Operation CarnivalMar 15th, 2011 | By Michelle Provencher | Category: news
As a day of beautiful weather winded down, subdued rays of early evening sunlight began to dance across the surface of the Mississippi River, and a boat carrying Carnival royalty cut across the glistening water.
Every Lundi Gras, the Coast Guard takes over a portion of the Mississippi River as the kings of the city’s two biggest parades, Rex and Zulu, are transported by boat downriver to the parties awaiting them, and culminate in a waterfront fireworks display.
The Coast Guard is responsible for more than just providing the vessel to carry Rex and Zulu, they are also in charge of security detail for the day.
On the Monday before Mardi Gras, the Coast Guard’s three 25-foot-long response boats, two helicopters and one coastal patrol boat escorted Zulu, and then Rex, aboard the vessel Barbara Mabrity from the Port of New Orleans to their parties at Woldenberg Park and Spanish Plaza, respectively.
For the first time, the media was invited onboard the patrol boat that drove along the Mabrity’s route. The boat made its rounds in the river for the duration of Zulu and Rex’s celebratory cruises.
In addition to patrolling the waters, the Coast Guard set up a three-mile safety zone – 1.5 miles longer than the Kings’ actual route – which limited access for ferries and ships. However, according to LTJG Chrisy Chantarasopak with the Coast Guard, this annual event is well-known and boat captains are usually anticipating it.
There are about a dozen crew members living on the boat, and they have plenty of duties to keep them busy, said LTJG Charles England.
While the captain steers the boat, another Guardsman opens a ledger of handwritten numbers, and then scribbles down their location every 30 minutes, completing the neat, militaristic rows.
The day provides smooth sailing, with virtually no interruptions from following his highnesses to their destinations.
This is Zulu’s 19th year participating in the Lundi Gras river transport, and 25th year for Rex.
Accompanying Rex’s transit is a tug boat parade, led by a fire boat, and a flyover by two MV-22 Ospreys from the Marine Corps.
Rounding out the day, fireworks were shot up into the air from the deck of one of the tug boats for partygoers watching on the river banks.