Saturday, November 30, 2013

Home Sweet Houma... Thanksgiving 2013

The day dawned sunny and COOOOLD!  There was frost on the dock, or so Bruce tells me… There was no reason for ME to go out in the cold!  Me and the kitties were snuggled in the warm bed.  Time to get up and finish shuffling stuff to make room in the v-berth while I wait impatiently for our guests.

When Brittney told me she and my Mother wanted to  come visit us for Thanksgiving I was beyond excited.  We hadn’t seen them in two months.  I know that a lot more time will go between visits while we cruise, but we’re just getting started… we’ve gotta break in slowly!  

Houma City Dock
Weather kept us from making our planned destination, New Orleans so we stayed put in Houma, Louisiana for the week.  No worries, it's a nice place and less expensive than NOLA.  Early afternoon found me camped out in the cockpit waiting... I can’t describe the joyful leap in my blood when I glanced around, hardly daring to hope they would be here and saw them walking up the dock.  

I’m sure my Mother has been stockpiling food for this trip for weeks.  Brittney has been baking feverishly as well despite my warning that I have NO ROOM on the boat for anything else!  They just don’t get it, so we had the cookie tower and baskets and bags of other things until the boat was overflowing with loot.  I guess we’ll just have to push it around until we eat it all!

Brittney and Mother had done most of the food prep, so all I had to do was warm it up.  Brittney brought a small ham and fixins and I made some potatoes and gravy.  We piled around our little saloon table and ate ourselves silly.  Did I mention the three pies… for four people…  

I had worried that my Mom wouldn’t be comfortable with the rocking of the boat with every passing barge, but if she was bothered, she didn’t say so.  The only ones uncomfortable were the cats and Brittney’s dog, Leila.  There was a lot of glaring and puffing going on...  The cats retired to the bedroom and scarcely came out.  Some of that could have been from the COLD temperatures we were experiencing, but their faces told me it was the DOG!  

Two Whole Days!  What to do?  I suggested a plantation tour and Brittney agreed.  A Facebook friend suggested Oak Alley… (must remember to thank that guy) so we took off on another road trip!  Vacherie, LA. was about an hour away and we were soon driving down the oak lined road to the plantation.  

Bruce and I had visited a couple of others recently, but this one was a bigger production than the others.  Each has it’s own charm, differences and similarities.  Oak Alley seemed to have a less interesting  familial history, but it had slave’s quarters and we were able to tour the upstairs and take photos inside!  

We had a great guide and Brittney soaked up every detail as is evidenced by her near verbatim recital in photo caption form.  She was paying attention!  No wonder she has done so well in college…

Jackson Square
We drove from Vacherie, to New Orleans to take a quick spin around the town.  I have to say that it’s been so long since we did much road travel, I enjoyed the sights along the way, but the speed was disconcerting.  We drove through swampy areas and sugar cane fields for long stretches until we wound our way through the streets of the French Quarter.  

Mmmm... Gator Bites!

Brittney hasn’t been so we had some things we wanted to do with her, Beignets and gator bites being two on our list… Can you tell we’re HUNGRY!?  It was late in the day when we arrived and the line at Cafe du Monde was unbelievable, so we shifted that to tomorrow’s list and went for the gator bites.  We found a place we hadn’t been to before, Ralph & Kacoos, and had an absolutely out-of-this-world delicious meal.  I guess if you’re going to make it as a restaurant in NOLA… you’ve GOT to be good!

With full tummies and nodding heads, we called it quits and headed back to the boat with intentions of returning early the next morning to revisit the Cafe du Monde.

Beignets and coffee photo by Brittney
Return we did, a little later than we intended… the Cafe was already packed, but we were starving, it was 9:30 and we were GOING to have our Beignets!!!  The line went swiftly and we got a little table packed in with scads of other people in varying stages of powder-fifcation…  We glanced around and wondered if those people wearing black had KNOWN they would be eating here, and would soon be covered in white sugar from shoulder to knee…  We ordered their divine coffee and a round of Beignets and waited…  I know…  Beignets are what happens when a funnel cake gets together with a sopapilla… but they’re an institution!  We must have them!  When our order arrived, I asked for sugar for my coffee…  the lady told me to scoop up sugar from the plate… duh!  I also popped a spoonful into my mouth for good measure.  Where else can a grown woman get away with mainlining sugar???

