Thursday, April 17, 2014

Final leg to Kemah

The Southwest International Boat show was going to be the weekend we needed to move the boat and we really wanted to go to the boat show, but also didn't want to chance waiting until Sunday to move the boat in the event that something came up with weather, the boat, etc.  The Marina we were staying at was charging me $75 per day so I didn't want to stay another week if I could avoid it.

Interestingly enough, we had several friends all come down on Friday and were staying through Sunday to go to the boat show.  It was Mike and Kerry O'bar, Robert and Mary Fields and Oday and T Roark.  They got in on Friday so we went and had dinner with them Friday and then decided that we were going to hit the water early on Saturday to get the boat moved and be back in Kemah in time to get to the boat show for a little while and more importantly the Cruising Outpost Cruisers Party.

A few years ago when the magazine sold and the new owners screwed it all up, the previous owners decided to bring it back again.  They needed some people to commit to a long term subscription and we really enjoy this magazine as well as the couple that have sailed around the world and are the inspiration for so many that are living their dream on a boat.  We helped out at that time and became part of what they referred to as the Founders Circle.  Each year, they throw a cruisers party after the boat show with free pizza and beer and a live band.  It is always a good time.  But not to get ahead of myself, we still had to sail the rest of the way to make it...

We tossed the dock lines early Saturday morning and motored into the rain and strong wind as we headed to the east.  Barge traffic was still pretty heavy but things were starting to move again so the barges were not sitting along the banks.   We worked our way along East Bay, passed Offats Bayou, and worked our way under the I-45 Bridge between Houston and Galveston.  
Going under I-45 in the rain and spray

Things were fairly smooth and as we started to hear the ICW, Galveston Ship Channel, Texas City Channel and the Houston Ship Channel the water was rough, the wind was strong and it was raining on and off so visibility was good but not good enough to read boat names with the binoculars.  
We had to cross the Texas City Channel and should have crossed the Houston Ship Channel as well but there was SO much traffic out there now that the channels were open, I had a hard time feeling comfortable that I could cross the ship channel in enough time.  With the wind and waves we were making slow progress and the last thing I wanted to do was be half way across the channel when an tanker or 1000 foot ship was bearing down on me at 18-22 knots.    
Perkins poking his head out to see what is going on
The cat does not seem to like the rougher water.  The first day of this trip he had blood in his stool and the vet ended up thinking it was stress related.  We did find that if we put his carrying case out, he would go in that to feel secure and when it is rough, we take him up top in the cockpit so he gets some fresh air.  On this particular trip, he actually ventured his head out the front of the carrier for a few minutes.

It was a little hairy there for about an hour and a half until we go through all of that and settled into a rhythm running north along the Houston Ship Channel but a few hundred yards west of the actual channel.  According to the charts that seemed to be a good path as there was enough depth for me to keep out of the channel and from getting run down by a big ole' ship.  To give you a sense of the size of some of these, we took this video as we passed one of them after things calmed down a bit.  He was making about 17 knots.

We ended up passing Red Fish Island where these is a pretty major dredging operation going on in the ship channel in that area.  For those that don't know, there is a good country sound about this little island.  Listen to "Red Fish Island" here..  The song is by Kelly McGuire  We made it to Kemah, passed through the cut and the boardwalk and turned into the Marina.  We backed into our slip and got tied up in time for our friends to come pick us up and take us over to the boat show !

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Freeport to Hitchcock

We knew we would not have a long day today since the distance we could go was limited due to the closed waterways from the oil spill.  We slept in until about 8am and pulled off the dock around 9 or so.
We pulled off the dock in a pretty good cross wind.  I ended up rubbing the hull on the side of the rubber dock protector as we left.  I turned into the ICW and Deb came up the companion way and in a very direct voice, said "Gil, I need you down stairs now"   I had someone else take the helm and quickly went to see what the issue was.  The engine room was full of smoke.  I could tell right away it was the smell of rubber and likely a belt that was a bit loose.  I had Deb turn on the exhaust fan and took the helm again keeping a very close eye on the temperature gauge in the event the belt gave way.   I reduced throttle and radioed to the tugs approaching in both directions to let them know I was going to be pulling an about face and then heading to the South side of the channel to get back into the Marina due to a mechanical issue.  Both Tug captains were great and the one coming from the West slowed to let me pass in front of him.

I pulled right back into the slip and in the end only made it about 1/4 of a mile or so in all.  It was a loose belt, I tightened it real good, checked it all the way around for any worn spots and we were back on our way within 30 minutes.

This was a pretty uneventful part of the trip.  It was fairly short.  About the most exciting thing was to
Dodging Barges - They were stopped everywhere along the ICW
navigate the traffic of barges and tugs EVERYWHERE.  With the ICW closed down to most traffic and vessel traffic service allowing some commercial traffic through, the barges had to radio and get a "slot" to pass through.  Because of that, many were just nosed up on the bank since there was no room at the barge docks or dolphins to tie up.  Sometimes they would be on the north or south side of the channel.  It was hard to know which side of them you needed to pass on so I would first check the AIS to see if they were broadcasting their vessel name.  If they were I could radio them directly.   If they were not, I would get the binoculars and attempt to read the name on the back of the tug and then radio for them by name.  It was like running a slalom course.

We made it to Hitchcock and got tied up on Wednesday (a day later than we anticipated being all the way to Kemah).  Deb and I took a taxi from there to where my car was at our intended destination.  Our friends/crew stayed at the boat while we picked up the car.  When we got back to the boat, it was about time to get them to the airport.  We dropped them off at the the airport, with enough time for them to have dinner before their flight.
Kenny wanted to see if he could sleep in rough water - Yep!

It was great to have our friends with us on this trip and I think Kenny really had a great time, he just kind of rolled with the flow and this was something he always wanted to do, so the oil spill delays, the rough weather, the delays, none of it bothered him at all.

 We haven't spent much time with Jim and Karen in a few years since we left Lewisville so it was cool to catch up and spend a few days together again.  When we lived in Lewisville and our boat was 2 slips away from theirs, we
spent every weekend together and then got together 2-3 times during the week for dinner or a sporting event or something.  I miss that so it was great to get a little of that time back too.

Jim and Karen
When we got back to the boat, they had cleaned everything up, dishes, put away all the clothes/blankets/towels, etc.  It was a really nice surprise and allowed Deb and I to just relax that night, which was great.

I ended up working on Thursday and Friday from that Marina and we planned on sailing the rest of the way ourselves over the weekend.  On Thursday they opened up the ICW and Houston Ship Channel for recreational boaters, as long as you had a specific destination and were not just out joy riding around in the area they were cleaning up.

The last leg of that trip will be covered on the next blog post...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Matagorda to Freeport

When we arrived at Matagorda city Marina, The crew from Nightingale came over and assisted with the lines, which took quite a bit of patience because I was having a heck of a time backing into the slip I was attempting to get to.
I finally made it, but not before seeing all of the mud churning up from how shallow it was, no wonder why I couldn't rotate into the slip, I was likely plowing some mud with the keel.

After tying up, getting everything in ship shape and checking the water intake strainers for any mud, we were set to relax.  Deb fixed dinner and we had a bite to eat and then went up to the bar/restaurant at the Marina for a couple of drinks.  While we were there the crew from Nightingale came up and offered us a round of drinks, on them, for coming back and helping them get ungrounded the evening before.  I thought it was a really nice gesture, and certainly not the reason we did it, but it was nice either way.
Karen making Coffee

We had a good night sleep, and I must have slept sound because when I got up at about 6:45, I noticed that the shrimp boat that was docked 10 feet off my bow was gone and I hadn't even heard it leave.
We showered, fueled up, restocked a few beverages and were off the dock good and early in hopes that we may be able to make good enough time to make it all the way to Hitchcock.

As we started out into the next open body of water, it became apparent that we were NOT going to be making it all the way to Hitchcock.  This whole week had been filled with winds at 20-35 knots and today was no exception.  It was slow going slogging into the wind and waves for several hours which put us behind schedule a bit.   We decided that the best place to stay was going to be Freeport.   If you would like to see some video of the slogging into the wind, go to this link on Youtube for the Video.  Link to "Slogging up wind in the open Bay"

Mid afternoon, we happened to notice Nightingale coming up behind us.  They were making a few
knots faster than us and we talked on a radio for a while as they were passing.  We got some good pictures of their boat and sent them via email.  I am hoping they have some good ones of us as well and can send them our way.

They were also staying in Freeport but not at the same Marina.  I was concerned about a fixed bridge near the Marina they were staying at so we stayed at Seaside Marina (mainly a large fishing boat Marina for offshore fishing yachts).

At some point during the trip, I decided to troll a lure for a while.  I certainly didn't expect we would catch anything on the ICW since I was still rigged up for offshore fishing in deeper water.  I figured what the heck and we did troll for a little while but then pulled it back in when coming up on some more barge traffic.  What I certainly did NOT want to catch was the prop shaft of a tug boat.

We ended up going through a set of flood control locks on this leg of the trip as well.  We didn't have to wait too long, but the water coming down the
Brazo's River East Lock (on the ICW)
river was flowing at a pretty good pace into the ICW and had about a 3-4 knot current.  It felt like forever before we made it through that lock at about 1.5-2 knots over the ground.  When looking at the water, it looked like we were cruising full speed, looking at the locks we were crawling.  We went through the first lock and then had to circle in the river a few times to let some other traffic go through, they were heading West on the ICW and going north up the Brazos so we had to stay on the down current side of the intersection until he passed.  Once through, we were able to go through the second flood control lock and continue East on the ICW.

Tonight, I wanted to go out and grab a bite to eat rather than stay on the boat.  Last time we were through this Marina about 6 months ago, we stopped and had one of the best burgers ever at a little place called "Castaways" and I was determined to go back to this place.  We walked over for dinner and drinks and in a bout of crazy small world stuff, we met some folks there.   One of our guests/crew posted on Facebook that we were in Freeport.  Someone she went to high school with happened to reply to that post and said, I have 4 crazy aunts that are down there on vacation.  Sitting at the table next to us were 4 older women having the time of their life.  They were toasting drinks, dancing with each others and other people in the bar and Deb, in only the way Deb can, Goes over and asks if there is any chance they know "So and So".  As it turns out, that was his "4 crazy aunts".   The night went down hill from there.  Deb and Karen joined their table and next thing I know there were trays of shots and drinks, etc going that way.  

Jim, Kenny and I had our beers and just watched the girls have a great time.   While we were there, there was a gentlemen at the bar that had drank more than he should have to safely drive home.  The owner of the bar insisted he not drive.  This man was on a motorcycle and very worried about the safety of his bike leaving it out front.  The owner helped him wheel the motorcycle into the
bar/resteraunt and then got him a ride home.  That, in my book, was one really cool move.    I must admit it did allow for one photo of Karen on a Motorcycle :)

So now it was time to head back to the boat.   I am not sure what it is about my lovely bride, but when she has a few drinks, you never quite know what she is going to do/say.   On this particular day, apparently she thought she should talk in a British  accent the rest of the evening.  So the whole walk home, she rambled on in a perfect (or maybe it just sounded perfect to me after a few beers) British accent.  She even used the English words for things rather than what she may normally say, referring to the bathroom as the Loo and the elevator as the lift.  I do have some rather funny video of this, but I decided that I would not post it, but I must admit, I just had some pretty good laughs going through them all again while writing this blog.

So off to sleep for the night and tomorrow we are headed to Hitchcock.  That is going to be as far as we can get because the Waterways around Galveston, Houston Ship Channel and the ICW are all closed on the other side of Hitchcock due to the Oil Spill.  (At the time we were sailing through (on March 24th) not at the time this posts)