The Goal: The Gulf of Mexico…Check! December 5, 2013

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I finally did it! I made it all the way to the Gulf if Mexico, but not without some very harrowing and tense moments in the Southern Louisiana fog. Fog? Who knew? That was an oversight on my part. Forgot about the fog.

This is my amazing support crew that helped get me through the fog, through the Head of Passes, down South Pass to the Gulf, and back to Venice in a thick fog bank. What an epic finish to an unforgettable journey. Big THANKS to my support crew, the Bar Pilots and their crews in Venice and Pilottown, and to all of my supporters who cheered me on every single day!

My unforgettable crew and dear friends and daughter:

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L-R: Mark Dierking, Denise Goforth, Mwah, Jamie Stevenson, Haley Moreland (my sweet daughter), and Deb Miller. Extraordinary!!

And the stellar crew at Pilottown:

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Pilottown Crew to the rescue! L-R: Josh, Eric, Adam, Booher, Leon and Shawn. What a comfort these guys were after being in a very uncomfortable fog. Thank you, gentlemen! You are the best!

Pilots at Venice Bar Pilot’s Association:

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Bear (R) and Allen (L)

Our first attempt to make it to the Gulf was on December 4. We were doing pretty good on the East shore, although the fog was lingering on that side. By the time we passed Pilottown in the fog, we were engulfed. At one point we all heard a boat coming right toward us. I was out of the channel, and so was my support boat, but I didn’t know it. They were in only three feet of water. Hearing the boat coming closer and closer, but not seeing it, I was terrified they would be run down by a big fishing boat. I screamed at them to turn around. They appeared to be frozen staring into the fog. Oh. My. God. Will I witness their demise???? Thankfully, no. After the boat passed us by, we all knew we were finished for now. I got on the phone to Pilottown and asked them if we could come ashore.

“Of course, we will be expecting you,” they replied.

When we arrived 15 minutes later, they immediately took us under their wing, brought us inside, fed us from a smorgasborg outlay of food, shared their ‘mission control,’ and educated us on their system for bringing big ships up from the Gulf to New Orleans. Most importantly, they explained the Fog Predictor, which indicated a lift in the fog at 9:00AM until midnight tomorrow, December 5. We set our goal to the Gulf for tomorrow. They invited to breakfast, too. So nice and comforting, these river angels.

The Pilottown crew directed us to the back room where we feasted. From sadness to gladness, comfort on many levels.

The Pilottown crew directed us to the back room where we feasted. From sadness to gladness, comfort on many levels.

The fog predictor. The gap in the red and green lines on the top indicates our window to shoot the pass and get back home. I tell ya, adventure in its purest form.

The fog predictor. The gap in the red and green lines on the top indicates our window to shoot the pass and get back home. I tell ya, adventure in its purest form.

 

As you can imagine, I was VERY ready to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

As you can imagine, I was VERY ready to reach the Gulf of Mexico
the next morning.

A tiny portion of the breakfast offered to us by the Pilottown crew.

A tiny portion of the breakfast offered to us by the Pilottown crew.

The fog was thick the 10 miles from Venice to Pilottown, which is located one mile above Mile Zero. The Gulf of Mexico is 12 miles from Mile Zero down South Pass.

The fog was thick the 10 miles from Venice to Pilottown, which is located one mile above Mile Zero. The Gulf of Mexico is 12 miles from Mile Zero down South Pass. South Pass is the route I had chosen to reach the Gulf.

On the final dash to the Gulf, my greatest concern was the fog in the Head of Passes. This is a wide open space from which three branches of channelized water run to the Gulf. The Southwest Pass is the shipping lane for tankers, freighters, and container ships, Loutre Pass is mainly small craft and fishing boats, and South Pass fishing craft. Tankers come up SW Pass and cross through the Head of Passes to the West Bank near Pilottown. As you can imagine, in the fog, this is a dangerous route through which to paddle.

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Just prior to leaving Pilottown, three Plaquemines Parish Marine Sheriffs pull up in their boat on their way down to Port Eads, located one mile upriver from the Gulf down South Pass. When I found this out, I somewhat pleaded with them to guide us through the fog through the Head of Passes with their radar. As you can see in this photo, I was gravely concerned. I could not get them to commit, for whatever reason, so we determined to just go for it with the support we had from the Pilottown crew, and the Venice pilots, who drive the ships up the Pass.

I asked them if they would guide us through the Head of Passes with their radar. They could not commit. We had to go ahead on our own.

I asked them if they would guide us through the Head of Passes with their radar. They could not commit. We had to go ahead on our own.

Off we went with great apprehension coupled with extraordinary determination.

Off we went with great apprehension coupled with extraordinary determination.

This photo I took during our attempt the day before. But, you get the picture. Tense moments to say the least.

I took this photo the day before. But, you get the picture.
Tense moments to say the least.

The Pilottown crew were phenomenal in communicating our whereabouts to the best of their ability. However, when they began asking the ship pilots if they had seen us, I knew we were on our own, so to speak. We had to navigate wisely through this stretch or catastrophe would be imminent. What we did know from my marine radio, was when a ship was coming up through the fog out of SW Pass, or down into the Head of Passes past Pilottown. Mark used his depth finder to try and avoid the channel, but at some point we had to cross.

Ship approaching in the fog.

Ship coming into view through the fog.

There was a moment when we were immersed in fog and very vulnerable. I began to paddle with my GPS as my guide, which is what the crew told us to do. How scary is that in the fog???? Very! As my heart began to sink further into my gut, I mustered everything I had to keep my composure, as we all were doing at that time. At that very moment, we heard a boat coming right for us. Oh my God! Will it see us in time to stop??? All we can do is wait as it gets closer. Then, appearing as though angels from the spiritual realm, the Sheriff’s boat appears and immediately they begin pointing out the channel light at South Pass.

Marine Sheriffs of Plaquemine Parish.

Marine Sheriffs of Plaquemines Parish. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Miraculously, the fog began lifting at that moment and we could then see all three passes! What a moment of joy and relief that was, never to be forgotten.

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Extreme JOY! I can see all of the Passes!

Extreme JOY! I can see all of the Passes!

I paddled harder than I had paddled on the entire journey, the 12-13 miles down South Pass. I took out my iPod and played river songs and sang at the top of my lungs, particularly Black Water by the Doobie Brothers. Playing music always gives me a much-needed boost of energy.

The highlight of my entire trip had to be when I saw my white pelican near the shore in South Pass. I couldn’t believe my eyes! He had come to see me through to the end, and provided that quiet comfort we both understood, that he had provided since day one of my paddling journey. I still shed a tear when I think about how perfect and complete this trip has been.

The perfect good bye and congratulations. I was immersed in joy and supercharged with energy after seeing my pelican friend.

The perfect good bye and congratulations. I was immersed in joy and supercharged with energy after seeing my pelican friend.

 

We had a clear shot to the Gulf, and most of the way back up the pass. We were not out of the woods yet. But we had made it to the Gulf of Mexico!

The crew landed before me so they could scope it out and take some photos of my arrival.

The crew landed before me so they could scope it out and
take some photos of my arrival.

The Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico

What a sweet moment of victory, seasoned with a dash of bittersweet. I had run out of river. A new chapter in my life was about to begin.

What a sweet moment of victory, seasoned with a dash of bittersweet. I had run out of river. A new chapter in my life was about to begin. I was thrilled.

Champagne, a swim in the water, and a big heartfelt thank you to all of my dear supporters. Then, we were "outta there!"

Champagne, a swim in the water, and a big heartfelt thank you to all of my dear supporters. Then, we were “outta there!”

We made it about 2/3 the way up South Pass when the fog settled in again. We were on a race against time and fog. We absolutely HAD to get back to Venice before dark. We moved as one with eyes and minds on high alert. As you can imagine, the victory was oh so sweet.

