In regards to traversing the Mississippi River, past Baton Rouge is absolute hell. We received multiple, stern warnings to not go past Baton Rouge, no matter what, because it’s the most dangerous part of the river. Of course we did anyway, because neither of us knew what was so dangerous about it as opposed to the rest of the river. But we were quick to find out why.
There’s a bridge in Baton Rouge that is two low for the ocean liner ships (as seen above) to pass under. So we had the benefit of not having to encounter these monstrous beasts until after that bridge. And I say “monstrous beasts” because these things were fucking mammoth and terrifying. They made our boat look like a canoe—so I can’t even imagine actually being in a canoe around one of these ships. Those Paddle Forward girls are fearless.
Conner, who always woke up before I did, got the pleasure of seeing an ocean ship first, early one morning. Not knowing what to do around such a big vessel, he used the marine radio to talk to the captain:
"Uh…sailboat to…giant ship."
"This is the giant ship."
The amount of traffic practically triples past Baton Rouge. Tows with over 35 barges (I forget the biggest ones we saw, perhaps in the 70s?), ocean liners, etc. It was absolutely fucked, and terrifying. And it seemed like it hit us all at once—we went around a bend and BAM instant congestion. And it’s not like we can just stop and wait. The river keeps moving, no matter what. And so do the barges and ships. When we first started the trip people would tell us, “The barges don’t care about you. They will run you right over.” We called bullshit because we didn’t think all tow captains were homicidal maniacs. But what we didn’t realize was the further down the river, they literally cannot stop. If a large vessel is southbound, it takes it at least an hour just to slow down.
I felt like we were in a video game. Some kind of fucked marine version of Frogger. And this was the last level of the game. This was Bowser’s castle. All the fuckers that kill you were twice the size as normal. It was everything we had already been through except bigger, faster, and more dangerous. And like a video game, if you get hit, you die. And we didn’t have any extra lives saved up.
Somehow, someway, we met some lifesavers. A tow captain whose name I can’t remember guided us along part of the river, and a ocean liner captain named Gino gave us advice and tips that most likely are the reason why Conner and I are still alive, places to dock, attempted to give us free gas and pizza, and even delivered beers to our boat. I’ll never forget the last time I saw Gino, honking the loud foghorn of his ship hauling ass down the river, standing on the deck waving both arms erratically yelling, “Hey guys!”