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Monday, August 27, 2018

Army cruise

Last week, David and I had the opportunity to take an overnight cruise on the Army Corps tug, Mississippi. David works for the Corps, and this perk is opened to a few employees every few years. We jumped at the chance, and on Friday I got off work early and walked over to meet David at his office (we live just five blocks from his workplace, and yes, I'm jealous of his commute). About thirty people were on this cruise, and David knew about half. We took a charter bus to Morgan City, where we boarded the tug.
 The Motor Vehicle Mississippi is the largest tug in the world, and it sleeps 120!

We were shown to our cabin...

... then joined the rest of the passengers downstairs for a safety briefing. We spent a few minutes exploring the decks before the welcome social began. We boarded the vessel on the Achafalaya River, and I was enjoying the wildlife on the banks. Not only were the pelicans and herons plentiful, there were several alligators swimming out of the way of the boat! We finally went back in to get some food and wine. I was starving after a ten mile workout that morning, so I filled up on appetizers even though I knew dinner was coming in just a few minutes. I was pretty sure I could eat again. While we socialized, we left the Achafalaya River and entered the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Maneuvering the Bayou Boeuf locks
The GIWW is shipping channel designed for commercial barges to travel inland (from Texas to Florida). Some of it is manmade, while the rest is existing canals and bayous, dredged to a depth of 12 feet. Locks mark the entrances and exits to various waterways (we passed two on the trip, including the narrow Algiers lock as we entered the Mississippi River).

As you can see, the Algiers lock is a much tighter fit than the Bayou Boeuf lock!

Here are the lock gates opening

I had a chance to meet and converse with several of David's coworkers, including at dinner, which was delicious (my appetizers didn't diminish my enjoyment of dinner!). After dinner, we all went up to the pilot house, where we alternately sat under the stars and made the pilot's life miserable. I can't imagine he loves putting up with a boatload of tipsy brass and drunk underlings while trying to drive a boat. But it was beautiful up there at night, with a bright moon and stars.
In the pilot house
We were probably the first to bed, and the slow movement of the boat had me sleeping like a log! We woke up early enough to watch the approach to New Orleans. It's crazy that there are cows and alligators hanging out under the shadow of the skyline.

After breakfast the next day, we went back on deck to watch the locks open as we left the GIWW and headed downstream on the Mississippi.
The mighty Mississippi!

We did a short tour of the river, heading past the city before turning around and going back up to dock. It always amazes me how vast the Mississippi is: even the part where we could make a U-turn mid-river, amongst dozens of other craft, and not even be crowded, is incredible.

Under the GNO bridge

After we passed downtown New Orleans, we ate lunch as we neared the dock at the Corps facility by our house. This part of the trip was really neat, because I got to see The Fly, which is the part of Audubon park that runs along the river. It was so cool to see it from the other side!
Look closely and you can see my running path :)

Me on the other side of the Fly!
We docked about one pm, grabbed our luggage, and walked home - and that's how you do a 24-hour cruise. I was really impressed with the whole trip - first off all, that the Army Corps would offer it to employees; second, with the excellent food; third, that all the employees showed such pride in their work as we passed various Corps projects (like the Western Closure). Seeing the city from the river perspective was a rare treat, and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to enjoy that view. All in all, such a memorable weekend, and I feel lucky to be included!


  1. That is such a cool opportunity! I've never been in a boat going through a lock before. I read a memoir once by someone who bought a barge and cruised around the rivers of France. He talked a lot about how anxiety-provoking it is for a lay person to navigate locks, especially ones where they have 2 boats in the lock at the same time! But I'm sure the captain of the boat you were on was an old pro at it!