Shrimper lucky to be alive after twister sinks boat

Bruce McDonald
June 04, 2010 at 9:02 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Shrimper lucky to be alive after twister sinks boat
A 74-year-old Ama shrimper was motoring his 27-foot Lafitte skiff to Pier 90 from Grand Isle when a tornado tore apart and sunk his shrimping boat and left him dangling in the water for 30 minutes.

Whitney Plaisance Sr. had been shrimping in Grand Isle last week and was not having much success. When the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries closed all shrimping in the area due to the oil spill, Plaisance decided to head back to Pier 90.
It was to be a three-hour trip that would take him up the Barataria Seaway, through Lake Salvador and Lake Cataouatche, into Sellers Canal and finally to Pier 90. Plaisance almost didn’t make it.

“I left Grand Isle around 1 p.m. by myself and the weather was pretty - there was a light wind, no clouds and very little waves,” Plaisance said. “When I was in Lake Cataouatche at 4:30 p.m., I noticed a large thunderstorm ahead of me. The wind had picked up a lot.”

Because of the high winds, the water had gotten rough by the time Plaisance reached the mouth of Sellers Canal. Still, he figured he could make it to Pier 90 before the bad weather hit.

“All of a sudden a big blast of cold air hit, and it felt like someone opened a freezer door,” Plaisance said. “The wind picked up the front of my 27-foot boat like a toy. The boat turned to the left and was put  on its side and then quickly sank.”

Plaisance, who was wearing a life jacket, was forced into the water. To avoid being struck by lightning, he decided to stay with his boat until the storm moved on.

That took 30 minutes.

“I then swam to the bank and walked on the levee back to Highway 90,” he said. “When I reached Pier 90, I called my wife to pick me up.”

Pier 90’s harbor master knows just how lucky Plaisance is to be alive. He noticed a strong thunderstorm developing at 4:30 p.m. and went outside to check on boaters.

“A big gust of wind came up and hail the size of golf balls fell briefly with a lot of ran,” he said. “I could see rotation in the clouds and realized it was a small twister.”

Before Plaisance left for the day, he and his friends placed three blinking lights on the partially sunken vessel to alert boaters. 

By sundown, everyone was safe and back home. 

The next morning, Plaisance and some friends returned to try to recover the 27-foot Lafitte skiff.

“I know the motor will be fine, but all of the electronic equipment is ruined,” Plaisance said.

View other articles written Bruce McDonald

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