Monday, December 12, 2016

Red Stick Redux

We are under way in the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. As of a few moments ago, our movements are now being controlled by Vessel Traffic. We are also now in a part of the river where we may only anchor in designated places and where we must maintain a listening watch at anchor, a ready bridge watch, and be able to get underway as directed if need be.

Vector anchored in Baton Rouge.

Saturday evening we anchored in a "chute" behind Profit Island (map), very nearly in the dark. We knew that anchorage would be a stretch, but we wanted to have a fairly short trip to Baton Rouge yesterday. We should have arrived right at sunset, which would have given us plenty of light for anchoring purposes.

Approaching the John Audubon Bridge, one of the newest Mississippi crossings.

All well and good, but we ended up having something of a fuel emergency. Apparently my tally of how many gallons were left in the port tank was off, and when I transferred fuel to the day tank in the morning, the transfer was short between five and ten gallons. Worse, the transfer pump must have lost prime.

When it became clear during an ER check that we did not have enough fuel in the day tank to make the anchorage with an appropriate safety margin, I went down to transfer fuel, but nothing was moving. We had no choice but to stop and reprime the pump; I made a safety announcement on the radio and we pulled as far off-channel as we could before dropping the hook.

Louise hamming it up on the fleur-de-lis of the enormous Baton Rouge sign.

Repriming is a simple matter of opening the filter housing and topping it up; we carry a small can of diesel for that purpose. Once that was done I was able to transfer fuel from the belly tank, and we were weighing anchor and back under way in a matter of fifteen minutes or so. A tow who heard the safety call checked in on us as we got back under way -- everyone looks out for everyone else here on the river.

Profit Island Chute turned out to be one of the nicest anchorages we've had on the entire river, and we had a peaceful night. In the morning we weighed anchor for Baton Rouge; within an hour we were changing radio channels for the very busy and partly traffic-controlled stretch from Baton Rouge to the mouth.

Approaching Baton Rouge. Huey Long (Airline Highway/US190) bridge in the foreground.

With a very literal reading of the anchoring regulations I determined we could be right by the waterfront, and we dropped the hook just upriver of the tourist pier as close to shore as we could safely get (map). We ended up abreast of the historic Old State Capitol building. We also had something of an audience; after two days of bitter cold, it was almost 70 when we dropped the hook (and climbed above that later), and lots of folks were enjoying a Sunday walking along the levee, out on the pier, or visiting the USS Kidd just downriver (aground at this river level).

The city pier, with the USS Kidd and Belle of Baton Rouge just downriver. The water was too low for us to reach the lowest landing.

With pleasant temperatures and a very early arrival, I was able to spend some time up on the boat deck cleaning up the damage to the dinghy propeller, and also finishing up a project to be able to charge the dinghy battery on deck. This involved putting an Anderson connector on the dinghy and one on the davit power supply, so the two can be connected by a cord I previously built to connect the two scooter batteries together. That worked like a charm and the tender fired right up without pull-starting.

Baton Rouge riverfront with enormous sign. Historic Heidelberg Hotel (now a Hilton) at right; tall pointy building in the distance at left is the "new" capitol.

Landing ashore was a bit more problematic. At this river level the water's edge is more or less large boulders and rip-rap; a protective layer of river mud has already washed off. After ten minutes of searching we found a spot where we could "dock" the dinghy against a large rock shelf and tie off to a fence stake ashore. A short walk across to the levee wall brought us to a set of concrete steps to the levee top.

We wandered down the levee, past the Kidd and to the Belle of Baton Rouge casino, which brought back some memories from a decade ago when we ate there with relief coworkers. We left the levee and walked through the River Center; the last time we were in there it was being used as an enormous shelter.

The Old Capitol. Open for visitors, but not Sunday.

We spent over an hour just wandering around downtown; Baton Rouge is going through something of a renaissance. We ended up stopping for an early beer at the Hotel Indigo, enjoying it out on the sidewalk tables for the first time in weeks. Quite the contrast from the last two days. We enjoyed meeting Kevin and Doreen at the bar, Baton Rouge locals enjoying an afternoon on the town, who confirmed our choice of dinner venues.

We had a very nice dinner at the upscale Stroube's, adjacent to the town square with it's nicely lit Christmas tree. It was nice to be able to see a different side of Baton Rouge. Long time readers may know that we spent more time in Baton Rouge in our bus, Odyssey, than any other single city. Things look much different out on Airline Highway.

Tree at North Boulevard Town Square. LSU art museum to the left.

If we had had another day I would have visited the science museum and planetarium, in a historic railroad depot, or perhaps the USS Kidd. Sadly, the Industrial Canal lock is still closed, with no estimate for an opening, and at this writing it is almost a sure bet that we will need to take the three full days to go around.

Immediately across from us; LSU art museum and old water tower at left; Old Capitol center-frame behind the old rail depot, now part of the science museum, with planetarium on right.

Tonight we will be anchored in one of the designated anchorages on the river, and tomorrow we will reach the Industrial Canal by mid-afternoon. If it's not open, we'll need to continue downriver another full day.

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