When Hurricane Florence hit Virginia and the Carolinas, I was happy to see the Cajun Navy had once more mobilized.
The unofficial and informal group of mostly fishermen was formed after the massive flooding that inundated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Back then I was contacted by some of my old friends from the Louisiana bayou country and my hometown of New Iberia to see if I might help with the rescue effort.
People with last names like Thibadeaux, Leblanc, Breaux and Boudreaux and their sons and daughters were hooking on to their boats to see if they could be of help in the Crescent City. I knew I couldn’t say no and began to prepare my 17-foot skiff and trailer for the 700 mile journey. The Cajun Navy was gathering at Lafayette about 90 miles west of New Orleans and just far enough away to miss the brunt of the storm.
To be sure, the Cajuns are all great boat handlers. Even though most of them only owned small john boats, bass boats and air boats, they descended upon the city to help where they could.
Before I was to leave, I began to get messages telling me to stay put. As it turned out, the criminals and thugs of New Orleans were stealing the Cajun’s boats at gunpoint to be used in looting and robberies. Sure enough I began to see news reports of thugs in boats ransacking the abandoned houses. It was said they even fought among themselves since some wanted to take TVs and stereos, but others wanted to stick to jewelry and cash for lack of room in the boats. Needless to say I decided not to go.
Luckily some of the Cajuns armed themselves and persevered and were a big help in New Orleans. After that they would go to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Now this all volunteer group has gained fame for their emergency work and I am proud of them. Many members of The Cajun Navy made the thousand mile trip to the east coast to try and help out after Florence.
Commendable indeed, but here in Florida we have more boats than any state in the union. Where are the Volusia volunteers? Now I know our citizenry is not nearly as close knit as the Cajuns of Southwestern Louisiana. That group operates as one big happy family and with good reason. Most are at least shirt-tail relatives.
Still, I know our local boaters to be kind and caring people who would lend a hand if they knew how. I also know our local captains can handle a boat as well as anyone on the planet. I am certain we could offer our fellow Americans a valuable service in the aftermath of all these terrible storms. I am also sure if we needed help, the Cajun Navy would be here in force to come to our aid.
If there is someone out there (perhaps a bit younger than I) who would like to head up our own version, I would be happy to help and publicize that effort in this space. Boaters as a group represent a brotherhood. We all endure the same problems and enjoy the same successes. Wouldn’t it be great to put our expertise to work for a good cause? Think about it and, as Rick Scott would say, “let’s get to work!”
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.