Around the bend

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 10: Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009

No early start for us today.

Last night's camp was in the mud above the riprapped river bank. We had to wait for daylight to get the kayaks back over the riprap on our driftwood skids. Besides being slick with mud, the boulders also have exposed wire cable and rebar to trip over. We had the same things to contend with at tonight's campsite. We are now 17 miles from Mile Zero.

This morning we slid Danny's kayak down to the water first and he shoved it up into a rocky, muddy cove while we got mine down. As I was sliding into my cockpit, Danny yelled that one of the crew boats was about to pass by at full speed. I quickly settled into the cockpit and secured my spray skirt. I knew I could handle the oncoming waves if I swung TPII around to take them bow first. Just then a big swell picked up TPII and dropped her stern wedged tightly between two boulders. Now I couldn't turn bow-first to the waves. I yelled that I was stuck tight and Danny grabbed his paddle, climbed to the top of the riprap and waved it over his head at the approaching boat. They saw his signal and slowed up enough that I was able to get back out of the kayak, lift it out from between the boulders and get to deep water before the waves reached us. It was an exciting start to a long day.

The wind had increased during the night and by the time we pushed off this morning it was between 15 and 20 mph right into our faces. It didn't really slow down any until after 1530. By the time we stopped for lunch on the bank at Homeplace, La., we had only gone 15 miles in four and a half hours. We usually cover 20 miles in four hours. I knew our goal of reaching Venice, La., before dark was in jeopardy. At 1530, we decided we would go to Plan B if we didn't have Venice in sight by 1830. That plan was to make camp wherever we were then paddle to the Venice harbor entrance in the morning, leave any gear we could do without hidden on the bank, do the 10 miles on to Mile Zero and back, pick up our gear then meet Steve and Susie at the marina as planned.

At 1800 we changed to Plan B. By that time we were still seven miles from Venice. So in the morning we plan to do 17 miles down and 10 miles back up. I hope the winds are more favorable than they were today.

We finally got to see an alligator today and a shark! Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you feel about them, they were both dead. I came upon the alligator carcass in the river as we were cranking against the strong headwinds. At first, I couldn't tell what it was but closer inspection revealed it to be the head and torso of what had been a good sized gator. The legs and tail had been removed. Poachers, I guess, or maybe the propeller of a barge or ship. Danny found the shark here at tonight's campsite. This appears to be a popular place to dump the leftovers from fish cleaning. Near a large and fragrant pile of fish parts was the remains of a small shark. This was not exactly the way we had expected to see these two specimens of lower Mississippi River wildlife.

The wind was really brutal today. I wish we could have made it to Venice. Actually, Danny could have. He is a much stronger paddler than I am. I had hoped to get some info about Mile Zero from someone around the marina but now we will just wing it on our own. Oh well, if we have any trouble finding it, I can always use my trusty radio, which no one answers!

From Lake Itasca, Minn., 2284 miles down, 17 miles to go and 10 back up.

Oh, great! The wind is starting up again!

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