Cajun Navy on the job for evacuated shrimpers

John Fitzhugh tells us about some Gulfport men volunteering to help those in need as we prepare for tropical weather.
Updated: Aug. 24, 2020 at 8:25 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The Cajun Navy is known for rescuing stranded people during storms, but luckily Tropical Storm Marco didn’t provide any bad weather Monday.

Instead, members of the informal coalition of boaters were helping out in good weather.

When the fleet of shrimp boats evacuate to the Industrial Canal in Gulfport safe harbor for a storm, they are cut off from the world in the middle of the city.

Most have all the supplies they need, but sometimes they need a little help.

A trio of Gulfport men found themselves helping out those shrimpers. They are members of the Cajun Navy, a loose organization of boaters who help in times of need.

“When the storm gets bad and things go south, the streets flood this and that, we’ll come out in boats like these and everybody helps out and help rescue,” said Dawson Ducet of Gulfport.

Ducet and two friends have been riding the rivers checking on the evacuated boats when they were flagged down by one shrimper after another.

“We’ve been off of work and we’ve been running down the river see what’s going on, and we seen all these shrimp boats out here,” said Miles Wood of Gulfport. “They’ve been asking us if we can give them rides back and forth so they don’t have to swim, and just necessities. They might need some milk or some food from the gas station, we’ll help them out.”

One of the boats had a rope wrapped around the propeller, and the men had the skill and equipment to take care of that too.

“They asked if we knew anybody who had any diving gear, and we went and got some diving gear and got it done,” Wood said.

It was difficult work in the dark water.

“When we get down there under the water we can’t see but maybe a foot in front of our face,” Wood said. “Get a hold of them ropes and see where they’re tight and get to cutting.”

The men have found themselves in great demand from the shrimpers who may spend a week in the Industrial Canal waiting for Hurricane Laura to pass.

The Cajun Navy evolved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rescuing thousands of people in New Orleans.

They have volunteered to help rescue people during many storms since then.

Ducet said their work is not just rescuing during and after storms.

“You know there’s so much to do before the storm as well,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that and see that, but guys out here need help too, just like guys in the street with their house flooding and all that, so we just try to help out all around.”

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