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From the sea buoy to the dock where we’d arranged to refuel at the top of East Bay was 40 miles!  I’d never really studied Tampa Bay…

On the way in, we passed an outbound Fednav bulker, a pilot boat alongside and some excursion boats on Egmont Key.  This is marks the beginning of the end to my trip:  out of the bayous and into the keys.

Outside the Sunshine Skyway we met outbound USCGC Pablo Valent.

We made it inside safely, leaving a sine wave wake. This bridge opened in 1987 after some spectacular tragedies. 

Keeper-class cutter Joshua Appleby was maintaining navigation aids. 

A shrimp boat was headed out to work. 

The channel in was long and sinuous.

American Rotortug (ART) Trinity headed outbound for an assist.   An older sister, Trident, appeared on this blog here

but not for Jones Act tanker Garden State

Bulker Sumatra (likely not named for Sumatra FL) was bound for sea. 

After passing the sea buoy four hours before, we still had not reached East Bay portion of 

Tampa Bay when we passed Liberty, a Marine Towing of Tampa tug built at Washburn & Doughty in East Boothbay!

All photos, WVD, with more Tampa Bay to come. 

The multi-colored lines here show the marathon between Pensacola and Crystal River, a shoreline that seemed endless and relatively featureless . . .  .  Each of the colored lines represents a day of travel.  I learned this part of Florida is called the “forgotten coast” or the “big bend of Florida.”  There may be other names, but the relative absence of settlement intrigues me.  On the other hand, with place names like Sumatra and Tate’s Hell Forest and Swamp, it may be inhospitable.  There’s even a song about Cebe Tate chasing a panther into that wilderness.

After a late departure from Pensacola, we were off the long Santa Rosa Island and its sugarwhite sand by nightfall.

Soon after we departed from Santa Rosa, we had the first heavy rain of the trip, but the storms

traveled fast and soon

we left them behind.

Remember in yesterday’s post I alluded to a contrast between LA-MS-AL (LAMSAL, a new acronym?) and FL waters?  What’s different?

Only everything:  no oil/gas infrastructure and very few boats of any type.  There was one boat, a sport fish, traveling at least three times the speed of Legs III and on a collision course until two sets of five blasts of our battery of air horns caused that boat to drop off plane and then sheepishly [I hope] take our stern.  I suspect the sport fish had all eyes on their lures and none on the wheel.   No, I won’t post their photo and name here.

Our next overnight was off Saint Andrew’s Park, Panama City. Notice the pads 11 feet down in that super clear water.

Beyond Panama City, inland fires suggest agriculture-related burns, but I’ve never traveled by road in that part of Florida.  Yet.

We gave Cape San Blas wide berth because of irregular shallows. The Cape was the site of Civil War activity and a whole series of lighthouses.

The chart said we had plenty of water, but the bands of lighter water suggested maybe we didn’t.  Ultimately, the chart proved itself correct.

AIS said the tug towing tandems was Lady Terea, a name that meant nothing to me until I searched a bit more and found that from 2014 until 2018, she worked in the sixth boro and North River as . . .

Mr. Russell.  Then she carried the livery of Tappan Zee Constructors.

That evening we spent jacked up off a remote area of St. George Island, the barrier beach that defines Apalachicola Bay.  More on the Apalachicola River here.

Seriously, we saw no other boats with the exception of the two I’ve mentioned.  I saw this mast in the distance, and an hour or so when we passed it, it was as minimal as the waters of Florida’s forgotten coast were untrafficked.

Then later, Lady Edwina passed us with a tandem tow;  the captain hailed us to ask where we were headed with Legs III.  He also said he’d started his career out working on liftboats.

A bit north of the mouth of the Crystal River,  I brought the drone as close to the wave tops as I dared to get this shot, hoping for a blinding glimpse of setting sun under the hull, but this is the result . . .   no blinding sun.

Morning showed a Dann Ocean boat and a large Express Marine barge.

Ocean Tower! it was.  

Tending another Express Marine barge was Consort, which I’d not seen for over a decade!

All photos, any errors,  WVD.

This post covers a day and a half of travel, shown in pink and green.  You’ll understand why by the end of this post.

We departed Chandeleur Islands and headed for Mississippi’s Gulf Islands, part of a National Seashore.

In the distance off Pascagoula, we saw Crowley tug Achievement and her barge.

 

No Worries . . . that’s the small open fishing boat anchored near the rig.

 

F/V Apache Rose was at anchor showing off its “wing trawling” innovation.

Lois Ann L. Moran, with its very familiar livery, anchored off Mobile Bay, to the west of a dozen or so anchored vessels.

Sand Island Light marks the southernmost tip of the state of Alabama.