Cafe du Monde now crossed off our list, we moved on to our next bucket-list item… after a short shopping detour that is…  I was in the market for some of that olive salad Mufaletta stuff found at the Central Grocery.  I don’t know what it is about that stuff but I love it!  Brittney did some shopping on the way back to the car and bought some gifts, then we were on our way to find a cemetery!

Awaiting the death of Nicolas Cage
We have visited many cemeteries in our travels.  I know… a bit macabre, but it isn’t really…  They’re beautiful and it is nice to think about the people and the lives they must have led, even though you don’t know them…  I will say that the cemeteries of Louisiana are second only to those we visited in New England back in 2004.  The above ground graves are just so different from what we’re used to, and they are beautiful.  We poked around St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 for an hour or so, the most notable and strange monument being the one that Nicolas Cage has erected for himself, in the shape of a pyramid.  Lots of controversy about that one…

There are graves marked with X’s with shell or stone offerings lining their tops, some kind of voodoo thing…  There are crumbling graves, almost piles of rubble… there are well kept graves and some in between.  There are walls with bodies stacked inside, there are huge box crypts with room for six or 40.  Some are for a certain nationality, Portuguese, French…  There is a partition, on the other side of which the Protestant folks are buried.  Cats skittered among the tombs leading me to wonder about the role of said cats as guardians of the afterlife.  Creepy!  

We left the French Quarter still unfinished, maybe we’ll return there again some day.  We had some more mundane things to get done before we let our wheels, er um company get away.  We went back to the boat and had a late lunch, then finished our day with a super exciting trip to the grocery store and another round of laundry at the laundromat.  I think it’s been a while since Brittney has been to one… she was appalled by the child labor propaganda posted on the wall there…

Our visit was coming to a close and I practiced avoidance (my usual way of dealing with unpleasantness) and busied myself with endless straightening up of things in the boat.  There was no shortage with all the piles.  A 45 ft. boat becomes very small when additional persons and their associated stuff are introduced…  Morning came and it was time for Brittney and Mother to go.  We parted with hugs and waves.  I soothed myself with thoughts of the next visits, one in December and another in January, hopefully in more tropical settings…

We turned our attention to getting under way.  No time to miss them, we have the locks and the Mississippi River in our near future.  Plenty of stuff to be thinking about, no time to be sad.  We made some nice new memories this weekend.  I was glad to see my family and have our first visitors as Cruisers!  Lots of stuff to be thankful for here… Aside from the usual, Country, Family, Health, etc.  We are thankful to be living this incredible life and for all of the factors that led us to this place, this time, and this day.  We are thankful for each and every individual one.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Can't Stop The Weeping

No, WE aren't weeping, though we're close after the day we've had...

It all started yesterday when we were working on the fuel-in-the-water-tank issue.  We have satisfied ourselves that the small amount of diesel that accidentally got into our primary water tank has now been flushed and we're ready to begin using the tank again.

Boards lifted to expose the tanks also expose cleaning opportunities!
But... that tank seemed to be pumping air into our waterlines.  We've been chasing a phantom problem with air in the lines but have been unable to find the culprit.  This morning, we began the dual purpose project (from hades) in which we 1 -  search for and repair the connection that was sucking air, and 2 - gave the v-berth a thorough once over in preparation for guests arriving tomorrow.

Of course we first had to clean the aft cabin so that we could make room for some of the things we store in the v-berth.  While I was at it I might as well wipe down the ceiling and walls to remove the multitude of dead mosquito imprints that had been building up from recent anchorages... Then we had to clean the main salon so that we could pull up the floors to sleuth out the faulty water connection.  (I can't do anything without a clean work environment)

Since it was a sunny day, this prompted a side project of cleaning the cockpit and drying wet stuff from the deck storage bags out on the deck.

That done, we returned to the original project and began taking things out of the v-berth and found that the walls in the v-berth were WEEPING!  There was condensation running down on both sides as well as dripping from every port and hatch.  It wasn't bad, just major dampness with pockets of wet.  We dragged more stuff out onto the sunny deck to dry, and what wasn't wet got strung out all over the saloon.

We unscrewed about 50 screws to lift the board covering the fuel and water tanks under the bed in the v-berth.  Of course... all but ONE of the screws came right out.  There's always that ONE screw that will NOT come out.  Bruce spent a half hour getting it out.  Finally success!  We lifted the board to see the tanks and connections beneath.

We found the faulty connection!
This is the first time we've had this board up and so of course it exposed another cleaning opportunity.  There were also some tiny bugs (don't even BREATH the word termite) that got the RAID treatment... I treated the area with tea tree oil to stop mildew and OK, now we're ready to work.

It was easy to figure out where the air was coming from by shining a flash light on the hoses to see where the bubbles began.  There was a T-fitting splitting off of the primary tank.  The bubbles began with a hose coming off the right side of the T connected to a small hose with NO clamp!!!  Following that tiny tube, we found it to be the fill hose from the water maker that is not currently working.

The decision to bypass that was an easy one.  Bruce put an elbow on the hose and clamped it on nicely... no more bubbles!  Another hour of cleaning and mildew treatment of the weeping walls and cedar closet... Oh did I forget to mention that in tracing the small tube through the closet, we found the walls weeping in there too, causing more stuff to be stacked out on the sunny deck!!!? Yeah... we did.

Well, thankfully we still have another 24 hours before our guests arrive... we're drying things out and putting them back in order with the satisfaction that we discovered all of these things before they became REAL problems.  Oh, and the newly quiet running water pump is in itself a reason to stop the weeping!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Laundry Is For Sure

Plans change.  That's just the way it is with Cruising.  Living on the boat for the year prior to our departure was not the same... and we're still figuring it all out.

Forecast from Wind Guru
Our plans to spend a week in New Orleans have been cancelled due to the forecast of high winds and frigid temperatures making travel from Houma to NOLA a foolish endeavor.

On the brighter side, this dock is nice and much less expensive than the one in the Industrial Canal where we had planned to stay.

So what does that have to do with laundry?  Well, we haven't done any since November 8th... and it's beginning to pile up!

Lugging laundry on foot!
There have been no good opportunities to wash clothes since we left Clear Lake seventeen days ago!  Well, that isn't entirely true... we could have done it while we were in Delcambre, but we were having too much fun running around.  And we figured we would have plenty of time to do it in the facilities at Seabrook Harbor, but now... that is not to be.  So we had to find a laundromat here in Houma, where we will be waiting out the weather for the week.

So here is where it got REAL...

Bruce and I... with two giant bags full... of smelly, dirty, laundry!

I guess we could have waited, we aren't totally out of clothes yet, but the weather wasn't going to get any better and it would be another week until we could get to it... I guess we COULDN't wait after all!

We made it back to the boat in good time...  pic credit
Another look at the weather and we knew we had to make a run for it.  Drop everything and head for the (luckily) nearby laundromat.  I can't believe our good fortune that there was a very nice little place about .7 of a mile just up the street.  We were running from forecast of rain, with possible sleet later this afternoon.

So today... we experienced another true "Cruising First" for us... We got to do our laundry in a foreign town, on foot, braving cold and the threat of freezing rain... up hill both ways (not true but it makes it sound more dramatic).

So while you're sitting in that nice cozy office with the luxury of your very own washer and dryer in the warmth of your own home... think of us out here...  OK, I'll stop.  But just know, that it isn't ALL fun and games, and like death and taxes... laundry is for sure...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Learning to Navigate: ICW Travel

Getting around our home waters took some small amount of navigational skills, but it only scratched the surface of preparing us for this travel in unknown waters.  Even with Bruce's decades of experience and my years, we find that we are dealing with new situations every day, some anticipated or expected, and others not.  We are basically building on our prior knowledge and applying it to our new life as vagabonds.

Under normal conditions, we have settled into a system that seems to work for us.  

