Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How did I Forget about IKE?

This pic of Wand'rin Star at South Shore Harbor was taken by Jim Clower just a few days after IKE, The Marina had just very light damage due to winds. Jim also took all the pics below of the damage Ike caused. You can click on the Link conected to the title of this post and see lots of IKE photos on the Boat US Insurance site.

Wandrin Star arriving at South Texas Yacht Services just a three weeks before IKE

The re-commission begins plus about $10K in repair & upgrades.

IKE eye right over Galveston Bay and the left edge right over Wand'rin Star.

The track of Ike, You can see it was headed for Corpus Christi and just a little over a day out it jogs towards Galveston.

The resulting track of IKE.

Apotheker is ok, just a few gel goat scratches on the topsides near the bow where debris must have scrapped by.

Walter adjusting the fenders on Apotheker after IKE, You can see the debris all around.

The water in the marina was completly covered with debris from the broken docks and boats.

This one is tossed like a toy on ashore.

This scene was all around Apotheker.

The bow of Apotheker among the destruction.

This was just down from Apotheker.

Destruction everywhere.

My intent when I started this blog was to keep the post Chronological, but somehow I overlooked an important part of the chain of experiences. Hurricane Ike. We remember a slip neighbor at the marina in Paulsbo warning us not to take Wand'rin Star back to the Hurricane waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Even though we knew there was wisdom in his warning, there was just no way we could have afforded to leave the boat in the Pacific Northwest and commute from Texas. We purchased the boat June 20, 2008 and had her trucked to Texas August 23rd. After getting her re-commissioned and fixed up at the South Texas Boat Yard we got a slip at South Shore Harbor on Clear Lake. The lake opened up to Galveston Bay by way of a small channel. The Kemah boardwalk is built along this channel and provides great viewing for the constant parade of the 3rd largest fleet of recreational vessels in the US. South Shore Harbor is one of the marinas that is farthest from the channel to the bay, many prefer closer marinas so they can have faster access to the Bay and avoid the 30 minute motoring trip just to get out and raise the sails. South Shore Harbor is surrounded by 3-4 story buildings on all sides, a Resort hotel, office buildings, apartments and condominiums. It is also known as the best Hurricane Hole in the Galveston Bay area. The Moody's are a well known Galveston family who own lots of properties and interest in the Galveston area, they own South Shore Harbor Marina and when the weather turns bad this is where they moore their 80' Hatteras. Being the peak of Hurricane season and already Fay, Gustav and Hanna had paid a visit to the Gulf, we had no problem of choosing the safest marina and just enjoy the 30 minute ride out to the bay.

We were in Austin closely watching the weather channel and the NOAA hurricane center, IKE was projected to hit Corpus Christi, I planned to head to Corpus and board up our Port Aransas condo and then drive to Kemah and secure the boat by adding additional dock lines. The boat had been there for such a short time we had not even put on any of the canvas or sails and the dingy was still secured to the foredeck. The drive back to Austin was strange as I fell in line with the thousands who were headed north away from the coastal areas. Some in the Galveston area were not taking the storm as serious as they should have since the day before land fall the storm took a jog to the north towards Galveston and away from Corpus. Ike would come ashore in Gaveston on September 9th, just a little over a week after we had her moved into South Shore Harbor. We stayed up watching the weather channel and realized the eye of the Hurricane would pass directly over Kemah, we knew the condo would be ok since it was on the dry side of the storm but when we saw the reporter who was standing outside the Hilton Hotel directly across Clear Lake where Wand'rin Star was moored being blown off his feet into the bushes, we knew it was bad there.

I jumped into the car after Ike passed and drove through a very weird scene to get down to Kemah to check on the boat, The surge was 20 feet, fortunately the concrete pilings in the marina were 24 feet and the docks held, the protected Marina survived, in fact the Electricity was only out 1 day there and was already restored even though most of the area was still without. It was amazing as there was almost no damage to any of the hundreds of boats in this marina. A lot of boats had left on all there sails, and the power boats had all there full enclosures around the cockpit on and intact. It was those who just left up a dodger or small bits of canvass were blown off. The only damage to Wand'rin Star was a halyard that I overlooked when I was preparing the boat and it obviously had it's life beaten out as it was pretty frayed where it beat against the mast. After going through everything on the boat to make sure all was ok I jumped in the car and headed over to my friend Jim Clower's boat to check on it. As I stated in the previous blog there was destruction everywhere around his boat but Apotheker appeared untouched. Jim had even left his sails on and they were ok. I gave a quick call to Jim to let him know apotheker had Survived. A few short weeks later when he sailed in the Harvest Moon Regatta to get his boat to Corpus, he would find some hardware failures in the rigging along the way but nothing that could not be easily delt with during the race and fixed in Corpus.

An experience like this is valuable if you live along the Gulf Coast. You learn everything about preparing a boat for a storm. You also learn to get your body out of the way, be sure to have adequate insurance and just hope for the best. If the worst happens, collect the insurance settlement and go on about life. This is what Thousands did who were hit hard in this storm. The incredible thing about Texans is that they did not wait for help to arrive, the very next day the Home Depot was open and the parking lot full as the natives got to the business of restoring their world and in very short order the community was back to normal as if the storm had never hit. The one thing different was that the community rebuilt even stronger to prepare for the next one. Texans are resilient and the rugged individualism was in full force.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Harvest Moon Regatta 2010

Marty at the Helm with Jim on the way to Galveston
This first pic is of Harbor House Marina taken from the third floor of Harbor House Hotel, You can just see the blue Bimini of Apotheker moored against the bulkhead in the 1st slip.
The delivery crew taking on fuel after arriving in Galveston. From the Left: Marty, Just Happy to be here, Walter, Deano, and Philip.

Apotheker departing the marina for the race start.

No picture can describe the sight of over 200 sailboats of every kind sailing to the start line. There were just as many boat besides and behind us.

This was taken on Friday in 10-12 foot seas, the boat taht took the picture was heading down into the trough and Apotheker was heading up the wave.

Another great pic of Apotheker Honkin! Both boats were on the top of the wave crest in this shot. We were healed over like this for over 12 hours so you can see what going below was like

From the Left is Phillip, Barcardi girl, Birch, Walt, Jeff, Jim with trophy in hand, and Commodor

From the left is Walt, Jeff, Commodore, Still havin fun, and Deano! It took three shots to capture the excitment.

Harvest Moon Regatta 2010

We have been considering participating in the Harvest Moon Regatta for the last 3 years. We thought it would be a great way to get our boat from Kemah to Corpus after we got all the work done on the boat at South Texas Yacht Services in Kemah. In September of 2008 we went with a friend of ours, Jim Clower, to the Safety Meeting at Lakewood Yacht Club to learn all the safety information for the 150 mile offshore race from Galveston to Port Aransas. Jim owned Apotheker a Erikson 35-3 that he had just brought to Kemah from Canyon Lake for the same reason we had our boat there, for boat repair and upgrades. He planned on getting his boat to Corpus the same way. We quickly realized that our boat and crew was not up to snuff for the race and with less than 45 days to prepare and lots of boat bucks to be spent on safety gear, it just would not happen that year. Also Hurricane IKE sorta got in the way. Fortunately we had our boat moored at South Shore Harbor, the best hurricane hole in Galveston Bay. Jim however was a bit more exposed as Apotheker was just across from the Kemah Boardwalk near the Higgens Smyth docks. I got to Kemah the day after IKE hit, Wand'rin Star and all the boats in South Shore Harbor were just fine, but there was destruction on all sides of Apotheker. I called Jim and explained it was hard to believe the scene with boats sunk all around Apotheker but she was floating there seemingly untouched. His first Harvest Moon Regatta was just about 4 weeks after IKE. That year was all about the fortitude and determination of the Galveston Bay sailors.

We eventually put all the safety gear on the to do list and about 90% of the items are now part of the inventory on the boat. The Admiral likes safety stuff. Last years race was just not going to happen for us since we were just to way caught up in the transition of getting out of Austin and on the boat in Corpus. This year was pretty much the same...the transition is not completely over and certain boat projects have taken over our attention as we now have a departure date in sight. About two weeks before this years race Jim asked me if I would help get his boat to Galveston for the race as he was short two of his race crew for the trip to Galveston. Marty Chrisman & I would help deliver the boat and ride back in Jeff Konops car since he and Phillip Austin would be driving to Galveston . This would solve two problems as the two of us helping to deliver the boat to Galveston would bring back the race crews car to Corpus. The Admiral was going up to visit parents that week so I agreed to go with Jim. This would be the 3rd race for his boat and crew. Not only had Jim meticulously prepared Apotheker for the race over the last three years but he had a seasoned crew that had learned a few tough lessons from last years race when a cold front brought devastating winds just before light on the second day of the race. His crew had learned valuable lessons and they were all much more prepared to manage the unpredictability of the Gulf of Mexico. All of his crew are originally Canyon Lake sailors where we all met through the years at Hill Country Yacht Club. The Crew: Captain Jim was once Vice Commodore for Sail at HCYC as was Walter Skeistaitis who sailed across the Gulf on Susan II when I made my first Gulf Crossing. First Mate Philip the all around goto guy whenever something needs fixed or problem solved, Birch Smith who shared a quick love for Hobie Cats with me on Canyon Lake just wanted to be on the Helm. Birch could not wait to get on the helm and hated to give it up. Jeff Konop the guy who goes first up the mast and always leaves you laughing no matter if it's the first or last word, Dino Cardella, a very unique character who lives on his boat in Port A and you have to have him on board or you just can't win, Martti Chrism who helped deliver the boat to Galveston and kept things totally respectable. She will do whatever it takes.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a sail Northeast up the coast to Galveston. We left Port Aransas Monday at 1015 hours and had a great sail with 3 to 4 foot seas. T shirt and short temps all day and night, a cool breeze 10-15 knot breeze and a full moon lighting the way. This is important as there are several unlit structures out there and even though Jim's boat is fully equipped with all the recommended safety gear the one thing that he does not have is Radar. Having extra eyes in the on duty at night keeps the sailing comfortable and everyone got plenty of rest when they were off duty. The next morning had a very interesting sail past Galveston into the Jetties where you see every possible type of vessel coming and going as the Houston Ship channel is one of the busiest in the world. We stopped for fuel then off to the slip at Harbor House Marina arriving around 1500 hours. This is a great place to stage for the race since you are in the heart of the Strand district in Galveston with hotels, restaurants, and shops of all sorts in walking distance. This crew likes to start the party as soon as they get the boat tide up. As soon as the last line was made fast there were 6 beers ready to go in the cockpit. A great night of $3 happy hour drinks, and $3 bar food then off to Fisherman's Wharf for a great seafood dinner, be sure to order the Cosmopolitan. A short walk back to the boat and everyone was headed for the rack by 2330. Jeff and Phillip showed up the next morning and Martti and I would stay 1 more night as the car was needed to restock provisions and get a couple of last minute items from West Marine. At the dinner that night Jim informed me the crew wanted me to stay on and do the race with them. A quick call to the Admiral and she agreed as she could stay another day with the parents and then meet me back in Corpus. Thursday, October 21 at 1400 hours would be the start of the race out in front of Galveston just off the Flagship Hotel Pier. The little Marina now had 6 boats staging for the race, the smallest was a 28' Ranger with a crew of two, the largest was a $1.4 million 45' J boat...a 100% racing sled with more crew than I could count. A 38' Shannon that is famous in Texas circles as the boat is being chronicled in Tell Tales Magazine with a monthly article on the restoration of the boat and John and Brenda Gross. And "Agape" a local Corpus yacht Club boat who routinely shows up at the trophy table.

