Friday, November 16, 2012

Houma to New Orleans

This is one of the most difficult legs of the trip for recreational boats because of timing, distances, bridge restrictions, locks on both sides of the MS River, and availability of dockage.  If you don't have a workable plan with some backup options you run the risk of getting stranded in difficult situations with nowhere to go.  As we have noted in previous posts while traveling the MS River, it can be very unfriendly to recreational boats.  I'll cover the details later.  First things first.

Good morning to my mother-in-law in JAX, everyone calls her "G" so we got a shot of "Lady G" for her.  So G, can I please get some chicken salad this visit?  You have a month and a half to get it ready and don't give it to Tony!

Hello also to our friend Kim at Three Forks Harbor in Muskogee.

The scenery is pretty much the same as the past few days with open landscape, ship yards, and residential.  One really big addition about 10 miles out is the new flood walls being constructed since Katrina.  I have to admit - I still struggle with the logic of building a city of this size below sea level and spending more and more money to protect it from flooding, knowing that it will eventually flood again.  There is a gate between the two large yellow cells that allows the powers that be to completely seal this off when closed.  They are building a similar project on the east side of town.  All I see is tax dollars going down the toilet.  Sorry, it's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

 Once you get close to New Orleans, things pick up quickly.  Here's the continuous gaggle for about 5 miles just prior to the MS River.

So here's the sequence through New Orleans and the MS River.  The bridges and gates open for entry into Harvey Lock.

Once inside, you tie to a metal stob in the wall and the entry gate behind you closes.

The lockmaster raises or lowers the water in the lock.  In this case there was only a 6 inch difference between the waterways and the river so it was not even noticeable.  (The largest rise or fall we've experienced is 93 feet at Wilson Lock on the TN River and that is definitely noticeable).  Once the water level is adjusted, the exit gates open and out you go into the MS River.

We have run about 400 miles of the MS prior to this trip and it is always an eye-opener - there is a reason they call it the Mighty Mississippi!  We happened to exit the lock right as a huge tanker and two barges were passing by southbound.  There was also a container ship heading the opposite direction.  With all that traffic in close proximity to each other, the river was pretty rough but not a problem.  Here's a pic of the city's riverfront. 

The container ship, Polsteam, inquired about our boat on the radio and gave us some nice compliments on her looks.  I personally really appreciated that with all the work I've done on the boat the past year (still got a few projects to complete).

You check in on 2 different radio channels while on the river, CH 67 to communicate with the other boats and CH 12 appeared to be for someone monitoring all the movement of the vessels on the river.  There were two large military ships docked side by side on the left descending bank - pretty impressive.

Just past these ships is the entrance to Industrial Lock and there is another bridge that has to be raised on the river side before entering the lock. Once again, no delay. 

The process in all locks is pretty much the same but this one did not have anything to attach to on the wall.  The workers at the lock drop lines down to you from the lock wall.  I stayed pretty busy keeping the boat positioned correctly on the wall from the helm and Rhonda was holding the lines so we did not get any pics.  Once you leave the lock there is another lift bridge, Florida Avenue Bridge, that you have to call for permission to pass through and of course they have to raise it for you to do that.  Again, we had no delay.

After the Florida Avenue Bridge, you hang a left off of the GIWW on the channel toward Lake Pontchartrain.  One more bridge to get through - the L&M Railroad Bridge.  We had about a 20-minute delay here for a train but that ain't bad considering we had no delays at either of the locks and their associated bridges.  The catamaran in the pic passing through after us is a couple aboard "Nightingale" traveling from Kentucky to Corpus Christi.  They stayed at Pontchartrain Landing also and we had several chances to visit with them at the marina and also touring New Orleans.  

Now all that sounds pretty simple and it actually is if timing works out and there are no delays.  Most boaters traveling eastbound delay at Boontown Casino, about 5 miles from Harvey lock, and allow a full day to get through the locks.  The problem is normally timing.  The bridges close daily from 6:30 to 8:30 AM and 3:30 to 5:45 PM.  Also, once you pass Boontown, there is nowhere else to stay except a small dock at Industrial, and you have to get approval for that.  Delays for traffic in the locks can be several hours at a time so it's just a mess if you don't hit it just right. Worst case scenario is to get through one lock but not the other and get caught on the river for hours after dark - that would not be pretty and certainly not fun. We had planned to stay at Boontown but Rhonda called Harvey just before 2PM and they advised there would be no delay.  Then she called Industrial on the phone and got approval to stay at the dock there if we couldn't get through.  As we approached Industrial and called the lockmaster there was again no delay as I've already noted so we actually got through both locks and all the bridges in about 2 hours with 20 minutes left before the 3:30 PM bridge closings.  We are still shocked that it happened so smoothly but we'll take it.  I'll cover Ponchartrain Landing and our trip to downtown in the next blog post.

No comments: