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Cruising the Gulf Coast

Jay Paul (left) and RJ Molinere arm-wrestle over the bill at Big Al’s Restaurant in Houma, Louisiana. Photo by Lisa Overing
Jay Paul (left) and RJ Molinere, of TV's Swamp People, arm-wrestle over the bill at Big Al’s Restaurant in Houma, Louisiana. The Cajun-Indian alligator hunters are freakishly strong, world champion arm wrestlers who grab lines barehanded to wrestle a vicious and very live alligator on the other end. Photo by Lisa Overing

The Gulf Coast is hot, sticky, and humid in August. And I miss it – cruising the Gulf Coast. I’m ready to go back to Ocean Springs, Miss., to our bayou-front home. Located about one mile north of the Gulf of Mexico, our little La Cala Canal comes complete with blood-sucking mosquitos and an alligator hole.

I always sit rather on the beautiful 80-foot dock that my husband had specially built and dredged. There’s a nice, teak bench where I swat bugs onto my skin while eyeballing potential predators amidst curious clicking sounds of frogs and baby gators. It’s an eerie, sensory overload, part of a wondrous wildlife preserve, and it feels that way in the sultry summer.

The Swamp Palace in Mississippi juxtaposes nicely with the tranquility of our condo perched on Dumbfoundling Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway in Aventura, Fla. There’s a magnificent parade of megayachts on any given Sunday with a cool ocean breeze, even in the middle of June.

During the daytime, the warm Atlantic sun gently balms your skin until it’s time for the night, which almost requires a sweater on the balcony. It’s wonderfully pleasant, listening to the gentle current with the night wind wafting through your hair. Some nights you’ll spot a magnificent dolphin prancing through the canal, coming up for air before another effortless porpoise splashes downward, and up again, a few yards away. The rhythmic repetition of their swim is entrancing under the moonlight.

My Atlantic and Gulf South homes are each beautiful, in their own way, with those environmental weather factors shaping their uniquely different waterfront lifestyles. Before I left Mississippi in May for South Florida’s parade of Botox, plastic surgery nightmares to interview rich movie stars and celebrities, I sat down with two very down-to-earth stars of TV’s Swamp People, RJ and Jay Paul Molinere, in Houma, Louisiana.

The Cajun-Indian alligator hunters are freakishly strong, world champion arm wrestlers who grab lines barehanded to wrestle a vicious and very live alligator on the other end.

A future issue of All At Sea Southeast will showcase my interview on History Channel’s alligator-hunting Molineres, now TV pop culture icons. While I was impressed to meet them, the truth is that alligator hunting is so prevalent on the Gulf Coast that it’s even been perfected by 80-year-old bayou grannies like Joy Fleming, my hostess during my spring sojourn to Cajun Country.

Joy catches gators at her waterfront home on Bayou Teche in New Iberia, La., a few miles from where Tabasco pepper sauce is made on Avery Island. After she catches an alligator, Joy telephones a private alligator control agent who promptly handles the physical details of killing and removal, usually for sale to a local restaurant. Bayou Granny carefully reaches out over the water’s edge with a garden hoe and hangs a rope with a hook and a dead chicken over a mossy oak branch. It is self-preservation. Otherwise, Bayou Granny will see what looks like a log moving in her backyard toward her cats, Mike and Mr. Ugly. Joy does this without the TV cameras and crew to back her up.

The ecosystem of the Gulf Coast’s marshes and swamps creates the best fishing in the world, renowned for record-setting catches from salt, brackish, and fresh waters all located within minutes of each other.

As we prepare for the month of August and observe the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the perpetual cycle of the Gulf of Mexico, with its hurricanes that destroy valuable waterfront property and erode precious wetlands, will churn and turn the Gulf to filter its waters of any remaining oil from the BP disaster. These are the same waters that hold offshore rigs that attract baitfish to lure big-game trophy fish. It may not seem like a natural co-existence at first glance, but actually, it juxtaposes rather nicely, too.

As long as there’s salt, sweat, sea, or swamp involved, freelance marine journalist Lisa Overing feels buoyant. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and coming from a long line of working sailors, Lisa pens for yachting and luxury lifestyle magazines and wrote under the byline Lisa Hoogerwerf Knapp from 1986-2011.

 

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