Most of the boats had departed the marina when we slipped the lines at 1130 hours. Once out into the channel heading for the jetties we saw sailboats in every direction as far as the eye could see. I quickly counted all the mast I could see and it was around 125. Over 230 boats were projected to race. Once out in the channel heading out the jetties you could see mast for miles in every direction all headed for the 1400+ start time. There were lots of Classes and each class started 5 in five minute intervals and it seemed to go on forever...Our Class "J" AKA Classic Canvass started around 1420, we were at least 5 minutes late for the start and the start line was a bit crowded as we navigated around other fleets that were just sailing around waiting for their start. Other than being a bit late for our start we had excellent position as we were windward of most of the boats giving us clear air...very lucky since the winds were light and any passing boats to windward would cover those who were below slowing them down. We seemed to be holding our on with the fleet that started just after our Class, they of course would be the faster fleet since they had a five minute later start time. We continued to work our way out to windward and discussed just how far out we should go. Later we would find out that the boats that beat us were several more miles offshore in deeper water. The winds started to freshen about sundown when the Captain ordered to reef the sails since it was turning dark...I wished we could wait about an hour as we were just about to reach hull speed with the 10-12 knot winds. We started our rotation for rest, three off down below and 4 in the cockpit with each taking a 1 hour helmsman position. After you finished your Helm work you went down below and 1 crew came up. This was supposed to work well since there were exactly three areas down below where you could get some rest. The V-Berth in the bow of the boat, the leeward settee in the salon area midships (the prized bunk) and the Port side Quarter Berth where you could wedge yourself in and make it work. This kept the helmsman fresh and since all the crew knew this boat well each made their own contribution to the race. By 2100 hours I was glad the sails were already reefed as the winds picked up to 15+ and the seas were 4-6 feet and building. By midnight we had 8-10' seas and the winds were gusting to 20+. I had been on the helm for an hour and it was time for me to go down and rest. Just my luck, I drew the V-Berth, I tried really hard to rest as I was really getting tired but the waves were short and choppy, you would levitate briefly and then slam down in the V-berth as the bow crashed into the trough. You could literally feel the hull flex and shudder. I tried every kind of way to wedge myself in but there was just no way to get any rest. I gave up and went up on deck an hour early to find Deano and Jeff, both had there rest time in the Vberth and they were still getting over the effects of feeding the fish. I sat in the cockpit very quesy trying to hold it down, after about an hour I gave up and just thought it better to let it go and get it over with. At least I made it to the lee side and kept it respectable. I heard report that Jeff and Deano erupted as they came into the cockpit for their watch. didn't really matter though since the ride was getting wet and no matter where you were sitting in the cockpit you got a bit of a washing. five of us tried to get rest in the vberth and all 5 lost their lunch. After that NO ONE would dare go into the vberth so that meant if you went below and the two prized resting areas were of course taken so you had to just brace yourself on the Port side settee, you could lay down but you better not lose your grip or you would go slamming into the guy in the starboard settee. This of course made using the head which was on the starboard side a challenge. You had to use every handhold in the boat to navigate to the head and then find all the bracing points you could to get the job done. Twice I went crashing into Deano on the starboard settee as a wave would overcome my ability to hold on in the dark. Not sure if this was such a great place to sleep anymore since any crew coming down could become a flying object impaling the helpless crew on the settee. God, I never knew how great those small quarter berths were to have on a boat! The diminishing moonlight gave way to a spectacular sunrise as we could now fully see the seas we were sailing in. 10-12' seas with an occasional 15 footer. The wave period was about 1 second so as soon as you crested a wave you were headed back down into the trough and back up again. After 1 hour on the helm you were tired and your shoulder and arm muscles were aching. We watched in amazement as each on coming wave was spectacular and that Erickson handled it easily...what a boat. Later at the finish we found out about 70 boats had given up the race and either went into Freeport or Matagorda. One boat in our class "SUNBB" (stands for Show Up Naked Bring Beer) another Erickson 35-3 and one of our major competitors had to call it quits and go in to Freeport due to a crew member suffering a possible Heart Attack.

We were nearing the Port A Jetties and the anticipation was really building. The crew was getting tired both mentally and physically and was looking forward to find calm waters inside the jetties. the wind and waves were still honkin. As all the boats converged on the jetties the Helmsman had to work hard to keep safe distance from other nearby boats, this is no place for close quarter sailing as the waves could easily carry you into anothers path. Apotherker charged on and the tide must have been coming in because we were running 9 knots inside the calm waters inside the jetties. checked in by VHF with the race committee and then just a short distance to Port a Marina where the raft ups ad already started. We eventually were assigned a spot to tie up to a to a 45' Island Packet, we would be the third boat out, no shore power but we could get the beer out and relax. The adrenaline and excitement was still flowing through the tried brains and muscles. What an incredible shared experience this was.

