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Bobbing in the Gulf

A friend of mine found out this past Friday that another friend knew someone who could not make their planned group cruise down the Gulf to the Yucatán. The cruise would leave the next day, Saturday. Would she like to go? Ahoy!

Hearing about her sudden nautical adventure reminded me of an episode from a few years ago: There was a mysterious white object bobbing in the Gulf. Our cruise ship had cleared the Yucatán straits, re-entered the Gulf of Mexico and was heading back to New Orleans.

That trip impressed me with just how big the Gulf is. This was to be a full day at sea and for most of that time the view was nothing but a plain of green water surrounding the ship to the horizons at all sides. There was not even a passing ship upon which to wave. It was the sort of day for which cruise Entertainment Directors plan games and events to keep the passengers amused, but for the moment the Gulf was providing its own drama.

Because it was such a clear day, the white object, in visual contrast with the sea, could be seen from a distance. Someone in the pilothouse had spotted in first, perhaps when it was about a mile away, and relayed the word to crew members on the deck. I happened to be passing by as they were getting the news. Ships will always respond to something unusual in the sea, especially since it could involve human life, and this Royal Caribbean liner was preparing to do its part. To get close the ship would actually have to make a full circle before setting its course in the direction of the object. Knowing that the passengers might wonder why the boat was turning around an announcement was made and that drew more people to the deck.

I hurried to my room to grab my binoculars; whose lens became immediately foggy once moved from the air conditioning to the balmy outdoors. I wiped the lens furiously as the ship approached the object. Crew members leaned over the rail to get a better view. The ship was slowed. Soon the object was drifting alongside us.

For all the excitement, this could have been a gruesome moment had there been skeletal remains or something macabre. Instead, we saw the remains of an overturned catamaran style sailboat licensed to the Port of Galveston. A crew member wrote down the boat’s serial number and explained that it would be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard. The whole incident might have been about nothing more than a sailboat that broke away from its mooring. What impressed me though was how far it had traveled, from the Texas shore to practically the other side of the Gulf.

It wasn’t until near sunset when we saw something else in the water, this standing erect and proud. It was the first of what would be many offshore oil-drilling sites existing, at least this day, in harmony with the gulf. Man and nature seemed to work well that day. Barring a catastrophic mistake, the relationship could stay that way forever.


Have something to add to this story, or want to send a comment to Errol? Email him at errol@myneworleans.com. Note: All responses are subject to being published, as edited, in this article. Please include your name and location.

SOMETHING NEW: Listen to Louisiana Insider a weekly podcast covering the people, places and culture of the state: LouisianaLife.com/LouisianaInsider, Apple Podcasts or Audible/Amazon Music.

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.


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