my canoe and climb up a high bluff to assess the condition of the River. This was a good decision, since I got a good perspective on the waves and whitecaps and was able to chart a route to calmer waters. I was greatly relieved to set up my camp on a sandbar and ponder what I had just been through. The sunset was beautiful and I built a fire to keep myself warm.

Today was a really good day on the River. I paddled through several more ports without any serious incident. I am now camping on a sandbar about 30 miles from New Orleans. I should be able to reach New Orleans in five hours tomorrow.

Bill

Departing St. Francisville
My first container ship- The Leopard Moon from Singapore
USS Kidd, A WWII destroyer
Campsite
Campsite
Campsite
Ocean-going ships
Ocean-going ships
Ocean-going ships
Ocean-going ships
Ocean-going ships
Ocean-going ships
Ocean-going ships
Ocean-going ships

Comments

8 thoughts on “Swimming with the Big Fish

  1. Hi Bill,

    What an incredible adventure! Thank you for all the great stories and pictures.

    This made me laugh out loud in the comfort of my ( quiet) home: ” As I was pitching my tent, two students were practicing their trumpet skills on the high bluff above my campsite. I was tempted to climb up the bluff and make a friendly suggestion for a change in their major, but the foliage was too dense”

    haha

    So glad you survived the rough winds and waves on the river! Have a happy and safe paddle to New Orleans!
    🙂

  2. Good to see the USS Kid. I was stationed on the USS Porterfield, also a WW II Destroyer but still in service in Vietnam. Long since decommissioned. I am getting old but not you.

  3. Bill, vigilance and diligence become the new mantra from Baton Rouge to New Orleans! Way too much traffic to deal
    with, especially with the addition of ocean going vessels added into the mix.

    Blessings on the last leg of your adventure.

    Rick

  4. I felt the tension of the challenge you faced, as I read your description of the crowded port. Glad you made it through safely. Thank you for sharing along your journey! Praying for your continued safe travels.

  5. Hello Bill,
    It does not look like I will be able to make it to New Orleans to visit you. I saw your family would be joining you there and personally, I am involved with a retreat this coming weekend. I hope you got the info on the account we set up for Puchhanga’s family. If not please let me know and I’ll send it again.
    I’ve enjoyed following you on your blog. This is quite an accomplishment and I pray this final phase will be safe and enjoyable. God bless.
    Jack Tillery

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