Mermentau River to Charenton Navigational Canal

Our anchorage on the Mermentau was beautiful and during the afternoon we had many alligator, turtle and bird sightings. This is a pretty remote area and we could also hear hunters firing at their prey way off in the distance. But all good things must come to an end in more ways than one. With 50 some miles, a lock and a fuel stop we had a long hard road ahead so anchor up and under way early. This trip has gone far too well so it was time for something to go wrong, after all this is cruising. Poking my head in the engine compartment shortly after heading down river revealed a pretty good stream of water coming out of the stuffing box. We use a special Goretex packing so the drip should be almost nothing. So here I was hanging upside down in the engine compartment trying to adjust the stuffing box as we drifted down river. This was the one thing we did not tend to before leaving with our long to do list occupying most of our time. I have not repacked the gland since I don't know when, maybe in Guatemala. So I suspect it is way past needing redone and after not going anywhere for 2 years and then pushing hard for the last week it is not surprising. The stuffing box is one of those things that had driven us crazy over the years. At times we can barely stem the flow and other times such as our trip from Central America to Texas it gave us no problems at all. We will keep an eye on it today and make adjustments when and if needed and just see how it works out. We would like to be able to nurse
it along until Houma but we will see.

There are more tugs today so that is getting back to normal for this part of the waterway. It is hazy and overcast and the air temp is about 81 degrees with very little wind. There is a bit of rain in the forecast for tomorrow morning and we could sure use a little fresh water rinse, but just a little. Our hardtop over the cockpit is set up as a big water catcher so it also helps fill the tanks. The trip through the Leland Bowman Lock went quickly and smoothly. As we arrived at the lock a tug and barge also east bound was tying up in the lock and we were instructed to come in as soon as he was secured and pull up ahead of him and tie to the opposite wall. As the gates behind us were closing the gates ahead began to open. We estimate that the water level raised maybe 6 inches and little turbulence was encountered. As soon as the gates were fully opened we were instructed to head out before the tug to avoid his prop wash. We got out as quickly as possible and headed for Intracoastal City.

Our stop at the Shell Morgan fuel dock in Intracoastal City revealed that our stuffing box was still leaking quite a bit so we decided it needed repacking now since we still had a long way to go the next couple of days. After fueling up and topping off the water tank we moved to the other side of the dock and tied up for the night. Fuel is at $4.05 per gallon here and this is usually the best price anywhere on the waterway. Overnight tie up is a flat $20.00 and there is electric but only 20 Amp service.

 This is right on the waterway and not one of our quieter stops. There are tugs and barges, work boats of all sizes, shrimpers and supply boats, sometimes all operating at the same time. It is noisy, smelly and rolly but the price is right. This worked out fine for us and shortly after settling in the repairs began. Once the flange is removed and the old packing is pulled out there is a pretty good flow of water coming into the boat. But once the new packing was in place the flow stopped immediately. The whole process took a couple of hours only because I want to do a small modification to the flange bolts and the stuffing box is very difficult to get to. The job needs to be done hanging almost upside down off the back of the engine which was quite warm from running all day. It is finally done though and should not need repacking again for some time. We will need to do some minor adjustments in the morning as we run down the waterway. Did I mention the engine room was really hot and very uncomfortable to work on the stuffing box?

Ordinarily we would head down river another 15 miles to Avery Canal, after stopping at Intracoastal City, but we will try and find another alternate anchorage farther down the road. Sometimes we just have to find these places on our own and sometimes they are a bit out of the ordinary. Sunday morning was dark and overcast and we had a tough time getting weather info. We have had no WiFi connections available since we left Clear Lake and the local TV stations don't do news on Sunday mornings. To add to the problem the VHF weather broadcasts are not available here either. We were able to piece together enough info from the Weather Channel to know a front was coming through just as we got up this morning. It was a weak one and other than a few sprinkles and a wind shift to the north it was over without much notice. We were off the dock and under way at about 9 AM after a few adjustments to the stuffing box. After the clouds passed the weather turned beautiful. Clear crisp blue skies with light north winds, almost no humidity and plenty of water ahead.

Then problem number 2 showed its ugly head. We have been wondering if we have radio problems with the VHF because we call the tugs and they don't seem to answer. We thought maybe they had just gotten stuck up since our trip west. In the past they have always been friendly and professional and almost happy that we called to confirm what was going on and what our intentions were. But some times they did respond and we were able to communicate with the lock tenders with no problem. This afternoon I pulled out the hand held VHF and made contact when we did not with the main radio. In addition we could pick up weather broadcasts with the hand held but not the main radio. Using a spare length of coax with connectors on both ends I was able to isolate the section of coax that was the culprit. It took a bit of doing and another couple of hours but I was able to run a new section of cable from inside the base of the mast to a section that connects up in one of our hanging lockers. We were soon back in the communications business.

About the same time the VHF was working again we arrived at Franklin Bayou, our first consideration for the night. A shrimp boat coming out told use we should be able to anchor with no problem and the depths were 9 feet in the canal. We turned in and promptly ran aground in 5 ½ feet of water. Remember, we draw 6 feet so this was not going to work. So we tried a spot just out side of the channel right on the waterway. We sat with the anchor down for about 20 minutes contemplating whether this was a good idea. After the first tug and barge passed we decided it was too exposed and there is just too much heavy traffic here. Our second choice was back the other direction about 2 miles. The current had been running strong against us all day so turning around was a quick ride back to plan B. It was getting late,  OK 5 o'clock, not too late, but we wanted to get settled in since there are not many options here.

We arrived at the Charenton Navigational Canal and turned north off the waterway. Testing the waters, so to speak, we determined that the depths were pretty adequate almost right up to the tree line. We are currently anchored in 11 to 12 feet of water a mere 60 or so feet from the trees. This is a busy waterway also and that is why we needed to get as far out of the channel as possible. Aside from the usual inconsiderate work boat flying by and rocking us with his wake it is a nice spot. This will be our third different anchorage from the ones we used going west bound and in each case it has been as good as or better than the ones we used in the past. We do like the Avery Canal anchorage quite a bit and even considered going there anyway, but time dictates we keep moving so this will not be the pleasure part of this cruise.

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