I got pretty excited, from the left is Birch, Walt, Jeff, Cap'n Jim, Lakewood Commodore, and pure excitment.
The Admiral picked me up shortly after we arrived, I was thankful as I am not sure if I could have made the drive back to our boat safely. I slept like a rock..not moving till it was time to get up and heard back to Port A to deliver some food for a BYC fundraiser. Lynn & I spent the day walking the docks, talking to sailor friends and relaxing while we waited for one of the biggest Parties in Port A to begin. A band came on around 1500 hours and Lynn realized we needed to claim a table for our group so we spread out stuff to hold seats for about 12 as the mates of the crew started showing up. Bacardi is one of the major sponsors so the very popular free Bacardi bar opened up around 1700 and the throung convened as over 20 volunteers poured non stop flow of all the Bacardi flavors. There was a great catered Bar-b-Q and I am not sure if anyone can remember how it taste as the Bacardi was very influential. Soon there were the normal congratulations and accolades for all the volunteers of Lakewood Yacht club who staffed the event. No one could hear the lady on the mic due to everyone enjoying the libations to the max. I decided it would be best to get up close so I could hear the trophy announcements so I moved to the front so I could hear and Lynn joined me. I knew it was very possible that we had placed since I found out we had come in exactly 1 hour after Agape who is in a much faster Class, I knew we had to be in the top 5 for sure. It was still difficult to hear but then I heard "Apotheker Third Place"!!! All right then, I marched right on up there and the rest of the crew found there way quickly. We were whooping and hollering and after the pics and trophy presentation the Party got in high Gear as we returned to our table and probably drove everyone around us nuts. This was the definition of FUN. All sorts of declarations were made by each member of the crew ...the bond of the shared experience was so strong. Do not know if I will have a chance to sail with this crew again but I do not think I could ever find another crew anywhere to recreate this experience.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Admiral Said it " We can leave November 2011"

This pic was taken from the top of the companionway looking down at the 85 gallon water tank under the Salon sole.

This Pic is the bilge area under the water tank that I had to cut out with a sawsall so I could get it out through the companionway. I will replace it with 2 tanks of equal size so I can get them into the companionway opening.
Here is the tank, You can see all the cuts I had to make to get ir out. we took it to the recyle metal place and they gave us $40.25 for the scrape aluminum. I gave $30 to the Admiral and I keep $10 for beer. The tank weighed 90 pounds.

There is just one thing a Captain wants to hear....the date you can toss off the lines and go cruising. The Admiral spoke the words with absolutely no prompting by the Captain. No matter what breaks or what obstacles get in the way Wand'rin Star will be cruise ready by November 1, 2011.

We had a early October sail with Northwest winds and this was our best time on the Bay to date. Due to the NW winds we were able to sail straight out the entrance to the marina otherwise known as the "GAP" and paralleled the Corpus Ship Channel on a 2 hour port beam reach. The winds were 10-15 just perfect, just as we were closing on Ingelside we came about and had a great Starboard reach back to Corpus. The dolphins were plentiful and were constantly playing in our bow wake. We were totally relaxed on this sail and realized that we were getting comfortable sailing this 42' vessel.

Boat Projects
1. Deck Fill for the new propane hose to the grill. Marine grills traditionally use those 1 pound bottles that last for about 6 grillings, I wanted to take advantage of using the Propane tanks used for the stove down below since they are in a locker directly below where the grill is installed on the stern pulpit. The deck fill provided a way to slip a propane hose through the deck up to the grill eliminating the need to buy and store those little green bottles.

