It took longer than expected, but we were finally ready to go. The plan was to be towed out from Berwick, down the Atchafalaya River and out through the bay. The Buzcador would depart Berwick as an “unmanned barge”.
Wondering why we had to get towed out? Why we couldn’t stay onboard? Because even though we were light ship, we had no cargo, little ballast and just enough fuel and water to make it- we were still really pushing our luck with our draft. We didn’t want to take any chances with our engines.
The Atchafalaya is not a very deep river. It has a lot of shallow spots. It’s also unique in that it’s actually replenishing the land in it’s delta. Most of the rest of Louisiana is loosing ground to the sea.
Our draft was over 12 ft and we knew we would be touching the bottom in at least a couple of places. Also, the intake for our engine cooling water was going to be sucking mud the entire time- not good!
So, we got underway about noon. The mighty Miss Edmay would be pulling and the Basin Endeavor would be pushing. The Buzcador would be ‘dead ship’ until we hit the sea buoy. No engines, no power, no lights, etc. We all scrambled over to ride the Endeavor out.
We did alright until we got to ‘Crewboat Cut’. We ran hard aground! I didn’t expect to have any trouble until much further down the river. The Atchafalaya River is always changing tho. We used to avoid this area by taking a bend in the river called the “Horseshoe”, but that stretch has been discontinued for navigation and the navigation aids removed. No telling what it was like.
Our 2 tugs tried hard to get us off the bottom. They struggled for at least 2-3 hours. Pushing and pulling, twisting and turning. The decision was made to call for another tug. We broke free just as the new tug “Mr Nicolas” arrived on scene.
They made fast and we proceeded on down the Atchafalaya. We made it as far as the ‘Lighthouse” before we were hard aground again. Another couple of hours spent to break us free, while questioning our chances of making it all the way out the river. The Lighthouse was only the 1st of the shallow spots I knew about. We still had at least 3 more to pass for sure.
The decision was made to turn back and try a different route. We cut the Endeavor loose as we turned into Bayou Chene and made our way through the ICW to the Houma Navigation Canal. I had some doubts about whether we would have the same problems there. I’d been through that way before and run aground there too.
Turns out, it was a good decision. We made it all the way out with no problems at all. I slept through most of it since I was going to be up all night on lookout. Nice scenery. I was up to see Cocodrie, and the last lowland parts of Louisiana as we made our way through Terrebonne Bay and out Cat Island Pass.
We turned the tugs loose at the sea buoy, stumbled around in the dark until the engineers cranked up the engines, and we were off!
More to come! 😉