Hebert family moved from Cheniere Caminada (near Grand Isle on the Louisiana
Gulf coast) to the more intimate waterscape of Irish Bayou (now surrounded by
the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to New Orleans) their
Lafitte skiff and pirogues, standard tools of Louisiana fisherman, made the move
with them. With that move,
the vista from Arthur’s home changed dramatically.
In contrast to the vast expanse of Gulf, the bayou was limited – it had
another side and Arthur could see
across to it. As an 11-year-old boy
he was permitted to play alone in the pirogue within the confines of their dock
but not allowed to venture out farther alone. The bayou was home to commercial
fishermen and its waters rocked with the wakes of their skiffs.
Oblivious to the dangers his parents knew, Arthur developed a passion –
to paddle across the Bayou and see for himself the other side.
And, he hatched a plan. Painstakingly
separating the strands from a discarded tugboat hawser he tied them end to end,
from dock to pirogue, stretching and measuring until he was sure his makeshift
rope would span the bayou. Eventually,
his father relented, and Arthur’s paddling career commenced.
His vistas have expanded with age and experience but his first solo crossing of
Irish Bayou ranks right up there in his mind with his sea kayak crossing in 1998
of the Gulf of Mexico. (See: http://www.seacajun.com/ for details.)
There were plenty of major paddle trips in between: an open canoe crossing of
Lake Ponchartrain - 45 miles/15 hours in 1990, circumnavigation of the same lake
- 108 miles/50 hours in 1992, (Does
anybody recognize a pattern here?), exploration of the entire Louisiana coast
with Larry Koenig in ’94 and many others.
The scope of his vision has expanded but its intensity has not.
In his quest for that “second skin” Arthur’s boat of choice has changed
from pirogue to canoe to sea kayak. As
a coastal kayaking instructor certified by the American Canoe Association at the
University of Minnesota he shares his passion with others
Arthur has two children,
Nichole, 24, who currently lives and works in San Francisco and Brooke, 15, his
paddling partner, which are his most important source of motivation for this
trip. They are frequently on his mind and always in his heart. Arthur works as a field supervisor for a large general
contractor in New Orleans where he specializes in renovations of 18th
and 19th century buildings. In
them he has been known to spend hours after his normal workday exploring the
depths of ancient outhouses in search of archeologically significant discards
from New Orleans’ past.
One of Arthur’s abiding resolutions is that years from now he won’t be that
old man sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch thinking, “What happened
to all the years and all the dreams”.