The first oil platform I encountered near the “Green Canyon” area.
The crew of MR JESSIE supplied me with a tub of ground coffee.
A small migrating bird, perhaps a flycatcher, taking a rest on my boat...
A migrating barn swallow found a perch on my oar shaft. I stopped rowing while it rested.
Through Calcasieu Pass to Cameron, Louisiana...
June 2, 2012 29.7678N,93.3424W
At 18:12 UTC (1:12 pm local time) on Sunday, 27 May, I reached the public launch ramp on the east side of the Calcasieu Pass near Cameron, Louisiana. If you have Google Earth installed on your computer then you can click here to see the updated file where the red line represents the course which I traveled, and the green line my antipodal track.
My successful arrival at mainland USA concluded the last rowing section on my human powered circumnavigation journey. I was relieved to be on shore while tropical storm Beryl pounded the southeast of the country. The timing of my landfall worked very well with the tides and winds; fortunately this option was available for a landfall downwind of me. My last two days at sea on Saturday and Sunday (May 26-27) proved to be easy days with mostly following seas which wanted to bring me to Cameron. This had not always been the case though...
Like clockwork with an 8-day period, I had contrary winds on May 20 forcing me to wait on para-anchor. On Wednesday, 23 May, at 1:30 am, the wind finally began to turn to my SW. I had been waiting for the winds to cycle around me yet one more time from N to NW, then W. I gathered my para-anchor, and began rowing. While the winds change, the wind waves already created, take a while to settle. I was still receiving waves from the western half of my compass, which made it impossible to advance due NW. Despite my efforts, the boat was driven on a northerly track. By the morning as the wind turned to SSE, I was able to register some westing due NNW. The SSE winds remained at gusting 20 knots building the seas all day on Wednesday and into Thursday. The seas had become aggressive when the SW swells overlapped with the building wind waves from the SSE.
I was 30 nm away from the Louisiana shores at about 45 meter depth; had I been pushed another 10 nm north, then the depth would have dropped to 8-12 meters where the waves would have become steeper with reduced depth and begun breaking. I would not have too much time before getting in trouble. The only help on such short notice would have been from the barges around the oil platforms. USCG stations were farther away. If I could not raise any of the oil platforms by VHF radio or if I could not get their attention by DSC or AIS alarm, I would have to seek the help of US Coast Guard from Galveston, Texas to recruit them somehow. With such thoughts in my mind, I was desperate to keep rowing; rest was not an option...
I had to pass through a large oil field populated with platforms, drilling rigs and wellheads. I had the electronic chart which showed these hazards, yet such charts could be outdated while the oil industry could have added new installations. In addition random barges which park themselves by GPS among the platforms also added to my worries; sleeping was not an option either. I plotted a course to skirt around the especially crowded patches taking into account what the seas would allow. As the conditions changed, I altered my planned course.
The idea had been to continue NW toward Galveston, yet I anticipated another change in winds in 8 days’ time after the last one which proved to be accurate: my forecast was indicating a change for the worse on Monday, 28 May. I changed my mind toward Sabine, about 50 nm east of Galveston to get off the water sooner. Yet as the seas forced my course on a northerly course, even Sabine became unlikely.
It had been 42 hours of incessant rowing thanks to the strong coffee that I had brewed from the batch that the crew of the barge MR JESSIE had provided. At 7 pm on Thursday evening (May 24), I set my two alarms to 3-hours and finally went to sleep. I could see the lights of the hazards ahead which I estimated to be about 6-8 nm away. Given my rate of drift, I would be able to wake up and correct course. When I found the boat safe after the first 3-hour session, I set the alarm for another 3-hours. At 1 am on Friday, I was still safe. By then, the winds and the swells had both lined up from the SSE, and were carrying my boat at 2-2.5 knots due NW toward the Calcasieu Pass. I would have had to fight to remain on a WNW course toward Sabine farther ahead. I informed our team that my destination would now be Calcasieu Pass to reach Cameron, Louisiana. I still had hazards nearby; monitoring the boat’s drift was a must. I put on my headset to listen to a recorded book while my knees, elbows and forehead were on the mattress. My eyes were closed and burning for lack of sleep, but I had to fight that off. By simply tacking the wind from port side to starboard and vice versa, I threaded the hazards until daybreak, then resumed my rowing.
Friday passed without incident. Fishing vessels trolling for shrimp were around me that day; each of them in addition to the barges would come by and ask if I were in distress. Friday night I tried to sleep in 2-hour increments to get past an area with platforms, but I could not wake up after the first two hours. When I did wake up, it was 2 am on Saturday, the alarm clock was by my hip on the mattress and I did not remember turning it off. For six hours, the boat had been drifting among the hazards. When I reviewed the marked hazards on my chartplotter, it was unsettling to see how close together they had been and that I had passed between them unscathed; I would not want to speculate about the uncharted hazards!!! I had slept a total of about 12 hours from 1:30 am on Wednesday until 2 am on Saturday.
On Saturday I leisurely approached the Calcasieu Pass with following seas then dropped anchor at 9.4 meter depth at a distance of about 8 nm SE of the entrance. I could see the orange glow on the horizon from the town of Cameron to my north. There was a quarter waxing moon to my west, I could finally relax and enjoy a good dinner with a view and afterwards get a full night’s sleep. All day on Sunday, there was going to be flood tide in my favor, flowing north through the pass to fill the Calcasieu Lake further inland. The forecast for Sunday was for SSE winds.
Thankfully, this proved to be one of the easiest transitions on my journey since our board members Bill Hinsley and Graeme Welsh took the time to come to Louisiana, both to welcome me and to assist in whatever logistical challenges I would face. Matthew Spicer from Spicer-Hughes Marina had offered to bring them out to meet me outside the pass. They arrived late morning; we paced along together while the tide and winds carried my boat north inside the pass at an average 2.3 knot clip. I tagged the south pier of the public launch inside the pass at 1812UTC, then we towed my boat 14 nm further inland to their marina in Hackberry.
By the time that I was done, I had rowed 880 nm on the Gulf of Mexico, and a record 1709 nm on the Caribbean Sea based on the GPS tracks that I had. After spending 154 days on the South Atlantic to cover 5300 record miles, the additional 67 days spent on my crossing from Carupano to Cameron brought my career total to 876 days and 6 hours.