2. Bypassed Neutral Start Switch: Some sailboats come with a shifter that must be in Neutral in order to start the engine. There is a switch in the shift assembly that disables the start switch if the transmission is in forward of Reverse, this is supposed to be a safety feature but it is not a big issue on sailboats since they do not move as fast as power boats. We felt it is a bigger issue not to be able to start the engine when in gear. Sailboats often require the transmission to be put in reverse when sailing to prevent the shaft from turning. Sometimes the pressure on the propeller can cause the transmission difficult to shift into neutral on mechanical type transmissions (as opposed to hydraulic type) like our Kanzaki Model KM4A. So we solved this issue by bypassing the switch so we could start the engine in any gear without hesitation. Dean on Adagio recounted a time when he was coming into his slip and the engine died just as he put the transmission in reverse to stop the boat, he was able to quickly restart the engine and prevent hitting the end of the dock with his bow since he did not have a switch which required the transmission to be in neutral to start.

3. Removed all unused wiring from the wiring runs in forward and aft areas of the boat including the Electrical panel. This boat had 4 previous owners and since it is an 1987 it has had several electrical upgrades over the years. Often if the work is done in a boat yard the old electrical connections are just cut and the new wiring is installed in the conduits leaving the old wiring in place. The problem comes if the wires either come into contact with other metals on the boat (like our Aluminum tanks) or bilge water. Dissimilar metals can cause electrolysis and corrosion especially in a saltwater environment, and if the exposed wires are ever immersed in bilge water the same can occur. I removed at least 25 different wires or cables, most of them had been cut at both ends but a few were still connected to the electrical panel and had 12 volt power. For every wire run as I was removing wires I also ran a pilot string so that if I ever needed to run a future wire in that same direction then I would have a pilot string to fish the wires through the conduit.

4. New Adler Barber refrigeration, well the budget was reloaded with enough funds to spend the 1 & 1/2 boat units so we installed a new refrigeration system. No more hauling ice to the boat and pumping out the ice melt from the bilge. The install was pretty straight forward since the new unit was very much like the old one and the mounting brackets mostly matched up with just a bit of custom work to do . Thanks to our slip neighbor Earnie on "Salty Paws" for coming over to help run the long copper tubing from the evaporator to the condenser.

5. Installed Rope clutch on mast for Jib Halyard This was a simple project but it was an important one as it will allow me to now use the port side mast winch for the outhaul on the mainsail. The winch was previously dedicated to the jib halyard, now I can use the winch instead of relying on brute strength to tighten the outhaul....MUCH Better!

6. Removed 85 Gallon Water Tank. This is one project that I knew was looming but I thought we had a bit more grace time before we had to deal with it. Our two water tanks and 1 fuel tank are made from aluminum. The life of these tanks are 15-20 years, our boat is 23 years old. The two water tanks that total 150 gallons of water begin to show signs of leaking. Further investigation confirmed that both were leaking and the leak was not such a problem unless we were sailing and the water sloshed from one side to the next as the boat healed or changed tacks. The fuel tank is still holding and no apparent problems but when you go to the effort to replace the water tanks you have to replace the fuel tank as it sits behind the other two in terms of access. So the only opportunity to replace it is when the two water tanks are out of the way. This will be a major refit and I will complete all the grunt work, order custom tanks from probably Florida, and have a professional assist with the installation. I did not want to start this until the Admiral was going to go off to a 5 day visit to her parents but she insisted we get started ASAP, so hence the pics above of the easiest part of the project, removing the 85 gallon tank that rest in the belly of the salon (midships area) of the boat. A future post will be dedicated to the whole project upon completion.
Bay Yacht Club
A lot of things were going on this month so just a education seminar on the use of emergency flares was a big draw, I just watched the demo from a distance as I participated in the annual marina appreciation dinner and flea market where boat owners can sell off their unneeded boat stuff. I had some stuff to definitely get rid of and what a perfect opportunity. If anyone so muched as glanced at my stuff I told them I would take 2$ for it, I think I made about 15 bucks and got rid of all my stuff and gave some of it away.
Harvest Moon Regatta
I got a invite from my buddy Jim Clower on "Apotheker" to crew for him and help get his boat up to Galveston for the Harvest Moon Regatta. the biggest race on the Texas Coast, 150 miles from Galveston to Port Aransas. The Admiral was going up to visit her parents so I could help take the boat up, drive another crew members car back to Corpus and meet her back in a few days. It turned into much more than that so the next post will be all about the experience.