Ouachita River Rats: Four Fat Men, One Little Boat

Posted on August 28, 2013

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Frank, Capt. Jason, Benjamin and Yours Truly at Moon Lake Marina.  This is post-pickle shot FYI.

Frank, Capt. Jason, Benjamin and Yours Truly at Moon Lake Marina.
This is post-pickle shot FYI.


A few weeks ago my friend Jason took me for a ride on his boat, a little Bayliner he christened Miss Fitz.

We launched into the Ouachita river from the boat ramp at Lazarre Park in West Monroe. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Though I’ve never owned a boat of my own I love riding the waves, feeling the boat pitch and rock, the wind through my hair.

I love the way the river smells, the bouquet of decay and renewal, earth and water, a heady aroma that smells ancient yet brand new.

The Ouachita river is home to a fairly exclusive club, there are no membership dues or fees, the only admission requirement is a boat. I was first introduced to this lifestyle 20 years ago when another friend took me out for weekend rides on his Bayliner.

I marveled at the traffic, at times the waterway can become downright crowded, rush-hour-on-the-freeway style, lumbering house boats plodding along like pachyderms, ski boats rocketing past hauling neon inner-tubes of delighted kids, party barges packed with middle-aged riders and drunken college students on jet skis darting this way and that.

Back seat on the Miss Fitz

Back seat on the Miss Fitz

Its a strange experience to see your hometown from the river the first time, familiar sites suddenly seem exotic and new when seen from a different angle.

The underside of the Lea Joyner Bridge for instance, I’ve been riding across it my entire life. Heck, I’m even old enough to remember when it was just the Louisville Bridge, it was renamed after a beloved Monroe pastor in the mid-80’s. This piece of steel and concrete, so familiar to my eyes, was transformed the first time I viewed it from the underside.

Same story with the Endom and railroad bridges, its cool but kinda disconcerting to feel like an explorer in a place you know, or at least thought you knew, in an intimate manner. That’s how I felt the first time I rode down the Ouachita through Monroe/West Monroe.

Under the Lea Joyner Bridge

Under the Lea Joyner Bridge

Jason and I cruised on up to the Moon Lake Marina where my captain and host introduced me to an alcoholic beverage known as a ‘Pickle Shot’, a jigger of whiskey with a pickle juice chaser.

Very first time in my life I enjoyed a pickle.

Houseboats are fascinating to me. I have a bit of an obsession with them. When I was 19 I actually applied for a mortgage to buy a houseboat, the banker told me he’d be glad to finance a home loan for me; provided I came up with a $10,000 down payment.

Until you get on the water, you probably never realize how many houseboats we have in our neck of the woods. Oh, sure you see the ones docked on both sides of the river in downtown Monroe and West Monroe, but there are dozens more parked along the river once the twin cities fall behind and dozens more still on Bayous D’arbonne and Desiard.

They seem so solid when docked, its almost hard to imagine they actually move until you see it happen. But move they do, and when they move houseboats don’t seem plodding or clumsy to me, instead there is something regal about their slow, methodical progress, like giant vegetarian dinosaurs.

I neglected to take a picture of the Miss Fitz so I had to steal this one from Jason's page, she is the red boat on the left, this pic was taken at Moon Lake Marina, home of the pickle shot.

I neglected to take a picture of the Miss Fitz so I had to steal this one from Jason’s page, she is the red boat on the left, this pic was taken at Moon Lake Marina, home of the pickle shot.

Jason invited me back the next Sunday and this past weekend he picked me up with Frank and Benjamin in tow. The four of us had a blast, we rode up and down the river, stopped at Tutti-Fruiti beach for a swim and of course, made the prerequisite stop at Moon Lake Marina for a pickle shot.

Taking a dip in the Ouachita river

Taking a dip in the Ouachita river

I loved this tree when I saw it the first time, plan to make a pyrography piece one day from this photo.

I loved this tree when I saw it the first time, plan to make a pyrography piece one day from this photo.

Sunset over the Lea Joyner bridge from the stern of the Miss Fitz.

Sunset over the Lea Joyner bridge from the stern of the Miss Fitz.

Houseboats along the Ouachita River

Houseboats along the Ouachita River

My new friend Frank and a beautiful sky over the Ouachita river.

My new friend Frank and a beautiful sky over the Ouachita river.

Ben, Frank & Jason

Ben, Frank & Jason

Old Glory flies along the Ouachita river

Old Glory flies along the Ouachita river

I love the water at twilight

I love the water at twilight

This makes me very happy, can you tell?

This makes me very happy, can you tell?

Captain Jason pilots the Miss Fitz back home

Captain Jason pilots the Miss Fitz back home

See you on the river friends…

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