FROM: Gene Gruender
DATE: 2/11/99 3:37 PM
More excitement in the ICW

Rainbow Chaser got away from Lake Charles early Tuesday morning. The transmission is in, it seems to be working fine. And you'll never guess where we are as I write this. Stuck in the mud again.

Not on purpose this time, but it's probably best. We made a long run today, planning to go about 60 miles. We had an anchorage picked out, the cruising guide had many good things to say about it. Lots of room, no traffic, lots of lies.

Luckily we made it before dark this time. Once we got here we didn't find all the open, protected places the book mentioned. We found a fairly narrow channel with a little room on the sides, but not really decent anchoring room.

Farther up, right at a fork, there seemed to be just enough room to get out of the channel. We anchored Rainbow Chaser off the side of the channel at the fork, Ron anchored Anticipation about a quarter mile before there. From where I was, it looked like right in the middle of the channel, although he said he wasn't actually in it.

We were down below, Nellie was starting supper, when she heard some noise. Looking out in the dark, she saw a large shrimp boat heading directly for us. Opening the hatch, she was hollering at me about it. I think they saw the lights from the open hatch and made a hard turn, trying to slow down at the same time.

Putting it all together, here's what happened. Ron looked to be in the channel. The shrimp boat held way over to the side, leaving what really was the channel to avoid Anticipation. My anchor light was out, I knew that, so I had on my steaming light to shine forward and a 12 volt florescent trouble light shining to the back. I never checked to see if the steaming light came on - I usually do - turns out it didn't. Bulb was loose. I turned off the wrong breaker and the 12 volt florescent light was out. The shrimper didn't see us at all until Nellie opened the hatch to see what the noise was.

We were still recovering from that when a towboat came down the channel. He had a bit of a time figuring out what was there, but then he talked to us for a bit as he passed. It turns out that the channel is used, and quite a bit. So much for the Texas Louisiana Cruising guide. We've found many gross errors in that book. The towboat captain then told us that they move many barges in and out of a salt mine just up the way. (Salt mine? Cruising guide didn't mention that, either) When they come out with barges, often they have the front of the string of barges way out of the channel - right where I was anchored. He went on down the way to the salt mine.

Ron and I talked it over and the only thing we were sure of was we had to move. Dark as hell, no moon, can't see anything. While we were still trying to figure it out, the towboat started on his way back. Since we were 4 miles from the ICW and it was a crooked channel, we figured we'd follow the towboat back to the ICW. It's not like we never followed a towboat, after all. We just didn't know what we'd do when we got to the ICW. There is another channel across the ICW which is supposed to have room to anchor on the sides, but that information comes from the same book.

We fell in behind the towboat as he passed, and this time, the towboat was so slow I had trouble steering in the wind, we went so slow. We made it about 3 and a half miles, nearly to the ICW. I was talking to Ron about where to go next, and ran right into the bottom.

Problem solved! If it's too shallow for me, they sure won't run into me. I'm out of the channel, I'm not going anywhere. Ron has pulled in about 300 yards in front of me and put out several anchors. I think his keel is also in the mud, although he isn't stuck like me. I've put out an anchor, just in case I blow out of the mud, and we're going to try to get some sleep.

It's now Thursday afternoon. We got of the mud bar, finally. I had the wind right on the nose so raising a sail wouldn't help. I had to get the boat turned so that the wind would hit it at least a little bit on the side, then the sails could heel Rainbow Chaser over, making it shallower, thereby letting us get off the mud bank. I tried to use the motor with the rudder hard over to push the rear around, but the tide had gone out about 6', so we were stuck pretty bad. Finally Ron, on Anticipation, suggested throwing me a line, then heÆd try to pull my front around some.

After a lot of bad tries, we finally got a line between the boats, and after a number of tries to pull me, he finally go the right angle. When he gave Anticipation full power, I also gave Rainbow Chaser full power with the rudder turned all the way over. We also had the main up, and with all those powers, it just broke out of the bank, turned, sort of rolled a bit and came free. Deep water wasnÆt but a few feet to starboard and we took off.

There is a big front coming and is supposed to be here tonight. It is forecast to have winds up to 50 or so miles an hour and we donÆt want to be caught out in it. We don't want to fight towboats for a safe spot. We read the cruising guide, with a bit of skepticism. Between it and information we got from the tug that we followed out last night, we decided to go back up a certain canal where they were supposed to have free docks.

We motored up the calan way back into the back woods, sort of feeling like going into a place that might have been used in the movie "Deliverance". We got deeper and deeper, passing many side channels. We finally came to the "community" mentioned in the guide book and found just enough dock space for both boats.

Actually, it's a boat ramp with a dock next to it, mainly used by local fishermen. We're tied to the dock, Ron is tied to the launching ramp. It turns out, it's also right at the entrance to Avery Island, the place where Tobasco Sauce is made. We've just toured their factory and gotten our free sample.

As we sit here, we notice that most people who pass on the road about 15 feet off of our starboard side slow down and look real close. I'm sure they can't figure out what the heck we're doing here, or for that matter, how the heck we got here.

We'll probably stay here for at least 2 days, waiting for the wind to die down. It's not only supposed to blow pretty hard, it is supposed to drop down to the mid 30's. Those of you who are saying "Hah - at least they are experiencing cold too" keep this in mind. It should be back in the 50's the same day. No snow or ice.

I'm going to try to send this from a pay phone in the Tabasco Country Store. If you get it, it worked!

Gene Gruender
Rainbow Chaser