Last post (before the Woody one) we were off to NOLA, but beforehand I went to visit the USS Alabama museum with Henning, off the sailboat (yacht) FLYING FREE, while his wife Joanne and Carolyn went off and did "girls stuff". As well as the battleship there was a submarine, but not as good as the one in Manitowoc, and a bunch of airplanes including a B52. It was a great museum and took the whole day to get round it. Considering its age, USS Alabama was an incredible piece of technology, and you get to see a lot of parts of a warship you will never see anywhere else.
To get to NOLA, we had to travel the Mississippi Sound. This is an 80 nautical mile long, 10-12 mile wide stretch of water between the mainland and the Gulf Barrier "islands" (I put the word islands in quotation marks because they are in fact little more than sand banks, some with a few trees). The mainland itself is very low lying and the sound is very shallow - only a few feet deep in places. The Intracostal Waterway through the Sound is a dredged channel 12 ft deep with many "spoil areas" (presumably where they dump the dredgings) alongside it and the lateral channels to the ports along the coast. Straying off the channels is dicing with disaster as grounding could be a long term issue, bearing in mind there is only one tide a day and while there is only two feet of tide change, a strong North wind can lower the tide by as much another 2 feet as well. Although the Barrier Islands provide little shelter, the weather on the way to NOLA was kindly and we spent our first night at anchor near Cat Island, just off the waterway, arriving right on dusk. Here, when the sun goes down, it ges dark real quick - so we were just in time. Because the islands are so low, you actually have the phenomenon of having both the sunrise and sunset over water, even though you are not actually at sea.
The area is also full of oil rigs, one of which caught fire today, as you have probably already heard (we were atb the marina office when the Coast Guard were calling it in on the VHF this morning).
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The following day we made New Orleans, after passing by some impressive land works, started after hurricane Katrina, designed to keep the Gulf of Mexico out of town.
We stayed 4 nights at New Orleans in a new marina/RV park near Lake Ponchitrain. We probably wouldn't have stayed that long, but the weather turned quite dirty with cold Northerly winds and rain, and we didn't fancy being out in the exposed Sound in that. New Orleans was quite underwhelming. We did a bus tour of the city which included the famed 9th Ward that suffered so badly from Katrina. After 7 years there are still a lot of derelict houses and buildings but, quite frankly, it didn't look a lot worse than some of the other parts of the country which have been effected by the recession rather than a natural disaster. The much vaunted French Quarter I found somewhat grubby and sleazy - maybe it appeals to those under 40 but it didn't do a lot for me. The city looks poor and gives the impression it has been like this well before Katrina, and considering the money that is being poured into its infrastructure, you would expect to see a little more enthusiasm from the locals. I got plenty of pix of the posh Antebellum homes and all sorts of other stuff, but found the whole NOLA experience somewhat depressing. I was not disappointed to be leaving, other than the lumpy trip back to Mobile and another overnight stay behind Cat Island that is hardly an island in Northerly winds averaging 25 knots, and our first encounter with the dreaded crab pots - one of which we got round a prop shaft.
A wee aside about the Ponchitrain marina. It was new and had all the amenities, but wouldn't take our reservation without a credit card, which was charged prior to arrival. When you plugged in to shore power, they read the electricity meter and you were not allowed to leave without going to the office and paying the electric first. This means they had to read the meter, and since the office didn't open until 8.00am, you could not leave any earlier. When we went to leave, the electric bill was printed on a separate invoice for the princely sum of $0.15 - yes folks 15 cents! Any one contemplating staying there who wants to leave early iI would suggest they just leave 50c on the pedestal.
Anyway, we're now back in Mobile and will head East tomorrow for the Florida panhandle where I am lead to believe the ICW is far more anchoring friendly and the towns and cities quaint and picturesque