Talking to the Lock as we approach
VHF:  We have become very comfortable talking to the other boats on the ICW.  I was a little shy at first, but the informal chatter on channel 13, where the tows hang out, has me jumping right in there with them.  Even when we aren’t engaging in conversation, we’re constantly monitoring (scanning) and it has been a great help to know what’s going on up ahead and what is coming to get us.  Without VHF there would be no way to contact the bridges and locks.  You can NOT navigate the ICW without VHF.  It is the one tool that is absolutely necessary.

Paper Charts:  We have an old chart kit with great views on paper that we’re keeping on deck for reference.  Some of the information has changed, but not much and nothing significant.  Whomever owned the chart book before us, did some cruising on the GIWW and graciously highlighted the troublesome spots and the anchorages.  It’s been neat to follow along and see what is different now from when the chart book was published in 1988.

Chart Plotter:  We go from the old to the newer… the Raymarine chart plotter.  While it wouldn’t be our first choice of brand and it’s not a new piece of equipment… it came with the boat and it’s what we have.  We wanted to use it for a while before we go potentially spending unnecessary dollars on a whole new system.  If this works, we’ll use it!  

We are becoming more familiar with the look of it, which is what our main problem with it was in the beginning.  It seems to be pretty accurate and keeps up well.   We are having a bit of trouble still with our autopilot so since they work together, it isn’t optimal yet, but we’ll get that worked out.  

Navigational Apps:  From newer to newest… we go to the iPad.  It has been such a valuable asset as a navigational tool, I can’t imagine doing this without it.  I have a couple of apps that I’m using daily and a few others that I check now and then for a different view.  

The main app we use is called Charts and Tides: US Gulf  The look of the app is similar to the chart plotter so they go together nicely.  It has Active Captain, which I’m LOVING! so there is lots of information in it to help us decide where to stop and where the hazards are.  It has a measurement tool and waypoints and is very simple to use.  This app only has the Gulf so we will be in the market for a new app covering the Bahamas and the East Coast, once we reach Florida.  I think we've decided on the Garmin app with purchase of those pertinent charts.

We are also using an app called Simple Charts.  This app displays our position on a raster chart so we get all the benefits of a paper chart in an app.  It also has a measurement tool and waypoints, plus some other things I don’t use.  The only bad thing, well two bad things are: 1.  the speed display is inaccurate.  It reads slow.  2. it goes off if you don’t continually touch the screen.  It won’t stay on and just follow along with you.  It is nice when we need to know a mile marker or the names of the waterways and towns around us.

The third app we use is called MotionX GPS HD.  I use it to document our track, distance, speed.  I record the daily track and save it.  I’m using it solely for documentation purposes.  And it’s nice to know our elapsed time and average speeds too, for fun. 

AIS:  We would be lost without our AIS!  It was kind of a last minute purchase after reading that so many other Cruisers enjoyed having them… well that is an understatement!  AIS really makes navigating the commercial waterways SO much less stressful than I imagine it would be without it.  We can hail the tows by name, to which they warmly respond… They can see us and hail US by name when they need to… It is just such an invaluable tool.  Perhaps those who say that ICW travel is “too stressful” didn’t have AIS.  

Now we come to the adverse conditions:  

Bruce on Fog Watch
FOG:  When we left the Mermentau River and encountered a dense fog, we had to make a choice… turn back and wait for the fog to lift, or continue on with the navigational aids at our disposal…  We decided to wing it!  We lit up the (heretofore unused) Radar and AIS, and those, along with the VHF got us through the fog and back on track.  

Our previous attempts at using the Radar that came with Dos Libras had been a disappointment.  The normally high winds and choppy Bay back home had made the Radar seem sporadic and unreliable with the erratic movements of the boat.  It was just more trouble than it was worth to try to decipher what we were seeing on the screen.  

This time, in the calm waters and light winds of the Louisiana ICW… it was a whole new story.  We could clearly see where the banks were and barges, and small boats alike, showed up definitively.  Plus it was kind of cool!

Navigation by iPad Street Map View
UNCHARTED WATERWAYS:  We encountered more than one navigational problem on our side trip to Delcambre… The waterways leading to the town are literally uncharted.  At least, we didn’t have any kind of map showing them, outside of a crayon-like line drawing leading into the land on ONE of our iPad navigation apps.  For this, I actually used the iPad Street Map app with Google Earth view for street navigation.  

