Karen Baker column for Feb. 28, 2013: Local family witnesses kindness at sea

Photo provided by Ron Thibodeaux -- Ellie Gohn, granddaughter of Ron Thibodeaux, watches from the rail of the Carnival conquest as the Carnival Legend, on the right, circles the disabled Triumph as food and supplies are being transferred. After the Legend departed, the Conquest drew closer and  did the same thing. The Triumph sat dead in the water for another day or two before it began to be towed back to the United States.
Photo provided by Ron Thibodeaux -- Ellie Gohn, granddaughter of Ron Thibodeaux, watches from the rail of the Carnival conquest as the Carnival Legend, on the right, circles the disabled Triumph as food and supplies are being transferred. After the Legend departed, the Conquest drew closer and did the same thing. The Triumph sat dead in the water for another day or two before it began to be towed back to the United States.

By Karen Baker

Special to The Advocate

During his 30-plus years in the newspaper business, Covington resident Ron Thibodeaux made it a policy to unplug himself from the news while on vacation. It’s a policy he decided to keep when he moved into a new job at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. When you’re on vacation, you should be on vacation.

It sounds like a great policy — until the news lands at your vacation doorstep. That’s what happened to Thibodeaux and his wife, Robyn, when they were on a cruise with family during Mardi Gras week.

“It was about the middle of the afternoon on Monday, our first full day at sea,” he said, “when we were sitting out by the pool and the captain came over the PA system and announced that we were veering off course. He said another Carnival ship was disabled, and it was unclear how long it would take to get the ship back to port. We were diverting to deliver supplies.”

The disabled ship, of course, was the Carnival Triumph, which was stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico after a fire. It was eventually towed back to the port of Mobile.

“The Triumph was on the way back to Galveston after a seven-day cruise, and the ship’s food supply was depleted. We were just leaving port, so we had plenty,” Thibodeaux said. “We pulled up alongside” and shared supplies.

“From the time of the announcement, it was about an hour and 20 minutes before we got to them,” he said. “Another ship, the Legend, was also assisting and we waited for that ship to leave.

“People were gathered on the port side of our ship at the railing” to watch. You could see the disabled ship in the distance, sort of like you can see the New Orleans skyline from the Causeway on a clear day, Thibodeaux said.

“It was all very exciting, though we of course felt bad for them. We had no idea they would be there three more days. After our ship delivered supplies, we were blissfully unaware. But we felt very good that we could offer help to them.”

It wasn’t until later that week, when they had a chance to talk to the cruise ship’s head chef, that Thibodeaux and his family realized that sharing the food supply was a bit trickier than they thought. There was nowhere to stop and get more food.

“We had dinner with the head chef,” Thibodeaux said. “He’s in charge of ordering food for 3,000 passengers and crew. He also had to decide what he could send to the disabled ship.

“We assumed we could give them whatever they needed and restock in Jamaica. But the chef said no; whatever is on the ship has to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

The Thibodeauxs and their group, along with the 3,000 or so other passengers, continued on their weeklong cruise from New Orleans without a hitch, learning of the disabled ship’s fate just before returning to port. Although Thibodeaux may stick with his no-news vacation policy, he did learn something from his family cruise.

“The lesson for us was this: If we take another cruise, we’ll pack plenty of granola bars, peanuts and nonperishable food. And some extra clothes.”

Big arts weekend in Slidell

Here’s the scoop on Slidell this weekend: The Arts Evening on Saturday will feature the work of more than 100 artists plus live entertainment, fine dining and casual dining options, and antique and boutique shopping throughout Olde Towne Slidell.

If that isn’t enough, Saturday also will mark the opening of “From the Vaults,” a collection of works from the vaults of the New Orleans Museum of Art. Some of the most significant artists of the 20th century will be featured at the Slidell Cultural Center, including Pablo Picasso, Joan MirĂ³ and Henri Matisse.

An opening reception will take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday during Arts Evening. The gallery hours are from noon till 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. The Cultural Center is located at 2055 Second St.

League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters of St. Tammany Parish will hold its legislative preview meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria of the Louisiana Heart Hospital, 64030 La. 434 in Lacombe.

The meeting is free. There’s an optional, low-cost dinner at 5:30 p.m.

Topics will include education cuts, health care and tax changes.

For more information, contact Sandra Slifer at (985) 875-9388 or go to http://lwvofst.org.

Lenten reflections

Catholic Women in Action, a committee of the Catholic Foundation, will hold a day of Lenten reflection on March 7 at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 1501 West Causeway Approach in Mandeville.

The day begins with Mass at 9 a.m., followed by speakers including Gayle Benson, Joey Cleveland Caruso and Kitty Cleveland.

Karen Baker writes about St. Tammany Parish. She can be reached at sliceoftammany@gmail.com