Thursday, January 31, 2008

January 18-31, 2008 . . . To Houston and Return to New Orleans

Houston, a special trip to NASA was arranged by our friend Phil Moyer. We had an escorted tour by a friend of his and had a surpurb time.

The "Barf-Plane." The inside of the aircraft, a reconfigured C9, is padded and the new guys are taken up to experience weightlessness. The aircraft makes great dives, then climbs, then dives, and so on.............. A rollercoaster.

The reconfigured B59 is used by NASA to simulate Space Shuttle flight back to earth, landing.

The Neutral Bouyancy Lab is where the astronauts train to work in neutral bouyancy on the Space Station.

Our last look after hours of touring was at the Apollo series. The successes, most memorable was Apollo 13.

Being in Oil Country . . . had to see oil history and how-they-do-it. Charlie has a special affection for Texaco.

The Beaumont Oil Museum near the "beginning", Spindletop, had a great description of a refinery and how it works.

In Houston . . . the real thing.

A great evening was spent with Bonnie's cousin and his wife, Elliott and Susan Smith. They are completing their retirement home west of Houston and met us for dinner.

We had many great days and nights with our friends Phil and Virginia Moyer. Virginia came down with the flu and had to miss some of the activities. Bonnie departed Houston by plane to return to Virginia Beach and work . . . I had the task of moving from Houston back to New Orleans. The weather was not the best.

Anchorages were too shallow so could not anchor . . . had to proceed during darkness passing tugs and operating on GPS, Radar, and the Guiding Hand of the Lord! Then the generator quit . . . a problem with bearings.

Locks are great in the dark; but then everyone out there tries to help all they can. Makes the trip a rewarding experience.

Stopping in Houma, Louisiana, was interesting this time. The boat that pulled in front of SONATA is a 1.5 million dollar boat . . . however, the generator does not work, the fresh water does not work, the toilet system does not work and the poor guys wanted badly to take a shower and .... There are no facilities at Houma, I offered SONATA which one fellow accepted. This fellow is deaf! From South Africa and has been deaf since he was age seven. He has never heard an English word spoken and told me, yes told me, to continue talking for he had learned English, can speak and can read lips. He did a magnificant job! His name is Charl and has made a sailing trip around the world. You can see his website at On this occasion, in Houma, he was delivering this 1.4M yacht to Houston for his employer.

Saint Louis Catheral in the French Quarter, Jackson Square, from the River! On my way to the Industrial Canal and a lock out of the river and into the canal for my wait at Seabrook Marina for Bonnie's return on Friday.

Arrived at the Industrial Canal and "took a number" to get through. Was number 3, elevated to number 1, just as the automobile bridge went on curfew. Curfew from 1530-1745 (3:30pm to 5:45pm) so all that could be done is to tie up to the wall and wait, and wait. Got through the lock just after 1800 (6:00pm) and tied up at Seabrook, no assistance, the marina staff goes home at 4pm, at about 7:30pm. A great day! Avoided the serious weather scheduled for Thursday; which, as this is being written storms overhead with 50 knot winds and heavy rain. Tomorrow will be a great day.

Friday will be a great day!! A stop at the Central Grocery for a Muffuletta (if you have never had one your life is missing a gem.), then the Mardi Gras parades (see:, including the ones that were cancelled tonight due to weather, and Bonnie's return to SONATA with her daughter, Rhonda and her friend Leslie. Sunday or Monday we all are off to Pensacola via the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Rabbit Island, Biloxi and then Florida to Key West and beyond.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

January 1-18, 2008 . . . New Orleans to Houston

Bonnie returned to Virginia Beach for work on the 7th, I moved SONATA from behind David's house at Port Louis, to the town dock in Madisonville on the 8th due to the anticipated North winds(North winds blow the water out of Port Louis and make the entrance to shallow for SONATA to depart). And . . . while at Madisonville, January 9th, I was prividged to have a visit from a high school classmate Bob Merrell and his friend Christiane. They came over from Slidell on Bob's BMW bike and we enjoyed lunch and and an afternoon of visiting.

Before departing Madisonville for New Orleans and on to Houston; David, Susan, and grandsons Clayton, Alan and Phillip were over for dinner. It was a joyful dinner Susan had prepared followed by a tearful goodbye.

Friday, January 11th, departure from Madisonville and down the Tchefuncta River . . . on my way across Lake Ponchatrain to the Industrial Canal and Seabrook Marina.

The Causeway Bridge, North Channel, on the way to New Orleans.

New Orleans, Industrial Canal, Seabrook Marina. Bonnie returns on Friday evening and on Saturday the 12th Harvey Orr, joins us for the trip from New Orleans to Houston.

Sunday, January 13th, we are off for Houston and wait our turn to enter the Industrial Canal Lock. The severely damaged 9th Ward is to our Port (left) as we enter the Lock.

