Undertaking the westward passage from Mobile, Alabama, toward Texas looked difficult and complex. To sort our way through the muddy waters of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, we sought the best guides available: Texas/Louisiana Coastal Cruising Guide – ‘97-’98, Quimby’s 2001 Cruising Guide and The Waterway Guide – 2002 Southern Edition. The focus here is on the merits of the Texas/Louisiana Coastal Cruising Guide. Despite its age, it’s useful for the detailed information and the general information the cruiser needs when he enters the most heavily used water corridor in the nation. Facilities for the pleasure boater are
meager. Tow encounters are daily and numerous. Industrial and commercial enterprises that support the offshore oil industry are at every street corner (river junction). On our 25-foot cruiser we were never so woven into the commercial traffic that we were in danger. Still, a primer on conduct while cruising these waters is essential and the first 25 pages this
cruising guide gives the reader essential information on encountering tows plus historic information on the development of the canal running from Mobile, Alabama, to Brownsville, Texas (Mexican border). We began this trip in Alabama, skirting the coastline of Mississippi and entering the waters of Louisiana at the Pearl River where we eagerly left the Big Bad Ocean (okay, it’s only a sound), and that’s where the Texas/Louisiana Coastal Cruising Guide begins. The flatlands of Louisiana are a labyrinth of manmade canals and natural bayous which provide offshore storage and provisioning stations and ports for the fishing industry. Given the fact that the land is a tableland of shallow brackish water with numerous cuts that ribbon the landscape, it’s incumbent for the cruiser to have this guide in hand, paper charts out and electronic charts on the computer to back it all up. This is an area where outdated charts could lead one astray, and an outdated cruising guide needs to be used with more current publications such as Quimby’s and Waterway Guide. The difficulty for the cruiser is digesting all of this information before the next day’s cruise, or when you’re underway. This makes for a good workday, keeping an eye on the water while reading the charts and the guidebooks. It takes two to crew, and that’s particularly true along the GIWW. What’s good about the Texas/Louisiana Cruising Guide ‘97-’98 are the drawings and maps that accompany each section. Seeing visually in large scale the area about to be cruised is helpful in making sense of the millions of words that delineate the detail. Without first seeing the area, the words fall into a barrel of alphabet soup that makes little sense. Also, when approaching ports such as Madisonville on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, for example, you can see at a glance the layout of the town, the city bulkheads with free overnight dockage, and the recommended restaurants – Friends of the Tchefuncte, Old River Brewhouse or Morton’s. The guide also includes side trips and was invaluable when we cruised to Avery Island and Delcambre. We appreciated the details and sketch when trying to find our take-out place, Bowtie Marina on Contraband Bayou off the Calcasieu River.
Interspersed throughout the book are italicized personal encounters at favorite anchorages or experiences along the waterway. Anchorages are highlighted with an anchor symbol and marinas are noted with a burgee in the margins. You can’t leave on a cruise of the Gulf
Intracoastal Waterway without a good guide, and the Texas-Louisiana Coastal Cruising
Guide is as good as any and better than most. If it doesn’t get updated soon, however, you may need to rely on more recent publications. The rapidly changing face of the land and the waters of Louisiana and Texas call for vigilance, current electronic charts and a keen sense of
where you’re going. Louisiana has more unexplored waterways than probably any other
state and the adventurous cruiser will certainly find new cruising grounds to come back to in
the future. In the back of the book is an Appendix listing all the charts needed for the GIWW, the Louisiana rivers, bayous, canals, bays and near shore, Louisiana supplemental charts for side trips, offshore and coastal navigation charts and Texas supplemental charts for side trips. Also included are recipes for Lynda’s Easy Crab Dip, Kyle’s Ceviche, Mother’s Potato Salad and more goodies. I’m going to try deSha’s Red Beans and Rice and see if I can make it as good as they do it at the Gumbo Shop in New Orleans.