Friday, 2/22/08                                                                                Day 20

We left Houma today.  After going to the coffee shop for breakfast, stopping in the laundry mat on the way to do a load of laundry, we left the great city of Houma, LA at 12:33pm.  We had to leave on short notice because we realized that we need a rental car in New Orleans and Avis closes at 1:00 on Saturdays.  In order to get to New Orleans in time, we needed to go part way today.  We traveled to the Fleming Canal Store in Lafitte, LA., and will have a short day tomorrow to Boomtown Casino, New Orleans in Harvey, LA.

The weather forecast was for thunderstorms all day.  It rained in the morning and stranded us in the coffee shop until we bummed a ride with some other nice-looking customers.  It stopped raining as we pushed off the docks, but soon started up again.  It stopped, but threatened to rain for the duration of the trip.

We arrived at Fleming Canal Store at 6:44pm.  It was dark and we were having trouble seeing, but we made it.  Toward the end of the day, as we motored down the ICW, which at that point cut through a forest, we saw some pretty scenery.   There was mist on the water and there was a floating field of water hyacinth.  There were also a lot of stumps and logs near the banks of the canal.  No wonder this area is called "Stump Alley."

The mosquitoes here in Lafitte are terrible.  They were bad in Houma, but here they are worse.  We have mosquito netting up with citronella candles burning in the salon and Bounce dryer sheets lying around everywhere.  We have heard that mosquitoes don't like the scent and will stay away.  I think it may be working so far.  We are leaving at around 7:00 tomorrow which will get us away from the bugs ASAP.

Saturday, 2/23/08
                                                                                Day 21

This morning, as soon as the Fleming Canal Store opened, we set off for a quick day to Boomtown Casino, just outside New Orleans. 

Boomtown Casino isn't the nicest place to dock.  The dock is metal, meaning that it can chafe through your lines easier than wood.  The dock is also right on the bank of the ICW.  One tow came by real fast, making a wake that caused the boat, tied up with at least 4 lines, to pitch back and forth and up and down.  We were taking water over the bow!  Our boat scratched up against the dock, even with all our fenders down.  Now, Mom and Dad were very worried.  While Bro and I did some school, they literally spent hours - at least 3- securing the boat.  We had to put anchors out to try and help the boat stay off the dock.  I hope it works! 

Later in the afternoon, around 4:00, we took our rental car into the French Quarter.  We saw a lot of neat paintings and people putting on little shows and music performances.  The shows reminded me of Key West Florida.  (I learned how to diagram sentences in English class, and here is something I did in the margins.)
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We went to a square on the water in Key West on our last trip exactly like it with the music and shows.  We went to Café Du Monde at ate Beignets.  The place was jam packed.  The only thing that very famous shop sells is drinks and Beignets!  Mom and Dad showed us a bunch about the French architecture of the region.  We walked down Bourbon Street, one of the country's liveliest, and Canal Street, the country's widest main street. 

It was getting late and we hurried home to check on the boat.  Everything was fine.  It was a nice day.

Sunday, 2/24/08
                                                                                Day 22
We did a lot of fun things in New Orleans today.  My Uncle Gary is a pastor at Memorial Drive Lutheran Church in Houston and he brought a youth group to New Orleans to do a service project with about 40 other Lutheran high schoolers, helping to rebuild a park.  They all (or almost all) worshipped at Grace Lutheran Church in New Orleans.  We met up with Uncle Gary and went to church with him.  Faith Lutheran Church in Bellaire, our home church, sent money to help this church rebuild after Katrina.  They are still raising money to fix their pipe organ which was mostly destroyed.   They still need $100,000. 

After church, we went to a WWII museum.  It was really cool and we saw and learned a whole lot.  The only bad part about it was that it focused almost totally on D-Day landings in the Atlantic (the Normandy landing), and the Pacific (the U.S. fight against the Japanese).  It was fun, but we didn't get finished before our linner reservations at the Court of Two Sisters restaurant.  We went back and finished touring the museum after linner.  I call it "linner" because it was at 2:30 in the afternoon, right between lunch and dinner.

There was a special exhibit called, "When Baseball Went to War" which was about what happened to baseball in WWII.  WWII opened the door to the integration of, first, Hispanics, and then African Americans into baseball. 

At the Court of Two Sisters we had a great and filling linner buffet with live Jazz.  I tried Turtle Soup with sherry that actually had farm-raised turtle in it, and Duck A'La Orange.  Both were good.  I also had Cream Spinach, an omelet with ham, cheese, mushrooms, chives, and onions, Catfish Roulette, and Shrimp Etouffe.  I didn't not like anything.  For dessert, I had some Bananas Foster, Chocolate Mousse Cake, and a brownie with nuts.  It filled us all up and we did not have anything later this evening. 

We got home and watched a DVD of the Lone Ranger before getting ready for a half-early bedtime.  We have to get up early to meet Dad's Aunt Mary.  She lives in Mississippi on the Louisiana border.  Today was great!

Monday, 2/25/08
                                                                                Day 23

We were not able to see Aunt Mary today because she got very sick last night and was not able to go out for breakfast or have company at her own house as was planned.  We went out for breakfast on our own at a restaurant with free wi-fi internet access.  From there we ran some errands in the rental car and returned the car.  We just made the return deadline.  We thought it was for 1:00pm, but it was for 12:00pm.  We took a taxi cab back and just hung around for the rest of the day, playing and doing school.  A tow named Jesus Saves parked next to us and we talked with the captain.  He used a grappling hook to grab on to our anchor chain and pull it out farther than Dad could get it.  That helped pull our boat off the metal dock.

Daddy made stuffed shells for dinner with squash, onions and garlic on the side.  He stuffed the jumbo pasta shells with ricotta cheese and pesto.  Josh got in bed and played cards for a while before he went to sleep and I'm writing this.