On the Mississippi River after leaving the Industrial Canal the French Quarter can (cannot) be seen over behind the tug we are passing. The Quarter is below the levee and all that can be seen is rooftops.

A closer look at the Quarter, the French Market, with St. Louis Catheral in the background in Jackson Square.

Past the downtown area, under the twin Mississippi River bridges, past the cruise ship we proceed up river to the Harvey Canal.

Bonnie again works her skill and places SONATA in the Lock . . . the deck hands, Charlie and Harvey relax on the bow as SONATA changes water level, down from the Mississippi River, to the GIWW (Gulf Intercoastal Waterway West).

The Harvey Canal is packed with shipping/boating industrial works. In this location was the home, the point of orgin, of most of the landing craft used in World War II amphibious warfare.

Along the GIWW on our way to Houma, Louisiana, the sides are lined with cypress trees, knees, all resting in the fall/winter colors of grey and brown.

Arrival in Houma was just at dark so on this westbound trip there are no pictures. An overnight alongside the town dock which was perpendicular to and just a few feet from the GIWW where tugs and barges continued their travel, proved to be interesting. The next morning we were off for Morgan City and moored at their town dock hoping to visit the City for lunch.

Departing Morgan City a picture of the "Charlie Rig" was taken in the sunrise. This is an offshore rig that has been retired, has become a museum, and a training center. The rig is moored in Morgan City which is one of the gateways to the offshore oil platforms.

TABASCO and Avery Island. Just to the North of the GIWW up a bayou is a salt dome known as Avery Island. It is on Avery Island that the Tabasco Plant produces that hot sauce that is found on every table in the country. This scene is the garden grounds of Avery Island were the grandsons of the founder created a bird refuge to save the snowy egrets.

With SONATA resting alongside the boat ramp dock we departed for our tour of the Tabasco Plant. Tabasco Gift Shop personnel were accomodating and kindly picked us up and assisted in making our visit to Tabasco a memorable one.

the Tabasco Country Store where we enjoyed lunch and a review of all the Tabasco products.

Have a pepper.........

Continuing on toward Houston we came to the Bowman Lock. This lock is different from the other locks we have encountered in that this lock does not raise or lower the vessel. The purpose of the lock is to keep the sea water, the salt water, from flowing into the marshes and rice fields. With the rains and the outflow of fresh water the locks were open and we passed right through.

The rain began to cease and God's Promise of a better day came into full view. This weather front later gave Virginia Beach cold weather and a dusting of snow.

Friday, January 04, 2008

December 26-28, 2007 . . . Louisiana River Plantations

By car from Madisonville to the River, the West side of the River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Two nights at Oak Alley Plantation. Oak Alley Plantation rests along the banks of the mighty Mississippi sixty miles above New Orleans. Built in 1837-39 and famous for its alley of 28 evenly spaced giant live oak trees, believed to be a century older than the mansion. See:

Our favorite plantation tour was of Laura Plantation (see: This Creole habitation began as a Colapissa Indian village. In 1804, Gillaume DeParc, a French veteran of the American Revolution, set up his plantation in sugarcane and it remained in his family until 1891 when his great-granddaughter, Laura Locoul, sold it to the Florian Waguespack Family. The Waguespack family ran resided on and lived at the plantation until 1984. Today 12 original buildings, including slave cabins, still stand on this National Register site. In the slave quarters at Laura and neighboring plantations were recorded for the first time in the U.S. the west-African folk stories of "Compair Lapin," better known today as the tales of "Br'er Rabbit."

Slave cabins behind Laura, now in need of repair.

Up on the levee in front of Oak Alley Plantation was the American Queen. Riverboat tours up from New Orleans.

The tugs and barges were also ever present on the River . . . passing in front of the Riverboat and our bed and breakfast . . . .

We became students of sugar cane.

A stop by the Cora Texas Sugar Cane Refining Plant . . . and online research into how "they" refined sugar cane in the 1800's.

Our last stop was at the Nottaway Plantation. One of the largest in the United States, some 65 rooms. All the crown moulding around the walls/ceiling was made from a combination of horse hair, spanish moss, and Mississippi River mud.

Christmas - 2007

The afternoon and early evening of Christmas Eve, Charlie's Birthday, was spend in the French Quarter.

A lovely walk down Royal Street past the many decorated balconys, dressed for Christmas.

One of the many passageways, alleys, from the street to the inside courtyards, where the beautiful well-appointed homes exist.

A stop for a sandwich, a muffuletta, at the City Grocery is a must . . . . then

Up to the levee to watch a departing cruise ship and an arriving cargo vessel. ....then off to

A little coffee and bignet...

Oh how wonderful, Aunt Sally's Pralines. See: for your own. There may be some left . . . only 180 calories per praline with 28g of sugar. They come in several flavors!!!