I’ll just point out here that we saw countless rigs off Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  That fact contrasts with what will follow in an upcoming post.

Lots of placards indicated presence of Cox and Telos, but I saw none marked Hilcorp or other energy companies. 

We ended that day off Perdido Key Resort in Floribama, where some skullduggery appeared to warrant keeping our distance. 

The next morning we entered Pensacola

for some crew change and grub shopping. 

Fort Pickens, one of only four southern US forts to remain in Union hands during the Civil War, lay on a barrier beach.   Updates were made to the fort up through WW2.

USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) is homeported in Pensacola, but nearby were two other CGCs,

Reliance and

Diligence.  A WLB and a WMEC made up part of the fleet in the sixth boro back in May 2022.

And here is the reason I extended this installment all the way to Pensacola.  As we made for our landing, we passed Gulf Dawn, which itself was passing that large blue/white vessel in the background . . . .

It’s Jacklyn, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket landing ship-to-be.  Well, now it will never be, since Julie F towed it out of Pensacola just two days ago, destination ISL Brownsville TX.  The story in detail can be read/heard here.

All photos, any errors, WVD, who will reprise this trip on the blog soon with more vessels.

 

 

This leg of the trip is shown in brown, covering the area of Louisiana coastline from what this link calls the “bird’s foot delta to the St. Bernard delta, which once ended at the Chandeleur Islands.  More on those islands later.  This link shows how the lobes of the delta have changed over time, during the time before we tried to “tame” the river.

Dawn found Legs III  spudded down in East Bay, along the east side of the channeled mouth of the Mississippi, the grassy delta seen as the green margin along the horizon.  When spudded down this way, the ‘boat becomes a platform.

As we made out way around the low lying Pass A Loutre Wildlife Management Area and all its bays, traces of oil/gas infrastructure were everywhere.  “Pass A Loutre” translates as “Otter Pass.”

Some platforms–eg. the one with the tanks topside and the crew boat to the left side– seemed active, whereas others

might have been in process of being dismantled by EBI liftboat Jimmy Holmes Elevator.  EBI claims to have conceived of the basic design for liftboats, although EBI boats have the single leg on the bow, whereas most other liftboats, including Legs III, have that single leg on the stern. Legs III was launched at Blue Streak and then fitted out at Marine Industrial Fabrication Inc.

See the two workers below the hook and headache ball . . . ?

I’m not sure which channel or pass through the grassy delta ABI C emerged from, but she overtook us, giving us a clear look at the 

stainless steel IBC totes used to transport liquids of all sorts safely between shore and platform.

 

Farther along we passed a platform

where Ms. Tami was flying the dive flag.

A GOL boat, Sea Service 1, stood by a platform.

 

A sizable flame burned off its flare boom  (or burn boom).

I gather most platforms along Pass A Loutre were pumping, given their flares.

Others might be relics of a time when they were active and now seemed like patina-encrusted industrial sculpture.

In late afternoon we began to follow our goal for the day, the long, thin, crescent-shaped sand bar called the Chandeleur Islands, part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge established in 1904 by POTUS 26, T. Roosevelt.  I’d noticed the 50-mile chain of islands from the air as I flew into New Orleans on my way to port of Iberia, and they looked roughly like the lead photo here, which shows them from a north to south perspective. 

Those boats are anchored on the inside of the islands in Chandeleur Bay. 

The islands are accessible only by boat AND seaplane.    Southern Seaplane out of Belle Chasse LA offers many tours, but also brings folks out to this fishing lodge, spudded up on the inside of the Chandeleur Islands.  More on the lodge– Chandeleur Islander–in this Youtube clip. Yet another option is Compass Rose if you want to fish by kayak but ride over on a mothership over from Biloxi.  Surfers have laid claim too, although they might want to keep it a secret. 

All photos, any errors, WVD, who looks at the photo above and tries to imagine what it’s like when a hurricane barrels across it….

 

Day 3 shows up in green . . . from just west of Port Fourchon to just east of SW Pass.

We took the stern of C-Fighter on the way, as the ECO boat appeared to head into Fourchon. 

Surprising were the number of small fishing boats, out angling and 

even anchoring next to platforms;  certainly the structure and maybe some scraps serve as chum in a food chain here.

Here’s another shot of Fourchon Runner, which I mentioned in an earlier post about exotics.  Here I have questions:  doesn’t the center of this platform base look different than ones I’ve posted earlier?  To me, it’s thick like a massive tree trunk, not only tubular.  The platform itself supports more tanks than others.  What might those tanks contain?

One rig that caught my attention, because of the “steam” emanating from beneath, carried the nameplate Enterprise 205.  Some info, although not “more specs,” on this rig can be read here.  The 40-year-old rig appears to work at depths up to 200′.