It’s basically a Google Earth view that follows along with us (as there are no streets here).  It shows the satellite view of the waterways.  

Compare this to the Google view above
I flipped back and forth between it and the one map that showed the crayon drawing going where we intended to go.  

Missing map tiles on all maps.
The unfortunate thing about navigating this way, was that the day we left, not only was it foggy, but some of the tiles were out and failed to show up on ANY of the apps I tried using.  I had to navigate by sight and radar on that morning.  Oh, and I had meager assistance in following the track from our trip into Delcambre.  

RAIN AND WIND:  Our next encounter with adverse conditions was during our Morgan City to Houma passage.  We were nearly there and expected a Norther' to hit later in the afternoon.  We were delayed a bit by some traffic, which only exacerbated the situation, along with an untimely bridge obstacle...

The Scenario

We were delayed at the bottom left curve 1 with multiple barges towing many loads going both ways around this curve and the stretch beyond.

Once we were going again, while we were on the straight part, the rain began to fall... It began to pound and blow gusting to 27 knots as we made it around curve 2 and we were navigating by radar with very limited visibility.

A barge requested to pass us on the one whistle (coming up on our right side from behind) as we entered the gentle curve 3, with several barges parked on the lower bank as we hugged the left side of the channel.  I pointed up into the wind to keep the boat from sliding into the tow as he passed on our Starboard side.

Coming around curve 4, it was time to hail the bridge to request an opening.  She didn't respond to any channel.  The barge passed and we turned back.

Finally the bridge answered and told us to come on, she would get it open.  We turned around again and headed for the bridge, still in rain and gusty winds.  We got a gust of 18 knots as our mast slid between the open ends of the bridge...

Bruce on deck preparing to dock
We continued on the short distance to our destination with lighter rain and moderating winds.  

While it wasn't how we had planned to spend our afternoon, it is what we got. That's Cruising.  We work with what we have and work together as a team to get the job done.  

We make decisions based upon the situation at the time.  No matter how much you put into planning, you deal with what this life throws your way.

How does the saying go?...  The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude!  Well, I can tell you that it is true.  Although my knees were knocking together during each of the above scenarios, I felt stronger and more confident afterwards having made it through with just our wits and each other.  We're LEARNING...

THE FUTURE:  Before anyone goes throwing tomatoes at me about our use of electronic navigational aids (apps)... I KNOW !  I KNOW!!   "This is not for navigational use" and we should NOT rely solely upon these methods, yada yada yada.  I don't mean to sound flippant but understand that we are incorporating ALL of the navigational aids we have into a fluid and situation specific method of "whatever works".  

I understand that there has been some resistance in the boating community against relying upon electronic navigational aids.  But... these applications have continued to improve and with proper use, can be a HUGE help and comfort to the average boater out there.  Expecting EVERY boater to hold professional certification and navigate by the "old methods" is just unrealistic.  No hate mail please!

We are just getting started on this journey.  We learn something every day in the different situations that arise. We are traveling in the ICW and will encounter a whole new set of opportunities to learn once we get offshore and out of the US.  This is what makes Cruising so exciting for us!  In the end, each person who undertakes this very unique challenge, must make decisions for themselves, about how they go about the business of navigating the waterways.  There are risks in everything and this is our chosen path.  And we are loving it!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Bad and the Ugly

Well, we're Rookies so it had to happen... The "Rookie Mistake".  And things were going so well...

We had a great couple of days here in Delcambre, but Bruce was ready to move on.  I had yet to see the Tobasco Factory on Avery Island, but I guess it was not meant to be...

Delcambre Lift Bridge
Bruce and I said our goodbyes to Katherine and Jim at North Pier Marina and motored slowly back up Bayou Carlin to Le Blanc Oil Company to fuel up.

The channel narrowed alarmingly but the depths held.  I had to make my way amongst fishing boats anchored out fishing in the runoff from a shrimp processing plant across the canal...

The fuel truck was offloading
I brought the boat alongside the fuel dock nicely, maybe even looked like I knew what I was doing...