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We made it back to Venice safe and sound, just in the nick of time.
It was dark when we pulled up to the dock.

My faithful horse, Blue Moon, an Eddyline Shasta Kayak. What a sweet ride and loyal companion. I love my boat.

My faithful horse, Blue Moon, an Eddyline Shasta Kayak. What a sweet ride and loyal companion. I love my boat.

Thank you, Mark Dierking, for a stellar job piloting the support boat and keeping us all safe and alive. You are the best!

Thank you, Mark Dierking, for a stellar job piloting the support boat and keeping us all safe and alive. You are the best!

Jamie Stevenson, Denise's boyfriend, was the premium first mate and pillar of strength throughout. LoL! No, really, he was. We all were.

Jamie Stevenson, Denise’s boyfriend, was the premium first mate and pillar of strength throughout. LoL! No, really, he was. We all were.
(Inside, we were all feeling like he looks.)

Haley (L) and Denise (R) We were all so very happy to get back to Venice.

Haley (L) and Denise (R)
We were bonded and quite frankly, family, after these few days together. What an unforgettable experience!

Deb, one of my dearest and closest friends. Wow, what a ride, eh girlfriend?! We did it!

Deb, one of my dearest and closest friends.
Wow, what a ride, eh girlfriend?! We did it!

Our home away from home in Venice, Louisiana. The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas comped our villa for all but one night, the night that April donated to the expedition. Big thanks to April Durnin for donating to the expedition two free nights of lodging (one night for two rooms) at this fabulous hotel. We could not think of one single complaint. The villa was extraordinarily lovely.

The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas in Venice, LA. We give the villas five bright and golden stars. Loved it!

The Lighthouse Lodge and Villas in Venice, LA. We give the villas five bright and golden stars. Loved it!

I will be updating this blog in the days to come. That will help me sort through my photos and videos, and reminisce on the pleasures of this incredible journey. Then, of course, I will write a book, or books. I would like to write a memoir, a curriculum book with lesson plans and activities focused on the rivers and natural environment, and a coffee table book with some of my best photographs. Oh, and T-shirts. I want t-shirts made ASAP. Maybe a calendar right away. So much to do!

I will follow up this post with some videos as soon as possible. Until then, I hope you enjoyed the adventure of my final days.  I’ll be back to fill in the gap.

Shouting out a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you who believed in me, the expedition, and who gave their heart and soul to support the journey.  MWAH!! Much love to all, Janet Moreland XOXO

Yep, paddle through to the Gulf. It just makes sense. August 21, 2013

Yep, paddle through to the Gulf. It just makes sense. Photo taken August 21, 2013

Do what you love and love what you do.

Love Your Big Muddy Expedition

3,700 River Miles

April 24, 2013 – December 5, 2013

First American Source-to-Sea Missouri River

First Solo Woman Source-to-Sea Missouri River

The Missouri River is the Longest River in North America

The Missouri/Mississippi River System is the Fourth Longest in the World.

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Categories: Expedition, Missouri River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Goal: The Gulf of Mexico…Check! December 5, 2013

  1. Woohoo! Congratulations to a fellow Missourian! What a thrilling finale in words and pictures!

  2. Cheryl

    Got me all choked up….again. You do have a way of sharing the whole experience. Thank you and once again a huge – CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  3. Girl, you had my heart racing (again) in anticipation, even though I already knew the ending and your sweet success! Sharing your epic adventure and journey since before you even left has been the shining highlight of my year. You have inspired, invigorated, and motivated me to do more than I ever thought I could this year and to SayYESMore! Memphis and Wolf River was a total BLAST leaving me with so many fun memories to cherish, and a lifelong friendship to treasure! Love you sweet river sister! :)

  4. Janet, You are so awesome! Congratulations on completing this amazing journey! I hope some day we can drink a PBR together and swap stories. It was so much fun following along on your journey.

    Andy Bugh

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