February 15, 2008

Hello All,

We are alive and well and enjoying our sailing.

Liberty and her crew (us!) left the dock in Kemah on Sunday morning, February 3rd, finally, after extended preparations (beyond our unrealistic expectations, but commensurate with the expected duration of our cruise). We were all very excited about getting underway, and confident that most things will go well and we will be able to deal with the curve balls that come at us.

We have decided to make the first leg of our journey in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), which runs along the coast and through Louisiana, as far as New Orleans.  We will cover about 350 miles from Galveston Bay to the Mississippi River.  We then hope to ride the Mississippi about 75 miles down to Venice, Louisiana, where we will wait for a weather window for a 4 to 5 day offshore passage to the Dry Tortugas (a group of islands about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida). After the appropriate number of days soaking up sun and playing on the beaches of the Dry Tortugas, and with cooperative weather, we will head east to Key West, Marathon or some other appropriate provisioning/jumping off place in the Florida Keys. We expect the Bahamas to be our next destination after the Keys, but will let you know more about that later.
A New Day on the ICW
Headed for Galveston Bay
Sunrise on the Mermentau River
Scenery on the ICW
Left from the Hurricane
We have enjoyed the last 12 days on the ICW.  For the most part, it is easy, calm motoring and sailing.  We like to sail when we can, but the prevailing winds along the coast are east to southeast, and we are pretty much heading east to southeast.  There's a rule about sailing - the wind generally comes from the direction you want to go, and we've certainly found that to be true in the last few days.  We have enjoyed the scenery (including the barges) and the wildlife.  In the first two days, we saw over 30 different types of birds (egrets, gulls, terns, pelicans, hawks and eagles).  We were also entertained by longhorns, goats, donkeys, horses and raccoons.  Signs of Hurricane Rita are everywhere - trees with no tops, wrecked abandoned buildings, boats still on land.  Everywhere, there are pictures and stories.  But we also see signs of recovery and rebuilding.  The small grocery store we visited on our last trip in Intracoastal City was destroyed.  Today, they are running the business out of a small trailer, while a new grocery store is being built, this time elevated on stilts!

We have made a few stops along the way.  We spent a day in Orange, TX, visiting Dave's cousins, Mike and Cheryl.  It was great to see them and we were very grateful for their hospitality.  Upon arriving in Orange, our wind generator made a terrible squeak and stopped working.  Dave climbed up the mast and had to take it down and we boxed it up and shipped it back to the distributor in Florida.  Cheryl drove Nancy all over town to get a proper box and shipping material.  The company cleaned and repaired it under warranty and is shipping it to the City Marina in Houma who has agreed to accept it for us.
We spent 3 days anchored in the Mermentau River, off the ICW in Louisiana.  If you look at Google Earth, there is an island on the Mermentau, just north of the ICW.  We anchored at the south shore of the island.  It was very pretty and peaceful.  Lots of birds and pretty sunsets, a few fisherman, and us.  So, we spent a few sunny days there doing projects and emptying boxes and stowing their contents.  Everything doesn't have a home yet, but by the time we leave Venice, all our stuff will have homes on the boat, or in the dumpster.

We also spent 2 days at Avery Island, home of Tabasco Sauce.  We enjoyed a tour of the factory the first day and had intended on leaving the following morning.  Mother Nature had other plans for us, however.  A Norther blew through during the night and left us grounded at the dock.  (As in Galveston Bay, northers blow the water from the bayous into the Gulf, and we dropped over 3 feet at the dock the night the water went out). Making the best of it, we spent the day enjoying the botanical gardens on the island.  The next day, with only about 4 inches of water under our keel, and pushing through the mud in some places, we managed to get out of the dock area and back down Avery Canal/Bayou Petit Anse to the ICW.

Sunset on the Mermentau River
Tabasco Factory, Avery Island
Sunrise Departing Morgan City
Shrimp Boats at Intracoastal City
From there we arrived at our current destination, Morgan City.  We are tied to the city dock right in front of the 20' sea wall and flood gate which they closed to protect the city from Hurricane Rita.  Here in Morgan City, we toured "Mr. Charlie," the first transportable (and thus reusable) offshore oil drilling rig.  Built in 1954, it revolutionized the offshore drilling industry.  It was very interesting.
Tomorrow, we will continue on to Houma, where our repaired wind generator is waiting for us.  Dave will climb the mast and put it back in place and we should be on our way to New Orleans from there, enjoying electricity courtesy of Mother Nature once again.

One difference on this trip is that we are not having the daily (and sometimes hourly) crises, operational and maintenance, which characterized our first weeks on the last trip.  We have yet to run out of fuel in a ship channel (with a ship coming, of course), we haven't overheated the engine and run aground for the night, we haven't broken at least two parts a day and Dave hasn't had to fix two parts a day - maybe we actually learned something from the last time! 

The website is not working yet, and we apologize for that.  Please keep checking.  You can, however, follow our journey by going to the following position tracking site we report to:   <http://www.pangolin.co.nz/yotreps/reporter_list.php>.  Once at the site, scroll down for Nancy's ham radio call sign KE5NFL and click on "track".  This will show our position, as it was last reported by us.  We try to update it often, by satellite phone when we don't have internet access.  Note that the date and time are in UTC/GMT time, which is 6 hours later than Texas.
So that is the news from here.  We are all well and enjoying ourselves.  It has taken us almost no time to enjoy this more relaxing life style.  We feel like we have been gone a really long time.

We hope this finds you all well.  Thank you for your notes and prayers.

All our love,

Nancy, Dave, Chris & Josh
Aboard S/V Liberty in Morgan City, LA
Josh on the Mermentau
Chris as we leave the Mermentau