Monday September 14th morning it became clear to Sue and me that we would have to move our houseboat the Wetland Wanderer out of the Rigolets area (east of New Orleans) as the storm trackers kept moving the path of Ivan closer and closer to the Bayou State. By Monday evening the category 5 Hurricane certainly looked like it could become the worst-case sceniro that New Orleanians have feared for years. We would all be wishing we still had the 1,900 square miles of wetlands that have disappeared since the 1930's from coastal Louisiana. Land that was a buffer…barriers reducing higher tides and storm surges. People protection.
We set sail at 6 AM Tuesday, and once out of our anchorage, we found the Rigolets waters almost smooth. However, this did not last long, for once we were in Lake Pontchartrain the waves bounced us around slightly. Soon, we past Goose Point and we lost the land barrier blocking the wind and it instantly became rough. Sue started to worry that it might get nastier. Luckily we only had about two hours to go and I assured Sue that we would not have a boost of wind speed until late afternoon. Once through the Causeway Bridge we steered to the North for the Tchefuncte River and our hurricane haven. That turned out to be an unpleasant direction for the houseboat, for the northeast winds were blowing the waves broadside. Drawers flung open and spilt over the floor as we rocked heavily from port to starboard. Sue hurried to tape them shut.
At the lighthouse marking the rivers entrance, the seas calmed and we motored the few miles to Marina Del Ray, where we tied up to its floating pier. In lieu of a direct hit this would be a safe place for the houseboat as the pier rises with the inevitably rising tides. It took a while to get the lines taunt and the bumper in place and to unload some of the gear. We noticed quite a few boat owners busy as bees doing the same to their boats. In the slip next to us was a massive three-story houseboat that was once a bed and breakfast. Marina Del Ray looks like a fun place…on a day without a hurricane. Rob Claitor the on site manager told me it's the largest in Louisiana with over 450 boat slips. They have fuel, ice, a store, restaurant and many other amenities.
Once secure, Rob loaned us his truck to do a car shuffle to pick up my truck and dinghy. We soon found out that the rough ride across Lake Pontchartrain was no ordeal at all compared to fighting the traffic evacuating New Orleans. Another reminder how devastating a major storm could be. The roads out of New Orleans are few and some can flood. It took us four hours to do the round trip of 37 miles in the car, while it only took us three and a half hours to travel the same distance by houseboat at only ten mph.
As I post this Wednesday afternoon, it seems the storm is heading toward Alabama. I am glad we choose to evacuate the boat. We wish everyone safety and that the storm will spare lives and decrease in intensity.