For scale, note the two crew on the cantilevered helipad.

The network of valves of the red pipe would be the “Christmas tree,” I gather.  How or why is the Monrovia registry arrived at here?

Among the platforms were shrimp boats like this one.

As the day passed, the winds died and the GOM 

became like glass, reflecting big fluffy fair-weather clouds.  Not pictured but off to the left was a smudge of Grand Isle and low-lying borderlands to its east.

Serving as a steering guide, we looked at Enterprise 351 for what seemed an endless time, punctuated only by the occasional dolphins.  I’ll devote an entire post to 351 one of these days.

Once in West Bay, we left rigs and associated vessels like Randolph John to our right and 

watched ships moving up and down the Mississippi to our left.  

The pilot’s station was visible, but my “all-zoomed-out” photo was embarrassingly blurry.  For a better view, click here.

We crossed–not entered–the Southwest Pass, the longtime and anticlimactic main Mississippi shipping channel. See the jetties?

From the south, Carnival Glory was arriving to take on a pilot for a dawn arrival in New Orleans.  If I were a passenger on that ship, I’d be disappointed to be passing this 70+ mile stretch of the big river at night.

To the west, a stunning sunset evolved, and to

the northwest, Carnival Glory ensured that it was visible–and then some–in the channel.

“Legs down” in the shallows of East Bay, this was my final shot of day 3.

Allphotos, any errors, WVD.

 

Technically we were out of the bayous once we entered the Atchafalaya on day 1.  Ever wonder the derivation of the word “bayou”?  It’s Choctaw for “sluggish watercourse,” and there was not much sluggish about the Atchafalaya. While on word/place name derivations, “atchafalaya” is Choctaw for “long river.”

On the annotated map below, red shows roughly our track day 1, orange is day 2, and green is day 3.  After day 1 we were no longer in inland watercourses. 

Call it near coastal, or call it pelican waters, as contrasted with alligator and egret waters.

Or call it wellhead waters.  Note all the pelicans residing on this platform marked TalosSS110A.  Talos Energy is a significant oil/gas company in the GOM.

From charts, I surmise the floor of the GOM is crisscrossed with much more infrastructure than appears on the surface, and the number of platforms of various designs was too many for me to count.  Granted, companies like Talos and Cox, not exactly household names although associated with the oil/gas industry, have departments to quantify every last item out here.  Click here to see a hint of that subsea infrastructure for just one company;  note that it’s interactive.

Crew of all skills levels get shuttled around in crew boats to platforms and lift boats.

No matter where you gaze, you see infrastructure.

 

Crew also shuttles in and out on helicopters.

Those appear to be a number of christmas trees on the lower left portion of this platform.

As day 2 wore on, we passed these laid up aka “cold stacked” drill platforms, although not close enough to read any names/writing on them.  Might they be, and I’m quoting here from someone who knows more than I do, “seven or so former HERCULES jackups (which, in fact, have never been officially renamed as ENTERPRISE)  that match these perfectly:  six Bethlehem units (one of which has no derrick because she was last used for production) and one lattice–legged unit, matching the sole Marathon-LeTourneau rig on their list, HERCULES 150.  [Check out the first six minutes of this 1980s film to understand some of the features].

These elderly shallow-water jackups are dinosaurs and have trouble finding work in the best of times.  They probably were cold-stacked about 10 years ago as oilfield slowed down, and between antiquation and corrosion, would only be reactivated in a real windfall.” 

“Lattice legged” I understand, but can someone explain the “screw” tip legs to the right, which must be Bethlehem Steel built? 

As darkness fell, we “legged” down south of the Timbalier Islands, Terrebonne Parish,  east of the mothballed rigs, and

southwest of Port Fourchon, aka Fourchon, where I’ve visited twice. Fourchon is so low-lying that even from just a few miles off, it seemed like nothing more than skyglow.  I’ve not been back there after Hurricane Ida hit last summer.

  Port Fourchon was little more than mosquito lands until 1960. 

All photos and any errors, WVD.   Many thanks to a modest but “somewhat trusty expert” [his nomenclature] for some explanation of the function of oil/gas infrastructure.  As I post more such photos, I’m hoping more experts will weigh in.

Here’s a 2010 photo essay of rig work from the Houston Chronicle, and another from CNN  here showing work conditions on a rig in the GOM. 

Here’s another mostly photographic account of quite commonplace traffic off Louisiana, aka in the oil patch.  

Fourchon Runner is running some supplies, equipment, and likely personnel out to one of a forest of platforms involved in oil and gas extraction.  Here are stats on Fourchon Runner

This unit on the stern looks to my untrained eye to be a ROV.

