Valkyrie's First Voyage

Updated 1/13/2009

The Port of Iberia Parish marina made some major changes effective Jan. 2009. Among others, no more live aboards. Of the two nearby marinas, one was full and the other too shallow. Sometimes drawing 6-1/2 ft. is a big drawback. Well, we were all set to go crusing so why not just go?

We were thinking Texas until the weather warms up and found what looked like a great, affordable marina in Port Lavaca that welcomes live aboards. The only  hitch was their 1/4-mile channel off the main channel is stilted up. The harbormaster told me we could get in with a South  wind.

12/13/08: We departed the Port of Iberia. We had to push through the mud, but got stuck a bit over halfway out. Luckily Bridget and CJ were there and had their outboard handy. They tugged us out of the slip. We were a bit worried about making it out the channel in the bay. Lucked out and had a half foot of water under the keel in the silted up half mile or so. The winds were howling, so we sailed under half-reefed jib only, making almost 8 kts.,  to about even with Cypremort point, got out the channel and anchored for the night.

12/14/08:  Wind still up there (why didn't I look at the anemometer? Duh) so sailed under reefed main and jib at 7 to 7-1/2 kts. Now I pulled a stupid. Had I mentioned Cathy came down with a bad cold. She was in bed and I was thinking no problem sailing through Southwest Pass. Well, turned out the wind would be from dead ahead once the turn was made. I
hurriedly tried to start the engine. Notice "tried". I'm not sure just what was wrong, it started right up later. Anyway, while trying to get the engine going and the autopilot steering, we ran aground. Big time aground. I plead tired from all the stuff we were doing before departing.

I dinghied out the new lunch-hook anchor we got from Juan. We tried heeling over with the anchor attached to the spare halyard. No go, the anchor was dragging. Plan B. We moved the rode to the bow and tried to pull the bow around with the windless so we could power out. So much for plan B - the rode broke and Cathy, who was cranking at the time, went headfirst into the headstay, brusing her hand. Her hand was okay in a few days, but the anchor is gone forever. Hey! Before you jump on me, I'd rather lose all our anchors that Cathy getting hurt!!!

A couple crabbers in an outboard showed up about 4 hours into the grounding and pulled us out. Not much traffic out there, I guess because of the high winds. A small crew boat had come by earlier, twice, but they didn't answer our radio calls. Into the Gulf and sailed to near Freshwater Bayou. Dropped the anchor.

12/15/08: Underway under full sail 7 to 7-1/2 kts. A couple hours later the wind died so we cranked up the Iron Wind. Before long a ground swell of 5 to 7 ft. started, right off the beam. Then I saw a white wall ahead. The wall was fog with visibility from a few hundred feet to about a quarter mile. First time I wished we had RADAR. We picked our way through it and came into the Lower Mud Lake, Grand Chenier channel, putting the GPS line right between the bouys. On the chart it looked like there was a kind of lake with deep enough water to anchor outside the channel. Nope. Guess the hurricanes changed things. We couldn't get up to whatever the little town or settlement is because the canal shallowed up. So back out into the Gulf to anchor. During all this the fog lifted.

12/16/08: The fog lifted enough to get underway at 12:17 PM. Hardly any wind so we motorsailed. A few hours later the engine compartment smoke alarm started wailing. The bearing and seal on the engine freshwater pump went out. Coolant flying everywhere. I guess a smoke alarm also detects antifreeze!
Funny. I had looked at that pump several times and wondered if I should get a spare. Well, it was perfect and never any touble all the times we went out. It's like a car water pump and like a car water pump, went out all of a sudden.

I scrouged around in the supplies and came up with a way to tee off the raw water going to the exhaust and run said raw water through the engine and out into the bilge. Ran about 2-1/2 hrs with no problem to an oil company dock at Cameron, LA. Very nice folks there and said we could stay as long as we needed to.

12/17/08: Hooked up a water hose and flushed the saltwater out of the engine. Called Castille's in New Iberia. They had a pump.
Peanut at Castille's said the pulley had to be pressed on and that he would find a used pulley for us. He said return the old one when we had a chance.

Called Bill and he and Jan were nice enough to bring us the new water pump and thermostat. The fog was getting worse so they left right away. I sent the old pump, with pulley, back with  them and installed the new pump.

12/18/08: Cranked up the engine and it overheated. Didn't seem to be moving the coolant. Called Peanut. Well gang, little did I know there's a "plate" that goes between the water pump and engine. The plate stayed with the pump we returned. They had a new plate and I called Ron, asking if he would make "one more hotshot run". He and Cheryl arrived in the afternoon and left pretty quickly. Again the fog.

We must be living right to have such great friends!

After the repairs, because of Cathy's cold and the morning fog we decided to go inside and play motorboat.

12/19/08: The fog lifted and we departed about noon, going up the Calcasieu River to the ICW. The Ellendar bridge is listed at 50 ft. down. Well, it don't open gang. Nobody stationed there. I guess you'd have to call some number and get somebody out. Anyway, their gauge showed "51.5 ft.". Now, we weren't sure just what our mast height is, but thought about 52 ft. We creeped up to the bridge and it sure didn't look like we could make it. I checked in the log and found I had written down "50 ft., probably more like 49-1/2" after measuring on the halyard and to the water.

Okay. We can make it. Creeeeeeep slooooooowly back up the bridge and under. MADE IT! Man, it sure looked close.

Tied up to a grounded work barge at a little company. Nice folks said no problem. We had tried to get to some pilings nearby, but not enough water.

12/20/08: Fog. So what else is new? Check oil, clutch oil and coolant. All full. The fog lifted and we got underway at 9:45 AM. Ran aground trying to get into Rainbow Marina just in the Neches River at Port Arthur, TX (Notice a trend? Fog and shallow water.). Backed out and went upriver and anchored in an oxbow in 30 ft. of water. That night a tug came by and asked if we could move further in. They brought a ship and anchored it where we were!

12/21/08: NE winds 15-25 with a forecast of greater than 30 and cold, so we decided to stay a bit. We kept hearing the ICW was "messed up" West of us  so I started calling marinas. The few that answered from us to Galveston confirmed this and said they didn't have fuel, that they still didn't have electricity from Hurricane Ike. The nearset one that had fuel was in Freeport, TX.

I called the marina at Port Lavaca to be very sure we'd be able to get though their channel. The guy thought about it a bit and said with a strong South wind they'd really only be 5 to 6 ft of water. After some thought, we decided to head back to New Iberia, take care of a few things we hadn't had the time to do, and head East. We called Bon Fouca Marina at Slidell, LA, where our friend Niles moved, and lined things up.

12/23/08: We spent three days anchored due to weather, then departed at 6:30 AM for Bow Tie Marina at Lake Charles. The Ellendar bridge gauge now showed "51 ft". Eased though and the top of the VHF antenna "tinged" on the lower part. So we need 51 ft.

Arrived at Bow Tie at 3:15 PM.  We figured we'd fuel up and rest a couple days before heading back. There's a little USCG station there and they decided to do an inspection of Valkyrie. Not a problem, but we did want to shower and take it easy. All in all it was a pleasant experience with the coasties as nice as could be. We passed with flying colors, having more of everything than requried. We did run into a bit of a hitch with our Lectra/San MSD. The young gentleman really wasn't familiar with them and read a couple things wrong in his manual. I asked nicely if I could correct him. He was very good about it and finally did mostly understand. He commented that he was learning things and would research it further. The main thing was he really didn't know what a Y-valve was and apparently had never heard of NDZ's (No Discharge Zones).

To explain, we have a Lectra/San Type I MSD (Marine Sanitation Device). It uses the salt in the water, or added salt when in fresh or brackish water, to make
chorine to disinfect. It has two stages and also grinds up everything. You could actually drink what comes out. Not that anyone would want too. Bottom line is we're actually cleaning the water we're floating in. Because of the early ones, our gov'ment decided there could be "No Discharge Zones" where you can't use them. There was a bill a few years ago to do away with these NDZ's, but it just sort of died before it got to the full senate.

We had our Christmas dinner on Christmas eve. Lobster and crab cakes, candied yams, all that good stuff, and departed Christmas day.

12/25/08: Departed Bow Tie 7:00 AM. After going through the Calcasieu Lock the fog rolled in again. When visibility dropped to can't-see-the-port-bank we dropped anchor. Underway in a couple hours and anchored in the Mermentau River.

