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Maiden Voyage of the Canoemaran


Since the beginning of Paddle Baton Rouge, we have had but one canoe on our many cleanups.  That all changed in time to tie together a paddle train to haul the loo from Bayou Fountain last trip, but the time had come to go even better.  It was time to create the Canoemaran.

For some time now, it has seemed obvious that while two canoes can hold more than one canoe, two canoes strapped together with crossbars could hold quite a bit more.  With a canoemaran, you can not only pile up litter in each hull, but you can mound it up over the middle.  A quick bit of napkin geometry sketching seems to say you get something like an entire extra canoe’s worth of capacity free*!  (*Some assembly required, extremely narrow channels excluded.)

Fast forward through a day of building and testing, and you end up with a set of three wooden crossbars, seven straps, one tripod-and-storage tray, and just a few paint splotches here and there.  Also, when all those (save the splotches) are put together, you have a fully-operational canoemaran.  Woo-hoo!

The maiden voyage of the canoemaran shoved off from the private yard launch of Jonathan from the Bayou Manchac Group, who not only provided launch services but also gladly joined in the cleanup.  By around a quarter to nine, we were on Bayou Manchac paddling upstream toward the Ward Creek confluence, which seemed a perfectly filthy place to begin.  (Wouldn’t want the maiden voyage to return less than reasonably full, would we?)

With the recent rains still producing a lingering bit of current, towing the Canoemaran was a bit more effort than it would normally be on Bayou Manchac.  We only averaged about two miles an hour on the way upstream (true speed, documented by GPS tracklog), but that wasn’t bad considering.  Towing the unladen Canoemaran was not unduly difficult, and Jonathan was enjoying the trip paddling with various paddles, sitting and even standing.

Upon arriving at the Ward Creek confluence, the Canoemaran’s anchor was set and the cleanup began in earnest.  As often happens, some of the litter raft of the previous trip had apparently broken free to head down Bayou Manchac, but there was still quite a large amount at hand, primarily in two large concentrations.

Jonathan had several rakes, grabbers, and other interesting bits of hardware.  I, on the other hand, had my kayak and paddle, so I went back to basics.  If you get up enough speed and plow directly into the litter rafts, you can actually get fairly deep into them.  Makes it much easier to pick things up.  (Getting back out, on the other hand, can sometimes be… interesting.)

One interesting thing about the litter rafts is that when you disturbed them, often a huge cloud of mosquitoes would take flight.  The floating trash is apparently a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.  Thankfully, it seemed the mosquitoes making up the clouds were not interested in dining during the day, and the clouds tended to dissipate quite rapidly.  As long as you didn’t yawn at an inopportune time, you were safe.  (If you did, well, you’d be well fed.)

After polishing off the confluence area, we continued downstream back toward Jonathan’s launch.  We’d haul up the anchor, paddle down to the next litter concentration, and drop anchor.  Jonathan took to the strainers, and I paddled the vicinity picking up stray litter from the banks and smaller concentrations.  Once it was cleaned, up with the anchor and onward down the bayou.

Eventually, Jonathan had to head back, but as the Canoemaran still had plenty of room remaining, I elected to stay back and keep working.  I’d hate to prematurely conclude the maiden voyage while there was plenty of litter remaining and space to carry it, after all.  On the other hand, it was getting to be a bit warm.  Thankfully, a pleasant little rainstorm dropped by, cooling me considerably (and leaving an inch or two of water in the bottom of the Canoemaran).

The cleanup continued past Airline Highway, and around 1000 feet downstream of that bridge, there’s a chicane with two strainer trees catching a *vast* amount of litter.  I anchored the Canoemaran and went to work.  I did not see any sign of the snake I’d seen slinking through the upstream of the two litter rafts as we made our way upstream hours earlier, but it’s wise to be reasonably careful whenever you’re outdoors in Louisiana.

When I’d more or less finished the upstream litter raft (after about an hour’s work), I started work on the downstream one (which was much, much larger).  I really wish I’d had a pool pole or at least a rake, as the litter under the tree and vines was virtually unreachable.  There was plenty to be had without working far into the foliage, however, and that provided more than enough litter to grab.

After not quite another two hours of work, the Canoemaran was quite respectably loaded, and exhaustion was beginning to set in.  Also, a thunderstorm was making its voice heard, and getting back before dark seemed like a good idea (or else how would we get some nice photos of the results, eh?).  I pulled anchor and started downstream (but only after making one last grab into the foliage to retrieve a purple dinosaur inflatable kiddie pool — who could leave *that*?).

The run back to Jonathan’s launch was… informative.  The Canoemaran behaved acceptably well while unloaded, but when loaded (including an inch or two of water ballast in the bottoms), it flat out *refused* to track straight.  The entire run back was one unending slalom.  You’d pull the bow around, but the momentum of the laden Canoemaran would continue the turn into a tail slide, requiring a new turn back in the opposite direction.  (This *immensely* increased the workload.)  It *was* entertaining, however, to note that the Canoemaran had so much momentum that it would attempt to pass the tow kayak each time it was pulled around. :)

At last, the Canoemaran trek reached its destination back at the launch point.  We offloaded all the litter (31 bags, plus various larger objects) onto a trailer Jonathan pulled down to the launch, and the Canoemaran was disassembled and loaded onto the waiting canoe trailer.  All in all, quite a day.

The time-lapse video from the Maiden Voyage of the Canoemaran has been posted as well.  It certainly wags about quite a bit, especially on the return trip, but it’s worth a glance.  If you’re prone to motion sickness, do not watch it on a big screen TV… or at least try to keep your eyes on the Canoemaran, not the trees. ;)


All in all, a great day on the bayou, and there’s plenty more out there where this came from.

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