Sunday, May 12, 2013


Hello, boys and girls.
Can you say, “Flocculation”?
I knew you could.

I know what you are thinking, “What the hell is Flockyou…whatever?” and “Why are you swearing at me?” And just as important, “What does this have to do with the maritime world?”
Well, hang on to your hats boys and girls; we’re going to learn something today. 
At least I did.

As we were approaching Southwest Pass, the entrance to the Mississippi River, we heard an inbound ship talking to the pilot boat saying they were having trouble making any speed due to being in the “Slush”. They were loaded to 42-feet of draft and only making a knot and a half (1.7 miles per hour for the not so nautically inclined). Not very fast. 

Both the Captain and I had never heard the term “slush” before. We deduced, that with the ship’s deep draft, it was probably “sniffing bottom”. In essence, the ship wasn’t aground, but with the loose silt in the lower Mississippi River, it was basically dredging its own channel through the mud.
We were wrong. Surprising, I know.

Someone blows their nose and you want to keep it?
When our pilot boarded we asked him about the phenomenon called “slush”.

If you look in the U.S. Coast Pilot, Volume #5, this is what you will find:
Flocculation, locally known as Slush, is a living
mass of jellied material, or muck, deposited in the lower
part of the Mississippi, during low stages of the river. It
consists of the suspended material which, after being
carried downstream by the current, comes into contact
with the relatively still salt water which backs into the
passes. This muck has been observed to be as much as
10 to 15 feet deep. It remains where deposited until
flushed out during high-water stages of the river. Although
slowed down by this muck, deep-draft vessels
are able to pass through it. Accordingly, and because it
will be flushed out during high-water stages, the Corps
of Engineers does not consider it necessary to remove
the material during low stages.

Exciting reading.

I feel like the floor of a taxi cab.
Our pilot confirmed that “slush”, or as he called it “Burrwood Bayou Boogers”, is like sailing through, well, for lack of a better term, snot. It is the interaction of all of the silt, debris, rain water run-off, and various chemicals and fertilizers that enter the river system and then interact with the salt water at the entrance to the river. Its effects are most noticeable on deeper draft vessels. However, our speed easily dropped by 50% as we transited through the area. Fortunately, the area where the snot resides is centralized to the extreme lower portion of the Mississippi River, so its effects are short lived. Unless your speed is only a knot and a half, then it takes forever and a day to get through it. 

So, if you are ever in the lower Mississippi River area, and it feels like your boat is sailing through the World’s largest bowl of Jell-o Pudding, you might be experiencing “Flocculation”.
I think I’m going to stick with either “Burrwood Bayou Boogers” or “snot”.
It seems to fit a more maritime-like narrative better.
The more you know…

One last Ghostbusters quote (because it's nautical): "We've been going about this all wrong. This Mr. Stay Puft's okay! He's a sailor, he's in New York; we get this guy laid, we won't have any trouble!
I could do Ghostbuster quotes all day.
It's like JAWS. I love the Classics.


  1. My uncle thought he was Saint Jerome.

    Nice vocabulary. No wonder our kids are always in trouble.


  2. I plead the fifth. Besides, if you go back to post #1 I warned people there would be some "salty" language. I think I have done remarkably well considering some of the situations.

  3. I'm an agent on the Mississippi River and found your article when Googling what this crap is... This is the easiest definition I found online! Thanks

    1. Glad to see I could help. Who would have thought that my definition of "snot" would help anyone. At all. Ever.