Using skills honed from Louisiana’s 5,000 miles of navigable streams, a very special group of boaters, collectively called the Cajun Navy, sets “sail” to help rescue victims from floods, not only in their state but in other states as well. This 100%-volunteer-based navy is made up of hundreds of private boat skippers and crews who offer their time and boat-handling expertise to help people in need.
To join this navy, all you need to do is respond to the calls for boat handlers circulated on social media. These altruistic individuals show up in pickup trucks trailering boats and head to the location in need; people without boats find friends with small watercraft or join crews as strangers, and end up as comrades in life jackets.
Hurricane Michael Relief Underway!
In fact, in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which struck the Florida Panhandle this week, Cajun Navy volunteers were immediately on the scene in Panama City and other communities helping storm victims.
What are “Cajuns”?
Cajuns descended from Acadians exiled in the mid-1700s from what is now known as the “Maritimes of Eastern Canada.” They speak a very distinctive version of French used by other French descendants in Louisiana. Cajuns have their own holidays and celebrations (like Mardi Gras), cuisine, and musical traditions. After World War II, they lived a largely insular life in southern Louisiana. Cajuns’ historical reputation for self-sufficiency, which includes hunting and fishing, goes hand-in-hand with a joie de vivre that lets them laugh at themselves.
Do You Have To Be Cajun To Join The Cajun Navy?
But you don’t have to be Cajun to be in the Cajun Navy. All you need is a truck, a boat—or a few good friends with these things—and the desire to help those in need.
Lee Mouk, a 51-year-old manufacturer’s sales representative and member of the Cajun Navy took his boat from Baton Rouge to Houston in August 2017 after Hurricane Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches of rain on Houston and the surrounding communities.
Neighbors of Chris and Canette Liddy and Clyde and Van Day jokingly called themselves an honorary squadron of the Cajun Navy. They used a canoe, wheelbarrows, and pickup trucks to remove belongings from the couples’ houses after a freak 30-inch deluge fell on Baton Rouge over the course of two days in August 2016.
The neighbors came day after day, hauling soaked furniture and carpeting to the curb. They tore out sodden walls and set up fans to dry the inside of the houses before mold could set in. At last, matters were left to the flooded families and a contractor they shared.
Merely a half-year later, there was a big jambalaya dinner to celebrate the families’ return to their houses. Neighbors sat in chairs on grass a canoe had once passed over.
A reporter who sailed with the Cajun Navy in Texas summed up rescuers’ motivations perfectly as a “three-way split between religious ‘love-thy-neighbor’ local-patriotism, and the rush of adrenaline adventure.”
To learn more about the Cajun Navy and how you can volunteer, visit:
This story appears in the 2019 Farmers’ Almanac. Get your copy here.
2019 Farmers' Almanac
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