Tuesday, 2/26/08
                                                                                Day 24

We weathered a norther today at Boomtown Casino.  It was cold and we stayed inside doing school and playing all day.  Dad rigged and readied almost all of our fishing gear.  We have tons of fishing supplies.  We hope to catch a lot of King Mackerel, Tuna, Wahoo, and snapper and grouper.  We have a huge book called "The Cruiser's Handbook to Fishing" that we use to set up most of our rigs once we have the supplies.

Another tug pulled up to the dock this evening.  Its name is Linda Ann.  We didn't go over to check it our.  We are going to get up early tomorrow to go down to Mississippi River to Venice, LA.  From Venice we will go offshore.

Wednesday, 2/27/08
                                                                        Day 25

The Mississippi River, which we traveled down today, has led us to our last stop before paradise, Venice, LA.  We got up early so that we could travel the 93 miles necessary in one day.  The Mississippi River was running very fast with a current of about 5mph, which helped us go over 10mph, which is fast for us.

To enter the Mississippi from the ICW, we had to go through an area called a lock.  The lock closed us in and raised the water level up to the Mississippi River's water level.  It took about an hour for the entire process.  The river was busy and we were constantly on the radio talking to huge cargo ships and tankers, as well as the regular tows.  We saw Jesus Saves again on the river.  We tried to call him, but he didn't answer his radio.

We went under the New Orleans City Bridge.  It is a trestle bridge, I think.  It is big and pretty cool.  We drove over the same bridge in our rental car to get into New Orleans the other day.

The Mississippi was like a big ICW.  The tows that looked large in the ICW looked kind of small in the Mississippi.  Maybe it was just because we were able to be so far apart on the Mississippi River, unlike the ICW.

We got to Venice, LA at 4:00, just as I expected.  We went up a canal to the marina and tried to dock.  The workers tried to put us in a bad spot.  They don't have any sailboats here and the wind pushed us into a few posts.  Mom and I got really scared as our dinghy, hanging off davits on the back of the boat, scraped against the post.  We backed out and asked if we could side-tie, where our side would be against the dock, instead of going bow in.  They said that there was one place.  We went there and found that it didn't have shore power.  We went to one last spot - a bow in slip, but the workers deserted us.  Some fishermen came to help us and after smacking the boat on a couple more pylons, we finished docking.

The marina had internet, but it's a weak signal that we can't get on the boat.  The marina doesn't have any bath houses either, but they did let us have a hot shower in one of the hotel rooms.  We all took long showers, used internet, and watched T.V. for about an hour.  Then we came back to the boat and had pasta for dinner.  The day was good and interesting.  We learned a lot without doing school.  We're all pretty happy and very tired.

Thursday, 2/28/08
                                                                                Day 26

Today after doing school and playing for most of the day, we had a lot of fun in the evening.

Venice is a nothing town.  There is not much here, and not too many people either.  Venice is a hot spot for sport-fishers though.  People from all over the country come here for fishing charters.  Venice is about 10 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and close to the Continental Shelf where the water gets deep and the fish get big.  Guides take clients out for a day, or even an overnight, of offshore, deepwater fishing at the Midnight Lump, around oil rigs, and other sea mounds.

At about 5:00, the chartered fishing boats came back with their catch.  Some people hadn't caught anything, but some had loads of Greater Amberjack, Almaco Jack, and tuna.  The amberjack were 2 ½ to 4 feet in length.  The tunas probably weighed at least 20lbs., sometimes more.  Here is a list of what we saw that they caught:  Almaco Jack, Greater Amberjack, Yellowfin Tuna, Blackfin Tuna, Black Sea Bass, Beeliners (Vermillion Snapper), Little Tunny, and Atlantic Bonito.  One of the captains/guides said that two big Mako Sharks were swimming around his boat.

Dad bought some amberjack from one of the clients.  We grilled it up for supper.  Josh contributed to supper as well.  He grabbed one of his $5 bills and bought some Yellowfin Tuna for sushi.  I made some Nigiri Sushi and some sushi rolls with some amberjack, the tuna, and our special supplies.

I said to Dad, "We'll be eating like kings tonight.  Wait, excuse me.  We'll be eating like emperors tonight!"  We all laughed at the comment.  Dinner was great!  Dad said that we might hire a guide to take us (except Mom) inshore fishing for Redfish and Speckled Trout.  That will be so fun.  I can't wait!

The weather forecasts showed that there won't be any weather windows for a while.  We might have to stay in Venice for about a week, maybe longer.  Life is awesome!

Friday, 2/29/08
                                                                                Day 27

Nothing much happened today.  The seas were rough in the Gulf and the charters/fishing boats didn't go out.  We did school for part of the day.

After school, around 2:15pm, we borrowed the harbormaster's truck to drive around and see what is left of some of the towns.  Almost all of the towns were mixed with destruction, spray-painted signs on walls saying "Do Not Enter" and "No Demo," and rebuilding.  Sides were torn off buildings.  Roofs were gone.  One town, called Buras, was definitely almost gone.  The harbormaster said the town was dying, and it was.  We saw almost no rebuilding there.  We saw where the church had once been, the fire department, and the school which is boarded up and will be torn down, and even a house that had fallen down on itself.  All over the area, we saw many slabs and sets of stilts that used to have houses on them.

We stopped at a confederate fort along the banks of the Mississippi River.  The main fort was not open to the public because it was damaged in the hurricane.  We did go onto a gun tower which was not part of the main fort.   It sat right at the river.  It wasn't much.  There were some placards.  It was okay.

Dad found a guide to take us fishing for Reds tomorrow.  The guide said it is the wrong time of year for Speckled Trout, so we won't catch any of those.  It'll be great!  I can't wait!!