12/26/08: Fog lifted enough at 10:10 AM. Stopped at Shell Morgan Landing in Intracoastal City just before 5:00 PM. Had to push though mud to get to the dock. We met a couple aboard
Aquarius, a Cheoy Lee 36. Tony and Mia, and their friendly dog Misha. They were coming from Houston and heading for the Bahamas. Very nice folks. They asked if they could follow us. Of course we said yes.

There was a big catamaran there. The dock guy mentioned he had all kinds of trouble docking, hitting the dock and "splitting" open one of his hulls.

12/27/08: Departed at 7:40 AM. It was clear and warm. What a difference! We arrived at the Port of Iberia at 11:50 AM and pushed through mud to get into Niles' old slip. We took his so we could plug into Bill's power (with his blessings of course!). Aquarius pulled in next to us in our old slip. Well, Juan's slip.

We made 320 NM to get back where we started!

One of the things we had to take care of was our anchor/tri-color light. I noticed it was flopping around up there earlier. Sterling went up the mast and found the bolts stripped. He epoxied it and put a long hose clamp we made up out of several. Hasn't moved since. I guess one day we'll get someone to rethread and fix it right. Took care of all our business and fueled up.

12/30/08: We departed the port, again. The water was low, so we set the alarm for 3:00 AM to catch the high tide. We were able to back out and tie up behind the tugboat across the canal, then departed at 6:45 AM.

We arrived at the Morgan City dock at 4:00 PM. Now word is there are slips between the bridges and it's free. Berwick Traffic told us not to try going under the bridge, it was too low for us. There's a dock just before the bridges. Not a good place. The pilings are in groups of three, wired together with big cables. The dock is high and the power is a ways back. It's no longer free - cost us $20 to bounce around. If ever we take that route again, we'll go to the free no-power Berwick city dock.

12/31/08: Departed 7:20 AM and arrived at the Houma Municipal Marina at 1:10 PM. The little canal is shallow. We started pushing though mud almost when we turned into it. We had to dock bow in at a 45-degree angle, getting off and on via the bowsprit. They've gone up and charge $25 a night. Power and water, but no restrooms or showers. It's not really a marina, just a dock.

invited Tony and Mia over for New Year's (eve) dinner. Cathy fixed cabbage roles, black-eye peas and cornbread. It was yum-yum gooood.

1/1/09: Happy New Year!!!  Departed 7:00 AM. We had to back up a bit, then shift to forward with the wheel hard a port to swing the stern back to the center of the canal. Did that about four or five times.

We went on, but found out later Tony and Mia had problems getting out. They had pulled their stern in and were close to stuck. They finally got into the ICW and their throttle cable came loose, leaving the engine wide open. There were some tense moments with a tow in that very narrow part of the ICW. Heard most of it on the VHF.

We slowed down and they eventually caught up.

We arrived at 10-mile Island / Bayou Concession at 2:40 PM. There's a little island with a kind of channel around it, and shallow Bayou Concession going off. Usually you can tie up to a barge in there. This time it was pretty much full, with a tug and tow as well. We eased up to the big barge they were tied too and gently went aground about 8 feet from the big barge. One of the guys on the tug came over to the barge and caught our line, ran if around a bollard and tossed us the other end. No danger of swinging since the keel was in about a foot of mud.

I called Tony on the VHF and suggested he raft up to us. He cut it kinda' close, putting his dinghy under our
barbecue and ripping a big tear in his dinghy cover.

1/2/09: Departed 8:02 AM. Lucked out and went right into the Harvey Lock. Lucked out with the Inner Harbor Lock as well. There was one Westbound sailboat inside.

Aquarius made the turn to continue on the ICW towards the anchorage at Rabbit Island and we headed for Lake Pontchartrain and Bon Fouca. The Hwy 90 bridge closed was at 49 ft and was broken or something. We had to circle around for a bit over an hour until someone got there.

Arrived at Slip 2, Bon Fouca Marina at 4:20 PM. Hit bottom about halfway in, but was able to power though and half raft up to Niles. They were supposed to build a finger pier. Today, the 13th, they got as far as putting a short piling in a hole in the ground on shore. Maybe soon. Oh well, it's sorta' like Island Time, only colder.

We were thinking of staying maybe a week and heading for Pensacola, FL. However, when I called my favorite marina there I found they DOUBLED their rates since they remodeled. It would cost us almost $500 a month!!! No way. So we're planning to stay here for a couple months until the weather gets nice and head East cruising. No timetable, no set destination. Just cruzin'!