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.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing stuff. I'm probably not having QUITE as much fun reading about your adventures as you are in living them, but then again I'm not having to try sleeping in a functional table top mixer before pitching my cookies overboard in every chapter either. Keep on sailing, sailor. And keep on writing about it!