Is this an active nearshore drill rig?  

Standing by platform Enterprise 205, registered in Monrovia,  is GOL Power.  GOL expands to Gulf Offshore Logistics, and they have a diverse fleet as seen here. Click here for a short history of Enterprise Offshore Drilling, and here for more info on their 205. Surprisingly it has 84 berths.  I’m wondering why the foreign registry.

A ways farther east, and visible for miles, was platform Enterprise 351, capable of working in deeper water, up to 350′!

Jacob Gerald, a GOL utility vessel, passes a platform, likely not a drilling platform.

As we began our turn toward the SW Pass of the Mississippi River is Randolph John

a Tobias, Inc. boat. 

Jimmie Holmes Elevator is a 2006 lift boat.  A lot of lift boats have names including the word “elevator.”

The 2005 ABI C was headed off to deliver supplies and who knows what else. 

Sea Service 1 is a 180′ GOL vessel. 

 

All photos and any errors, WVD. 

Long time readers of this blog know I’ve assigned the term “exotic” to vessel types not commonly seen in the sixth boro.  If I’d begun the blog in the SW Louisiana section of the Gulf of Mexico, I’d never have called the boats in this post “exotic.”  For a primer on types of offshore supply vessels (OSVs) seen in these waters, check out this link and call it OSV 101 . . .  as the USCG does. 

Let’s have a look. 

Above and below, the name “tiger” gets applied to two very different vessels with a quarter mile of each other.  I’ve not yet tapped into significant resources for OSVs like the Tiger above or the Tiger below, a small lift boat, sometimes referred to as an elevating boat.  I believe  Tiger started life as Al Plachy in 1971. 

These photos were all taken between Port of Iberia and Port Fourchon, an area where, besides OSVs like Luke Thomas, another “exotic” feature is the amount of energy infrastructure.  I do have a lot of photos I’ll need help interpreting because I could call all these structures “rigs” or platforms but I suspect enough differentiation exists that should be understood.   All that will be part of unpacking my recent hot sojourn.  For a sense of the platforms and active pipelines in the “oil patch,” click here.   A much more detailed picture emerges from looking at a bathymetric chart that shows all the inactive infrastructure that needs nevertheless to be considered before anchoring or spudding down.  

More on Luke Thomas here

Grant, I believe, is a smaller but faster OSV. As I alluded above, the amount of differentiation among platforms is significant.

Check out this sequence with Grant, where she approaches stern-to, 

a “personnel cage” is lowered, and 

a crew member will be transferred up to the top of the platform.  Does the “cage” have a more technical or vernacular term?

Gloria May here backs up to a rig in the area of Isles Dernieres/Timbalier Island chain.   I have some good bird photos, so I’m going to have to do a “for the birds post” one of these days. 

I’m not sure where C-Fighter was coming from, but 

her livery and name identify her as an Edison Chouest OSV, and she was headed into Port Fourchon. C-Fighter has appeared in this blog once before here

All photos and any errors . . . please pin on WVD.  I did make a doozy of an error in yesterday’s post, and am grateful for readers’ pointing out that error. 

In a few days when I’m more settled, I’ll begin a more systematic record of my trip out of the bayous. 

Another secret salt’s been photographing, this one in the waters near Galveston, a place I’ve not been.

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Here he passed San Roberto and Rana Miller, which I have not seen in the sixth boro since 2009.

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The orange boats are AET, and assist with lightering operations, as does Rana.   Josephine K Miller must be offshore.

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Mr. Henry works for Barry Graham Oil Services.

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Thor is one large tractor tug.

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I’m not sure what vessel that is in the foreground, but

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Ocean Star appears to be a petroleum museum, a concept I’d not considered,

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whereas these rigs have not yet been promoted–or demoted–to museum service.

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One of these years, i’ll have to gallivant this way.  Many thanks to the secret salts.

 

Secret salts sometimes send along photos, and I appreciate that, since many waterways I’ll never see . . .  and that means boats I’d never encounter, like Reliance, 1979, 127′ x 40;’

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Grand Canyon II, an offshore construction/ROV/IRM vessel, shown in this link getting towed from Romania to Norway for completion; and more.

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Here’s an unidentified Marquette Offshore boat with an unidentified Weeks crane barge,

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Paraclete . . .  look that word up here  and then see the rest of the names in her fleet,

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Gulf Faith, 

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USCGC Cobia

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Gulf Glory and an unidentified Algoma self-unloader,

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and finally a WW2-era tank-landing ship turned dredger and named Columbia, ex-LST-987.

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All interesting stuff from Mobile, Alabama.   Hat’s off to the secret salt.

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