Guest Column  
by John Wright - Bastrop, Texas - USA

I am not from New Orleans
...but I slept there in a Holiday Inn Express...

I took the Intracoastal Waterway from Texas to New Orleans and was some what nervous when approaching the Atchafalaya (pronounced Chafalaya by the locals). Not knowing the flood status and noticing the 160' depths of the river, produced some anxiety. It was not flowing in May and I knew little about the Mississippi.

When I approached the Mississippi I picked the Harvey Canal because it was upstream from the left turn into the canal into Lake Pontchartrain. The chart indicated a possible 6 mph down stream current. If I missed the turn I possibly could not get back upstream and I figured the next left was the Gulf of Mexico!

Big locks are really interesting. When I got to the Harvey Lock, I was the only boat and did not know if the level of the water was going up or down? The lock operator told be that we would be going down about 14'. Wow! Point of info: When you are in a lock DO NOT tie off to a cleat, just run the line through or around the cleat and hold or cleat the free end to your own boat. BECAUSE, the cleat will be 8' above your head when you need to cast off.

Then the lock opens just in front of me and we are looking at a 14' waterfall directly in front of me. I could at that moment see my little boat going over the 14' waterfall into the Mississippi. What an inglorious presentation. Would it be a breach? But, the lock equalized very quickly without any turbulence or current or anything.

The River seems very large in a little boat that has not been in a body of water larger than a canal for many miles, often with "impenetrable" dark swamps with solid 100'+ Cypress trees on both sides full of alligators and 200 lb 6' long gars in the brown (tannic acid) murky water.

I made the turn into the next canal alright and waited with a number of large "tows" to get into the lock. I have found that tugboat captains are really fine people. They were always nice, helpful and generous. Just stay out of their way if possible. They gave my 4 year old boy a tour of the boat, a gallon of milk and a package of Ships Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies. I never thought until this moment just how "appropriate" that was.

We spent the next several days at the Levy Authority Marina with the best fresh seafood walk up at Fitzgerald's within a short walking distance. Air conditioned busses to anywhere for 50 cents. A Grey Line bus tour with a driver that knew more about the Levies, pump system capacity and the obvious weaknesses of the system and what was going to happen one day than I have heard from anyone else since.

We then sailed to Pass Christian where we found nothing but surly people among the concrete foundations without buildings on them. We quickly got the hell out of there. We had arrived there 9 months after Camille (259 killed, 190 mph wind, Cat. 5 Hurricane) paid its visit.. Gulfport was damaged but the people were not as surly on the whole. If that storm had gone in 80-100 miles more to the South East? Then New Orleans would only be mentioned in the past tense and Katrina would not have done as much damage.

Building back New Orleans, as it was, and that is what we are doing, is a billion dollar folly and will ultimately kill many ignorant people.

And then we went on to the Bahamas.

John in Bastrop

EAST RIDING - 25' 3" V-Bottom Cruising Knockabout. It needed just a little cosmetic work when I bought it from a bank I paid $1,200. I think it weighed about 6,000 lbs. empty. Many fond memories until its demise in Hurricane Celia. I put it in a secure place based on what I was hearing about the likely landfall but, they and I were wrong by 10 or 20 miles.

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