We had to wait forEVER while this fuel truck transferred over two thousand gallons of new fuel to the station.  Well, at least we'll get fresh fuel!

We talked to the guys around the station, one of them had been there on the day the Lake Peigneur Tragedy happened.  He said that the water on this side of that lift bridge was higher than on the other side because there wasn't room for all the water to go through so it damned up.  Crazy times!

So anyway... it was finally our turn to fill.  Bruce was worried that it was a high pressure hose and so he was just barely pulling the trigger... But even though the fuel was pumping VERY slowly, it still bubbled up in the fill hole... Something wasn't right.  It's like it isn't venting.  Great!  Another boat project...

But wait... horrid realization... OH NOOOOO!  That's the WATER TANK!  No WONDER it isn't going in... We topped off the water tanks just before leaving the dock!

I thought Bruce was going to die!  He is ALWAYS so careful!  I guess we got to talking to the guys at the station and (the water and fuel fills are just across from one another on the deck) just absentmindedly got going...

Well, I won't go into all the details, but suffice it to say that we went back to the dock at North Pier Marina, where we were welcomed again (with open arms and hugs, no gift basket this time) by Katherine and Jim...  We will be staying another day...

Bruce, with Jim's help, spent the day pumping the diesel fuel out of our water tank and flushing it until it ran clean from the vent.

Bruce used a spare water pump and some extra hose we had onboard, along with some length of wire to rig up the nifty little system on deck.  It's a good thing the diesel is colored, that made the job so much more easy.

We think (hope) that with some soapy tankfuls and copious amounts of fresh water, we can eventually flush out the aluminum tank.  Maybe the plastic fill hose may need replacing, not the end of the world... Mike at the fuel station gave us some additive to use as the last step, right after a gallon of vodka in the tank... He said that the shrimpers are always putting fuel in their water tanks and use this stuff, so I'm hopeful...

So what did I do all day while Bruce was doing his self imposed penance?  Why... I went with Katherine to tour the Tobasco Factory!

Did you know that ALL of the world's Tobasco products are made right here at Avery Island in Louisiana?  I did not!

The process is amazingly simple...  After the tour, we shopped in the Company Store and I got some Rasberry Chipotle and their new Sweet and Spicy sauces. I had to have them after sampling them...  They also had Tobasco ice cream and soda... I'm not so sure about those...  Well anyway, it was a fun way to salvage what could have been a very bad day...  Wish us luck that it won't take TOO long to get the diesel smell out of our tanks...
The Tobacso bottling plnat

Small bottles on the conveyer, filling and capping

The peppers are stored for 3 years in barrels

Then they are stirred for almost a month with the vinegar

May Every Day Be Worthy Of A Blog Post

So... I'm taking advantage of the last few moments of wi-fi before we set out again along the ICW...  And what am I doing?  Why, I'm checking out the OTHER blog posts to see what OTHER Cruisers are doing...  The quickest way to that is by following the Facebook links, and what to my wondering eyes did appear?

One of the blogs I follow: Sailing Luna Sea, (love the name) had a short post this morning... about being included on a Top Ten List! Way to go Luna Sea!  I love reading these to see if I'm missing any good ones.  Most times, I already follow the ones on the list, but now and then I find another goodie to add to my own list.  ( you can find it on the right hand side bar of my home page )

So... I clicked on THAT link to see the list and it took me to a page I hand't seen before, LahoWind.  And I'm reading down their list... AND THERE I AM!  Things We Did Today is on SOMEbody's LIST!  Woo Hoo!  I've made it!  I'm more than just another drop in the bucket!

Oh the pressure!  No, really I started this blog so that I could remember all of the great things we do when I get old (someday).  I just don't want to forget a minute of it.  A friend once toasted us with the title of this post, and I really took it to heart.  So... although I would blog even if NO one read it... It's heartwarming to know that there are at least a few people out there who find something of value here.

Thank you to ALL of our kind readers who take those few moments (I know... my posts go on and on...) out of their busy lives to pop over now and then.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Welcome to Delcambre

Our Welcome Committee
Delcambre rhymes with Welcome!  It took us a few tries to get it, but I think after the welcome we received here... we've GOT it!

