Sailboat Cruising in New Orleans: Don't Bother

On my first visit to Seabrook boatyard, I was overwhelmed by the number of huge sport fishing boats. They sprawled like white whales all over the boatyard, dwarfing 44-foot Cayenne. Over the months here, I’ve grown accustomed to — and bored by — them. My eye searches for the more interesting sailboat masts among their mile-high tuna towers.

But even the sailboats I see are not much like Cayenne. There seem to be two types: Local racers, and cruisers passing through. That lack of local cruisers was a big hint — one I overlooked.

A couple of weeks ago, after two exhilarating daysails, we took our first overnight sailing trip to Madisonville. We sailed across the lake under clear blue skies and then motored up the Tchefuncta river. Our mooring was in a pretty park, where live oaks draped with Spanish moss hung almost over our decks. A couple of lively pubs were right across the street. Even the noisy bridge traffic and four a.m. garbage trucks didn’t mar the novelty of spending the night someplace other than Seabrook.

A few weeks later, when all three of us had gotten snappish, it was time for another trip. But where? The Gulf is too far — we are 70 miles from the mouth of the river. Back to the Lake. Slidell, perhaps? Brian studied the chart, but there wasn’t enough detail. I found him staring intently at his computer, where he’d pulled up Microsoft Streets and Trips. It was easier to use than the pricey Softcharts he’d just bought, and at least it showed the pubs.

I read the Coast Pilot and didn’t find much except a dry listing of the shipyard facilities. That information was suspect, as we’d received a much more colorful description of the same shipyard via e-mail from our friend Steve in Seattle. He said it was, “…a truly pleasant place. The grass was roughly waist high, hiding the scraps of steel that threatened to turn your ankles, and the numerous poisonous rattle and water snakes. The water was medicinally sulphurous; I’m sure the odors killed any incipient cancers….If you do cruise the Bayou, watch your keel. The ecologically disposed cars and refrigerators will bang up more than the paint.”

We turned to the folks at West Marine for advice. “Where do folks go cruising around here?” we asked. “They don’t.” “Have you ever sailed to Slidell?” we asked. “No, why would you?”

It then dawned on us that there weren’t any other destinations, besides Madisonville, that met our three-part criteria for a perfect sailing destination: Electricity (for heat), scenery (no gypsum factories), and a pub. Madisonville had misled us, like the blind man feeling an elephant’s tail and saying, “An elephant is like a rope.”

Yesterday we went out on the lake and put about forty miles on the boat, a simple daysail across the lake and back. We got it out of our system, temporarily. But please, God, let us get out of Seabrook and someplace where there are pubs and scenery. As long as we head south, we can live without heat.