It's a bit out of the way... just over 8 miles up the Bayou Petite Anse and Bayou Carlin.  But North Pier Marina in Delcambre, LA. is WELL worth it!  Be sure to let them know you're coming so you get the full effect!

You Can't Miss IT!
We planned our anchorages and stops with a visit to Delcambre in mind.  We first heard of the growing popularity of this town from our Cruising friends.  Coincidentally there was also a write up in Cruising Outpost (second edition I think) about it and that sealed it!  We're going!

I had no need to be nervous about navigating up the Bayous.  The depths were over 10 ft. the whole way and there was plenty of room to maneuver.  We enjoyed the wildlife and scenery and this new experience.  It seemed that we were rounding the last bend with the bridge and shrimp boats in view all too soon..

Plenty of Room in Delcambre
I had another new experience in store for me as we docked.  The winds from behind were stronger than I had realized, no sweat as I turned the boat around to dock head to wind... But what I hadn't counted on was the opposing current, which quickly took the stern back out before we could get a line ashore.  Another pass (OK, maybe two more) and we were securely docked and receiving the warmest welcome we will EVER get!

The town of Delcambre realizes that it's off the beaten path.  That's why they go to such a lot of trouble to make those of us who DO find them feel so welcome.  Katherine and Jim are Cruisers... so they KNOW what we like!

The welcome basket was overflowing with food, spices, information... everything we want, and nothing we don't!  After they got us docked, they left us alone to finish settling in... then it was off to Dream Away for happy hour!

Katherine and Jim have been all over in their years as Cruisers and Liveaboards.  They have a LOT to say!  We could have talked forever!

That's a Piratical Feline...
While Bruce and Jim talked about guy stuff, Katherine and I bonded over our mutual love of felines... and planned the events of the next couple of days.

Katherine and I found that we have several mutual friends.  What a small world this turns out to be...

I gave Katherine complete creative control of our days here... She was full of ideas and I want do to it ALL!

See more pics in the slide show below.
Bruce and I left her to plan and we took off on our bikes for a tour of the town.  As Katherine warned... it wouldn't take too long!

We hadn't been off the boat in three days and needed to get our blood pumping, so we rode the narrow, quiet streets of Delcambre until we came upon the town cemetery.  You KNOW how we love to poke around cemeteries... We spent some time there walking the aisles, marveling at the rich marble and ornate markers.  There were several common names, many Delcambres... It was a beautiful place.

The marina was still and quiet
By the time we returned, Katherine had a whole itinerary laid out for our approval.  We had rum drinks aboard Dream Away and talked well past dinnertime.  We would meet in the morning and head out on a full day's excursion to see the sights of the surrounding towns.

The first stop on our outing the next day, was the Konriko Rice Mill.  We drove to New Iberia and joined other tourists for a brief orientation and tour of the mill.

The Mill is the oldest working mill in the US and is run by a total of 17 people.  The site was admitted to the Historical Site Registry in the 80's and it seems as if time stands still within these tin walls.

The Packaging Is All Done Right Here
The floors, walls and machinery are all original.  If something breaks, they figure out how to fabricate a repair.  There aren't Rice bin fixers coming out of the colleges these days...

Natural Pest Control
The operation is very simple, down to the natural pest control methods still in use to this day...

Rice dust hung in the air... we got to see a big bin in action shaking the bran off the rice.  Who knew that making rice could be so interesting?

Louisiana and Texas are third and fourth in the country for rice production.  This little mill sells to distributors for shipping all over the US and Canada.  Their products are wholesome and healthy.  Look for the brand in stores or order online.  We bought all we could store...

We had a nice lunch, lots of authentic home cooking' Cajun style... at a place called Victor's Cafe.  The food was delicious and I was amazed at how they can make familiar foods so uniquely Cajun...

View from the second story back porch of the garden and Bayou Teche.
Onward to a tour of "The Shadows on the Teche".  It was here that our appreciation of all things "Acadia" was born.  The rich and heartbreaking history of these people, the Acadians (shortened to Cajuns) unfolded before our eyes.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the home, so you'll have to go there yourself to see it.  We were fascinated by this glimpse into the lives of olden times.  The Shadows enjoys a history documented by four generations, passed down in the form of thousands of personal letters, plantation records and receipts.  They provide an unparalleled true representation of how life was on the plantation in it's heyday.

The epic poem: Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie describes the heartbreaking history and story of the plight of the Acadians, the original Cajuns who made this part of Louisiana what it is.

We learned of all four generations of families who have lived within the walls and walked these gardens.  It was awesome to walk the lawns and imagine life as it was for these people.  Go see it!

We drove back to Delcambre as the afternoon wore on... We stopped at Shawn's Cajun Meats to shop and to thank Shawn for the AWESOME gift we found in our Welcome Basket!  We REALLY like gifts of the edible kind!  Remember I had one failed attempt at buying Boudin before... Well, thank goodness for that!  I found plenty of information and variety here at Shawn's.  My only regret is that we don't have more freezer space!

We had an hour to ourselves back at the Marina to rest (read: find places for the meat and rice goodies we had purchased), before we met back at the car to be on to our dinner destination!  I know, why didn't we just stay at the boat and eat BOUDIN!?  We went to the neighboring town of Abbeyville, LA to eat at another local institution... Shucks!  We dove into their Sassy Shrimp and the Shrimp Po-Boy is second to none... full of the very different Vermilion Bay's Sweet White Shrimp found only here!  I've eaten a LOT of fresh Gulf Shrimp in my lifetime, but none as sweet and delicate as these...We even took home a bottle of Sassy Sauce for later...  YUM!  I think we need to get out of here before I gain those lost "Libras" back!

We collapsed into bed with full tummies this night...  My head was spinning with all the experiences of the day.  What could we possibly do tomorrow to top this!?

Well, our day started with Bruce working feverishly to install the two new batteries we got from Mike at Le Blanc's Oil Company.  We had called ahead and made arrangements for Mike to have two new AGM 4D batteries available for delivery to the boat upon our arrival.  The guys showed up and helped Bruce get them onto the boat and took the old batteries (over 100 lbs each)away.  Chances are, if you need something repaired or replaced while you're in Delcambre, Katherine can hook you up!

All of that cut our second sight seeing day short.  We were only able to have lunch and one other stop... so we combined the two at the Rip Van Winkle Gardens.  I was starved so we stopped at the Cafe first...  We were there at 2:00 and they closed at 3:00 so the place was emptying fast.

We got the primo table in the front left corner with a stunning view of sparkling Lake Peigneur.  This benign looking lake was hiding an unbelievable secret...  Take a few minutes and watch the video link...

I think we'll be buying our fish TOO!

We strolled the quiet gardens well past the season for flowers and tried to imagine what must have been going through the minds of the people here on that day...  All of it made me a little nervous to walk atop of the salt dome that is Jefferson Island...

We took the tour of the old home and found once again, no photos allowed inside.  This is a true pity for you as the home was filled with original furnishings and the hand painted walls alone are worth a thousand words...  The charming tour guide took us through the home and pointed out so many unique items I have no no words to describe it.

One strange thing happened while we were inside viewing the original paintings by Joseph Jefferson.  He was an actor, famous for his Rip Van Winkle, and thus the gardens are named...  His painting was displayed in one room of the mansion and many are known for hiding animals within the brushstrokes on the canvas.  The tour guide pointed out many of these and I pointed out a face, staring back at me from the frame.  She said there wan't any such face.  I outlined it for her and she was amazed that this face had never been discovered before.  She was astounded at my discovery.  It was a ghostly face and I wonder if she'll be able to find it again after we left...

Sadly we had no time left for more site seeing and returned to the marina to prepare for our departure in the morning.  I can't say how much Katherine and Jim have enriched our experience of this marvelous place.  Thank you to the City of Delcambre for this opportunity.  The town itself is a simple place.  But the people and the nearby attractions make it a most AWESOME (for lack of a better word) and Must-See stop on your passage along the Louisiana ICW.  These are just SOME of the things to do in Southern Louisiana...GO.

See all the photos from our visit to Delcambre in the slideshow below: