Monday, December 20, 2010

Endeavour 42 Tank Replacement Phase II

Wand'rin Star in Cove Harbor on the mooring at Gatewoods.
This is the crane they used to pull the tanks out of the companioway.

This is a pic of the Bilge just after the 2 tanks were removed.

This pic was taken after I cleaned up the bilge a bit getting it ready to paint.

This is Chris on the Left and owner Darrel Gatewood on the right taking measurements of the 75 gallon fuel tank

Here is the aft water tank. You can see some of the foam still hanging on to the wall of the tank.

Port side of the fuel tank.

Here is where Darrel removed a piece of foam and exposed a hole in the tank where it had corroded through. He placed a metal bar through the hole to show the size of it.

This pic was taken today just after I finished putting on the first of 2 coats of Interlux BilgKote...Good Stuff!

We called Gatewoods three weeks before Thanksgiving hoping to get our boat in to have the remaining water & fuel tank removed. Chris at Gatewoods told me to check with him often to see when we should bring the boat over. We prepared the boat for the 4-5 hour trip to the Rockport boat yard. A week passed and I called Chris again to see if they could get to Wand'rin Star, again he said to check back next week as they did not have any space for her and were waiting for other boat owners to come get their boats out of the way. We realized we might not get the boat in before Thanksgiving, we even wondered if they even wanted to do the work. Then came the week of Thanksgiving and I knew there was no way but I called to check in with Chris, he said to call back the Monday after Thanksgiving. Man I was starting to get a bit impatient but any small coastal community moves at a much different pace than where we spent most of our life. I called Chris exactly at 0815 Monday morning and I am sure my voice must have sounded pleading. He put me on hold and finally he came back and said to bring her on over! I told him we would have the boat there just after 1500 hours. I called a dock neighbor, Kevin, to see if he would like to go over to help us take the boat and he said sure. We drove the Admirals car over to Gatewoods to drop it off since we would need a way to get back. Then we drove to Corpus and proceeded to get things ready to go. Kevin's admiral, Kerry would join us as well for the trip. We managed to get out of the slip by 1200 and the weather was perfect, light winds, sunny and about 75 degrees. I already had the route on the chart plotter so we kept the boat speed up since I needed to use up as much diesel as possible since I had over 60 gallons of fuel remaining in the tanks. Since we burn about 1.6 gallons at max speed it would not use much but the diesels like to work hard and it would be good for the engine. 7.6 knots is max speed but you can often exceed hull speed when you get favorable currents and this was the case after we passed Port Aransas and entered the Shrimp Channel where we did just over 8 knots. The channel runs along Harbor Island, Stedman Island, and Hog Island all the way to Aransas Pass and then takes a sharp right turn towards Rockport along the shore. All of this is in Aransas Bay where some of the areas best fishing and birding occur in the area. We had never been in the shrimp boat channel before and it was an interesting route to the boat yard at Cove Harbor as we passed several coastal landmarks along the way. Gatewoods did not have any slips large enough for our 13-foot beam, the slips were 14 feet wide but that just did not leave enough space for my comfort level since you need space for fenders between the boat and the pilings. So they had a side tie to two pilings that would just have to do. I took a practice run at the mooring and then called Chris to come out and assist, as the slight North wind would be pushing off the mooring. Three guys came out to assist and we easily drifted into the pilings and secured the boat. We had to pay a little extra attention to securing the mooring lines as a cold front was coming in that night and the winds would be 20-30 mph. Kevin and Kerry helped us take off our valuable gear and pack it to the car. Chris reassured us that everything would be safe but better safe than sorry especially in such a public place where it would be easy for anyone to board the boat and get whatever they wanted. The Admiral heard about a great Mexican food place in Rockport so this was a perfect opportunity to treat our excellent crew.

I drove over Tuesday afternoon to see how it was going, Chris said they had the water tank out and was working on the fuel tank, he gave me permission to go back and take a look. When I got on the boat both tanks were already out and there was a helper removing the remaining foam from the walls of the bilge that had been supporting the tanks in place. I was thrilled so much progress had been made since at $81.00 an hour the project could get pretty expensive fast. I went to look for the tanks to check out their condition. The water tank was just as I had expected, it looked similar to the one I removed in terms of corrosion. Then as I was inspecting the fuel tank Darrel, the owner of Gatewoods came over and pointed out the corrosion on the fuel tank .He took out a small screw driver from his shirt pocket and flicked off some foam that was sticking to the side of the tank, a fair sized hole was then exposed. The only thing that was preventing this tank from leaking fuel was the foam that was surrounding the tank. The foam is supportive material that is a 2-part mix that is poured in around tanks and hardens to secure the tank into place so it will not move around or shift as the vessel bounces through the waves. Darrel mentioned they had to use their crane to get the aft water tank out since it was stuck in pretty good. They connected the crane cable to the tank, put tension on the line and then used a crow bar to convince the tank out, they used a similar technique to get the fuel tank out as well. I took a few pics of it all and then drove back to Port A to wait for Chris to call. Chris called Thursday morning and said we could pick up the boat Friday mooring, they would install a temporary fuel tank for us to take the boat back to Corpus while we waited for the new tanks to be built. I called Dan, a neighbor on H dock and asked if he would like to make the trip with us, and he said he would meet us at the yard at 0830 hours. They had the boat sort of cleaned up and ready to go. I met with Stash to go over the dimensions of the 85-gallon tank I had removed. Even though I had several drawings of the tank lots of digital pics, and all the dimensions, I now regretted discarding the tank. If I had saved the tank they could have just taken their own measurements and not rely on a novice, even though I had thorough drawings they had to trust my work. Stash made several notes on the bilge area under the salon floor so he could double check my work and we agreed on a plan. He suggested as a back up for us to go back and make a model tank out of strips of wood just to make sure that we would not have to buy a tank that did not fit. We had another fine voyage back to Corpus in perfect motoring weather retracing the same route down the shrimp channel. There were lots of fisherman out and they were catching as we passed several boats reeling in large fish. The Admiral spotted a Stork and Dan who also enjoys birding confirmed the sighting. This has been a topic of discussion with the area birders for weeks.

The next week the Admiral picked up plenty of cardboard and I spent a night cutting out pieces from the dimensions of my drawings. We decided to use cardboard, as it would be much easier for us than cutting up a lot of thin wood strips to use. (I do miss my workshop) The next day we went to the boat and using plenty of box tape we built two tanks that would fit right into the area of the 85-gallon tank. After we were satisfied with the fit we took the cardboard models to Gatewoods so they could use the models to refine their dimensions. It was agreed to make the new tanks all around smaller to accommodate other considerations that we felt would enhance the life of the new tanks. Mainly to prevent them from sitting in bilge water and avoid any possibility of being exposed to the corrosive effects of electrolysis. The new tanks would also be coated with a two-part epoxy to make sure they are not exposed to moisture. Chris, Darrel and I discussed final dimensions and now they would submit the plans to RDS Manufacturing, the company in Florida that would fabricate the tanks. RDS would use a CAD program to come up with draft drawings and then they would send the plans back to us for final approval. Then RDS would submit the plans to the US Coast guard for approval since they were custom made tanks and had to have the Coast Guards stamp on them. We just received an email today from Chris saying they had the prices from the company for the tanks, after our ok they will complete the CAD drawings but we will not get them back till after January 1, 2011 for our final approval.

In the meantime I asked them what I could do to get the tanks ready to go back in and it suggested that I cut out any remaining fiberglass tabbing that held the previous tanks in place and to clean and paint the bilge area with White Interlux BilgeKote paint. So I bought a quart of the paint from Gatewoods and started this not so pleasant part of the project. I spent about 5 hours cleaning the bilge area by first vacuuming all the loose stuff left behind, and then I used Palmolive dish detergent and thoroughly scrubbed the entire area and rinsed with a hose using a shop vac to vac out and dispose of the water. The space is big enough for me to get down in but a pretty tight squeeze at the aft end so I have to take short breaks and get up and stretch out the body every 30 minutes or so. Monday the 20th I went back down into the bilge and lightly sanded the entire area with a Dremal Multi Max. This tool is priceless since it is lightweight and you can use it with one hand extended into the tight spaces getting into the corners and other hard to reach places. Once again vacuumed, and rinsed out with fresh water. Today I went over the entire area with acetone for a final cleaning and to prepare the surface for the paint. I then apply the first coat of paint and take a pic of my new cleaned and painted bilge for this blog. This paint is almost like a super hard coat that is not penetrated by oil or other stuff that might get into the bilge and so of course makes future clean up much easier. I will probably wait till after Christmas to get the second coat done. The boat will be ready for the new tanks when they get here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I was filling the water tanks when I heard the Bilge pump.

Here is the 85 gallon aluminum water tank that I removed after spending a couple of days removing flooring and trim. I borrowed a sawsall from my neighbor Mark to cut it in half to get it out of the companionway.

Here is a pic of the forward tank removed and just aft is the top of the 65 gallon tank that is built into the keel of the boat.

This is the leaking corroded tank. All of the little white spots are bits of corrosion where pin holes are that either were leaking or about to start leaking.

This is the bilge area under the tank I removed,the center section is the top of the keel.

Here you can see the Fuel tank just under the sink. It does notleak but it is time for it to go since we have everything out of the way.

This is Gatewoods near Rockport and boy am I glad they are close by and we do not have to take the boat all the Kemah to get this project completed. They come with high recomendations from the locals.

The water tanks were getting low so I attached our Water filter to the hose and began filling the forward water tank. It holds 85 gallons and takes a while to fill so I left the hose in the deck fill and started some other little task. I got busy and forgot about the water and when I remembered the fill had just started to run out the top into the cockpit. No problem though as the cockpit scuppers would take care of any overflow. As I reached down to turn off the water flow I heard the bilge pump go off. A previous owner had installed a bilge pump alarm so anytime the bilge pump was working you can hear a distinctive beeping sound in and out of the boat. This of course is an indication of water entering the bilge. I was just hoping that it was a connection and not a leaking tank. I searched around the access panels in the flooring near the tank to try and determine the source of the leak. The problem is that most of the connections are not visible and I would have to remove all the flooring in the salon area to figure this one out. It would be quite a bit of work to remove all the flooring as there was also a sub floor that had to be removed as well. I put it off as the leak had to be minor since the bilge pump stopped soon and the tank appeared to be holding just fine. About a week later the tanks were low again and so this time I began filling the aft water tank that held about 65 gallons. Same scenario, but this time I could see water leaking from the top area of this tank. I knew we would soon be replacing both of our water tanks. All the tanks in Endeavour sailboats were made of aluminum. Marine grade tanks of 5020 aluminum with a thickness of .125 inch or 1/8" thick. We new that when we bought the boat the tanks were an issue with this particular type of boat since some of the tanks are built into the keel of the boat and sit in the bilge where they can be exposed to bilge water. Exposure to bilge water is not the only problem as electrolysis can occur from stray electrical current increasing the rate of corrosion. We had already spent a lot of time in October cleaning corrosion wherever we found it and also removing electrical lines that were no longer being used and cleaning up electrical service lines. There had been a recent issue on the docks that was eating up zincs so we had a Galvanic Isolator installed as well as a preventative measure to keep from being the victim of such electrolysis from either the docks shore power, from a neighbors boat who could have electrical issues and spread their problem to surrounding boats, or even our own boat. The marina manager Peter actually came down and checked out all of our circuits with his special instruments and gave us a clean bill of health. His inspection did spot some minor corrosion's issues that we immediately cleaned up. But the corrosion our tanks had suffered was not from anything recent; they had issues when we bought the boat. The marine surveyor we used looked me right in the eye and stated " these tanks are an issue!". I consulted the Endeavour Owners web site and several E40 and E42 owners had reported problems with the tanks and discussed how they went about replacing the tanks. Our broker reassured us since he knew the boat well and knew of it's maintenance history. He said the tanks were never allowed to sit in a wet bilge and the previous owners had taken good care of the boat, blahh, blahhh, blahhh. I began to discuss with the Admiral a time to replace the water tanks. She had to go up and visit her mother soon and I felt it would be a good time for me to start the project since she would be off the boat for several days and give me a chance to remove all the flooring and get at least the forward tank out. We looked ahead at a calendar and being in November close to Thanksgiving and Christmas we knew that we might have to move off the boat for a while and into our rental condo during part of this project. She insisted that I begin immediately since we would need the time to get the tank/s out and find replacement tanks, get them installed and the boats interior back to normal. I really did not want to start tearing into the boat yet but I agreed it would be best to get it done as soon as possible. So on October the 26th I began removing the flooring. The first layer was simple to remove. But then came all the trim work around and it was slow and tedious to remove as all the screws were cover with teak wood plugs and some screws where not very cooperative. I have the proper tools to remove such screws but when they resist it can really slow down a project like this. On the 28th I borrowed a Sawsall from my neighbor Mark and cut the 85-gallon tank under the salon floor in half so I could get it out of the companionway. All the tanks had been built in prior to the deck and this tank would require two tanks to replace it since a tank that big just could not get through the companionway. I realized that I would need some professional consulting before I went much farther with this project. I called Don Glandt of Gulfstream Marine and he said he would be glad to work with me in any way to get the job done. So we met the following Monday and after looking at the project he declined saying he just did not have enough staff for the job and he had to much work at the moment, he did not want any part of it. Holy Mackerel... even though several Endeavour owners said this was a DIY (do it yourself) project, there were a few things that I was just not willing to go forward on without some professional help. For one thing there was a structural stringer that had to be cut to get the aft water tank out. I certainly needed a professional to reinstall and glass in the stringer. And if I ran into any problems removing the tanks in the bilge area I would want some professional assistance. Don suggested I either call Gatewoods in Rockport or take the boat to Kemah to one of the big boat yards there. I was really hoping I would not have to go all the way to Kemah but if we had to we would get the boat there. We went to Rockport to talk to the guys at Gatewoods who specialize in tanks and engines, I showed them some pics of the project and they said they could do the job no problem. This meant they would take over the project once I brought the boat to them, I would not be able to work on the boat in their yard. We spoke to a couple of other yards in the area where I could work on the boat and get professional help when it was available, the catch was when it was available meant whenever they were not working on some other boat. Another consideration was whether or not this job was an in the water job or one that required the boat to be hauled and put on "the Hard" or resting on jack stands. After consulting with several professionals and not so professional people it was clear this was an in the water project as the hull would be best supported in the water and not just on 8 jack stands. All of the Endeavour 42 owners who I was able to reach by email did this project on the hard since they lived in the Northeast and their boats were out of the water all winter. They do all their projects in the winter so they can enjoy their relatively short sailing season.

We returned to the boat to consider our options. I had the subfloor back in place so we could still stay on the boat, we just would not have running water. I spent 15 hours the first two weeks of November removing more stuff so getting at the bilge tanks would be easier for whoever took them out. We knew now that we would also remove and replace the fuel tank as it was the same age as the water tanks and it was near it's life expectancy as well. It had to be replaced now since it was behind the water tanks and since they would be out of the way this was the only time to replace it. It was clear now that it was best for professionals to complete the work so we called Gatewoods to schedule Wand'rin Star. The next phase would be to get the boat to Rockport and they would remove the two remaining tanks. We would measure everything and order new tanks from a tank builder in Florida. It would take a few weeks to get the new tanks and Gatewoods did not have room to keep our boat there so we would have to take the boat back to Corpus while the tanks were built and shipped to Rockport. They would installe a temporary fuel tank for us to get the boat back to Corpus.
This will be at least a four part blog as the project continues on!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8 Days on the GICW Galveston to Corpus Christi

Just Cruising down the ICW to Corpus
Passing a Tow on the Gulf  ICW. The link on the title is a chart of the ICW distances between points from clear Lake to Port Aransas

Doing the ditch!
Christmas Decorations at the bar of the Waterfront Resturant in Matagorda Harbor

This dolphin escorted us all the way across San Antonio Bay in the fog. I think he was keeping us safe.

Rockport Marina Christmas decorations.

Hanging out in the fog at Rockport for Christmas.

Jake and Jenny meet us and help us tie up at the Corpus marina.

This is the 2nd post I left out of the chronological order of the world.

Yes, I must admit I was a bit antsy to get the boat to Corpus. We had only been in Kemah about 5 months, survived IKE and unfortunately were not prepared to participate in the 2008 Harvest Moon Regatta. I convinced the Admiral to use her Christmas vacation time to move the boat to Corpus, she wanted to stay longer in Kemah and enjoy the area a bit longer but she agreed and we started making plans to move the boat. Plans include buying preparing the paper charts, and GPS programming, planning out the trip, talking to locals to gain as much info as possible about the Gulf Inter-Coastal Waterway (AKA the Ditch), research info on the net and printing pics from Google Earth, and deciding where to put in for each night along the way. We knew better than to be on the ICW at night with all it's commercial barge traffic. You can do the trip in three days in good weather and expect 4 days if the weather is not so good. We planned for the 4 day trip since it would be mid December and Texas gets a cold front every 5-7 days this time of year. Lynn was concerned with fog so I called our broker Kent Little and he reassured that fog would not be an issue since if there was any it would burn off in the morning hours. One of the more experienced power boaters on our dock warned that December is a bad time of year to do the trip since the North winds from the cold fronts blow water out of the ICW making the water shallow and you risk running aground. We have a 5 foot draft so I certainly paid attention to his experience but figured we could work around the North winds if it became a problem, it would mean a longer trip but we had two weeks to work with. We felt prepared and got to the boat on 12/18 to provision the boat and make final departure preparations. Our plan for the first night was to make it Freeport about 62 nautical miles away. The back up was Galveston, either Offats Bayou or Harbor Walk Marina about 34 nautical miles. Our Hull speed is 7.6 knots per hour so at max speed you could expect to make 76 nm. in 10 hours. This would require leaving in the predawn hours of the morning since it gets dark around 1730 hours. It is not fun to come into unfamiliar moorings in the dark. At least not at our current experience level. With a 66hp turbo charged Yanmar and a over sized prop it is no problem keeping the speed up on Wand'rin Star. We planned on departing 12/20 on the heels of a cold front, the problem being we would have North winds which very inconveniently blows the water out of Clear Lake and the entrance to South Shore Harbor is shallow. We would need to leave at high tide for sure just to get out of our Marina. We had a slip in Freeport and to prepare for the back up plan I called Moody Gardens in Offats Bayou to see if we could get a slip for the night, no way, all was destroyed in IKE and they had no clue when they would be back open for such business. We could anchor in Offats Bayou since it is a well known anchorage and we had actually stayed there and practiced anchoring during our ASA Coastal Cruising course a year or so earlier. With the weather being kinda dodgy we preferred a Marina for the first night so I called Harbor Walk Marina to get a slip just in case. WHAT, you do not take Transients?? (transients is the term for boats who are in transit to a destination) I could not believe it since they regularly take groups of transients in for the night like the people staging for the Harvest Moon Regatta or other yachting groups on special events. This meant we would need to make Freeport our first night.

Day 1 12/20 Saturday South Shore Harbor to Harbor Walk Marina SE 10-15 kt winds 51 degrees morning fog, overcast some rain, avg speed 5.9 kts., 34 nm 5:27 hrs underway
We woke at 0500 to get the coffee going and prepare to go. The wind was from the SE so I knew we had depth to get out of the marina, but we had a bit of morning fog and this would delay our start. I figured we could get out by 0800 or so counting on the visibility in the marina. Daylight started to peep in and the sky was completely overcast and we had some morning fog. I started to doubt if we would go this day. The weather did improve a bit and the wind was forecast 10-15 knots all day. We got into a holding pattern and realized we needed to try again to get into Harbor Walk Marina. After calling some area friends who we thought could get us in we realized we would have to work this out on our on. I called and talked to a young woman at Harbor Walk to plead our case, she said I would have to talk to Dodd who would be in around 10 am. I called back exactly at 1000 and she said he would call me back, so around 1030hrs he called and I explained that we were trying to get to Corpus for Christmas and could we please get a slip for the night, He asked what size boat and I am not sure if the size of the boat had anything to do with it but after he heard 42' he said to come on up and they would help us get into our assigned slip. We got into gear and departed SSH at 1128hrs. We had 6' of water under the boat at the marina entrance, just enough. It was 50 degrees, overcast, 20-25 knot winds and a few drops of rain now and then. Cruising speed for our engine is 2400 rpm's but with the short chop and 3-4' waves in the bay I pushed her to 2650 rpm's to maintain 6.0 knots of speed. We saw occasional debris from IKE floating about in the bay and hoped we would not run into one of those refrigerator-bergs floating about with just a corner sticking out of the water. They came from the hundreds of homes on Bolivar Island that were completely blown away including all their appliances that provided interesting hazards for the area boats. We approached the Galveston Causeway and the operator told us to wait outside until a eastbound barge passed. We only had to wait about ten minutes making circles to get clearance to go through. We communicated with a Tow for the first time as they advised us of their intentions to follow us through. We consulted our Campbell's Cruising guide which I was very lucky to find a used copy on It is a well known Texas ICW guide that is no longer in print. It warned about Red Can Bend which is a relatively tight bend in the ICW just before Harbor Walk Marina. The tows often take up most of or the entire channel due to the tighness of the bend and the tows having to" Crab" or move sidways down the channel. The tows have to move their barges sideways in the channel to counter the current and/or winds. Fourtunately for us there was not traffic here and we passed through easily. The Garmin chart plotter guided us easily to the entrance to Harbor walk Marina which is located at Marker 59 just North of Galveston right on the ICW. As we left the deep water of the channel I slowed the boat to just 2 knots as the entrance would be shallow. DID NOT want to run aground here. The depth sounder was showing just over 5 feet and we worked hard to stay in the center of the small entrance, We must have bounced off the bottom sand a few times on the way in, finally the 6-7 foot of water inside the marina and everything would be OK, just had to get into the slip. A quick call to Dodd and we saw them standing at our assigned slip, the Admiral tossed them the lines and we were in at 1520 hrs. You can call it Serendipity but this Marina has a 5 star restaurant and Dodd gave us a guest pass so we could get into the club for the night. It just happened to be our 38th wedding anniversary so even though we had not packed proper clothes for the dining room we did have enough black to wear to pass. A great dinner, wonderful bottle of wine and the Admiral was very happy...I scored some bank.

Day 2 12/21 Sunday Harbor Walk Marina to Freeport Bridge Haven Yacht Club, NE 20-25kt winds 50+ degrees some rain, avg speed 7.4 kt@ rpm 2650rpm, 28.5 km 3:52 hrs underway
We slept in a bit and woke at 0600 since we knew we would just be taking short hops till the weather improved. We called Erica at Freeports Bridge Haven Yacht Club to let them know we would be there, checked the engine, got out the charts, and plugged in the electronics. We departed the wonderful Harbor Walk Marina at 1128 hours, high tide and this time we did not seem to touch bottom on the way out. Our boat speed was better now since there were no waves or chop to fight and the wind and current was going the same direction. The evidence of IKE was very apparent along the way, we were not however experiencing much debris as I guess the constant barge traffic had pushed it all ashore. We arrived at 15:20 and even though we called ahead there was no one to meet us and we would just have to figure it out ourselves. The fairway into the marine narrows and I did not want to go into to far as turning our boat inside could be a problem in the 20 mph winds. I chose a slip that I thought would not be to hard to get out of and the admiral got a line around a piling quickly and soon we were safely tied up. Dang it was cold. Our full enclosure around the cockpit made the trip comfortable but as soon as you stepped out the wind quickly add a bit of chill to the experience. We went to the marina office paid our fee and got the code for the showers and bathrooms. We walked down about a block to where the showers were located and scouted them out and then back to the boat to get our gear and get the shower done while there was still some overcast daylight. Normally it is much better to use the marina showers as you can use all the hot water you want. This was one of those fast boat like showers though since there was no hot water. Should have just showered on the boat, we have a great water heater. I am sure we could have topped off our water tanks somewhere. After the showers we checked out the snack bar to see if dinner there was possible, nope we could do better on the boat so a quiet dinner aboard and plans for our next leg of the journey by previewing the charts and studying the Brazos and Colorado River locks that we would be soon passing through.

Day 3 12/22 Monday Freeport to Matagorda Harbor NE winds 20-25 kts. 40+ degrees, rain in evening avg speed 7.1kts @ 2600 rpm 41 km, underway 7:20 hrs.
The concern today would be navigating the Brazos River Locks. A quick check of the engine revealed a cloudy engine strainer so we took time to get it cleaned out before starting the engine. We departed Bridge Harbor a bit nervously (at least I was) since the NE winds were going to provide a challenge for us to get out of our slip. We used a spring line to assist keeping the boat pointed correctly as we backed out and it all went well. All the docking tips I learned from all the reading, the captain's course and from talking to boating friends is being put into practice on this trip. The sightseeing along this leg was great as you get to see all types of coastal Habitats both Human and natural. We had a favorable current and we hit top speeds of 9.6 kts. but this changed after reaching the Matagorda Bay with a opposing current of 1 kt. As we closed on the Brazos River we hailed the Flood Gate controller on VHF 13 and he told us to wait for a West bound Tow to clear the west gate. The Brazos was very shallow as the entered the river near 5' depth, but fortunately the depth on the west side of the river was 18' since we would have to hold here a few minutes for the Tow to clear the gates. I was a bit nervous hanging out in the river current and was glad to enter the open gates and pass through the lock. This is not a lock where you go in enter and either rise or fall to get to the other side, they are flood gates and are both sides are always open except in the cases of flooding on the river side. The sides are built of heavy timber and you can see where all the tows have made their mark as they pass through. You would not want your fiberglass hull to touch these jagged timbers. I called the tow in front of us to ask permission to pass him as tows normally run at 6 kts. He said come ahead so I took him on his starboard side and even though I stepped up the rpm's and cruised by at 7.6 knots, it took an incredibly long time to pass him. He was just a single barge Tow and I now knew that passing tows could not be taken lightly as many of them can have 2, 3 or even more barges and they are often carrying combustible liquids. We were following the Tow "Enterprise" as we neared our destination. The Tows often kick up a lot of mud around their very powerful props. This sediment I learned can make your depth sounder go nuts. Ours started showing depths of 3.9' to 6.0' and changing constantly. I was freaking thinking we would run aground any second, and then I realized the water was brown from the churning of his props and this was confusing the sounder. But that just means your sounder is not accurate and if it really did get shallow you would not know. The only thing to do is to just stay squarely behind them since often their drafts are 20-24 feet and if there was a shallow area they would just push it out of the way. As we neared Mile marker 440 at the entrance to the marina we called the Harbor Master and two nice fellas met us as the bulkhead where we would tie up for the night. I was glad to see them as this was an entirely new docking challenge and the winds were still up and pushing us onto the dock. A close call with a nearby boat and then safely up against the bulkhead. A restaurant in just a short distance and nice showers with plenty of Hot water! We arrived at 15:20 so we had some daylight and pleasant weather to walk around a bit and explore the area. We walked over a huge berm to check out a new development with condos and slips just off the ICW. We enjoyed the Hot showers and then to the neat "Waterfront Restaurant" for a great Flounder dinner. It was Huge...another score for the Admiral. We walked a bit after dinner enjoying the area Christmas lights and then retreated from the decreasing night temps to the Cockpit for a glass of wine while watching the night barge traffic on the ICW.

Day 4 12/23 Wednesday Matagorda Harbor to Port O'Connor SE wind 10-15 some rain 62 degrees, 29.8 nm, avg speed 6.8 kts @ 2700rpm, Underway 4:24 hrs.
We had a swing bridge and the Colorado River locks to look forward to this day. Before we left the Matagorda Harbor at 1132 hrs we called the swing bridge controller for permission to pass. We thought this was best since there was considerable barge traffic and you could actually see the swing bridge from Matagorda Harbor. A swing bridge is exactly that. It is a large 1 lane bridge that is built on pontoons and the controller Swings the bridge over against the bank to allow boat traffic through, then swings back to allow cars to pass. The bridge connected a small barrier island to the mainland. It appeared there were just homes on the island and the traffic was very light, there was just 2 cars waiting when we went through. The controller called us on VHF 13 and told us to come on through, we tossed off the lines and it took about 5 minutes for us to get out of the marina and pass through. The swing bridge is probably gone now though since they were building a regular bridge over the same area. Now extra tall mast would not be able to use this section of the ICW and would have to go into the gulf for this portion of the ICW. Our 62' mast passed easily through however and we were glad they thought of us when they designed this bridge. There are other areas on the ICW where we will have to go around on the outside when we travel those areas. Again the barges were stirring up the mud and we occasionally lost our depth soundings. I finally got used to it and just accepted that if a barge had passed in front of us we did not have to worry about depth. The Admiral got on the phone and called Felicia at The Inn at Clarks Docking to let them know we would be there in a few hours. Since it was so close to Christmas she said there would be very little staff there and explained that we would side tie to the west bulkhead in the channel that leads to there docks and if we came in after 5pm then we would have to leave the dock fee in the mail box. We kept the rpm up so we could make the short trip short. The weather was easing some but Rockport or Port A was to far to make it in daylight so we just enjoyed the trip to Port O'Connor. Another slow barg was ahead and I called to ask the "Susanna Griffith" permission to pass and he gave the go ahead, I stepped up the rpm to 3100 and as soon as we got around his stern we realized there were two barges. Man this would take a while to get past both but I did not want to travel between the two. I am not sure how long it took to get around the two tows but it seemed forever. I now appreciate the good visibility we had that day. Soon we were at the Colorado River and the controller did not make us wait we just motored straight through. It is always a good idea to thank those guys as you are passing through since they could make it very difficult for you. Matagorda Bay was next, here you are no longer surrounded by land on both sides as you enter the bay. There are two channels to choose from here, the shorter South channel or the longer North channel. We remembered a sailor exclaiming he had recently gone through the South channel and ran hard aground, they got off and had to back track to use the North passage. All the barge traffic was using the North channel so we made sure we found the North passage as well. It is not that clear out there as there are no street signs and often the channel markers are missing due to being hit by the crabbing barges and dragged to a new location. We double checked by using both the GPS and paper charts. In fact the Admiral was constantly updating the paper chart as we passed each marker. We arrived at Clarks at 1600 shortly after crossing the bay, it was a simple docking and Felicia was still there. She explained that the Inn would be closed so there would be no bathrooms or showers available. She gave us a couple of ideas for food though and since we had about an hour and half of daylight we went walking through the neighborhood for food. Most of the area was closed up, we found Captain G's though and we saw a car go through the drive through so we walked on down Adams street and ordered up some of there fine fried fish items. We saw a big service station/grocery store down the street and headed there to see if there might be anything else we might want before it got dark. The Admiral picked out a Christmas light set and it was a deal for just $5. We walked back to the boat and realized we were the only ones in the whole marina. We hung the lights around the saloon area and turned them on to give a bit of Christmas cheer to the evening. Those lights continue to hang in the saloon and we use them frequently at dinner for festive moments. The fried fish and shrimp tasted great and we recommend Captain G's to everyone.

Day 5 12/24 Thursday Port O'Connor to Rockport light fog then heavy, SE 10-15 kt winds, 60+ degrees, avg. speed 6.5 kt. @avg. rpm ? underway 6:55 hrs.
We were up by 0530 since this would be a long leg. The admiral got up and immediately turned on the VHF to hear the weather report as usual. The forecast was for morning fog with increasing visibility throughout the day but with patchy areas of fog. We peaked out and the fog was pretty heavy so we just knew our departure would be delayed but we needed at least 8+ hours of light to safely make the trip. We went over the charts and drank extra coffee and tea. We did not want to spend Christmas Eve here so as soon as I saw the fog beginning to lift we walked down to the ICW to check the visibiltiy. The sun light was just appearing and we could easily see 3/4 mile down the channel. We went back and double checked our preparations then departed at 0740 hrs. We had adequate visibiltiy for about the first 5 km. Then the fog seemed to be getting heavier, soon we could just see the banks of the channel about 50-60 feet. Even though we had our radar on throughout the trip we would now learn how to use it. It gets pretty freaky when you are unable to see the barges coming at you, and even though the radar was working well the images of the barges often blended in with the surronding land making them undistinguishable to us. The VHF stayed in my hand as we constantly reported our position to the tows at every mile marker. Our rpm varied from 1000 about 1 knt of boat speed to 2900 depending on our state of mind. I noticed a east bound tow up ahead and asked permission to take him on the 2 (his starboard side) since I could just see his bridge through the fog and it appeared he was crabbing to his port side and it appeared I had more room there. He quickly came back and said "negative, I am pushed up against the bank" I quickly decreased the rpm to 1000 and prepared to take him on the 1. We now had about 12 feet of visibility in front of us. We easily slid by with about 12 ' of space between us and his volatile cargo. The Admiral and I were on high alert from this point forward. There was nowhere we could stop as that would pose a greater danger than to just keep going. Soon a tow hailed us and explained that we would be passing soon and for me to take him on the 1. I moved as far to starboard as I could using the radar and GPS. the banks were no longer visible. This tow Captain made sure we knew he was ahead of us with about 1/2 km distance he blew his horn and it was so loud it absolutely scared me to death. I thought we were about to crash. Finally we could see the bow of the barge through the fog and I knew we were in good position. We were both going dead slow. Just as we came up to his bow we ran hard aground the stern of Wand'rin Star swung way to close to the barge "Captain I am hard Aground and can not move!" Fourtunately he was able to navigate around us but way to close for comfort. There was an empty tow right behind him, the "Enterprise" who hailed us and said he would help us get off. As he approached I thought he would come near and I would toss him a line to pull us off with, so we prepared, He did not stop however, he just came near us and pointed his giant propellers at us and provided us with enough water to float away. "Thank you Captian we are off! We appreciate your help!" We would run aground two more times crossing San Antonio Bay but we quickly got off just by using engine power and the rudder to wiggle through the mud. The radar was much more effective in the bay in open water. We could pick out every object and see all the mile markers before we could see them with our eyes. A dolphin began to follow us, almost escorting us all the way across the bay. I could not see any other traffic on the radar and I increased the rpm to get across as fast as possible. Fog is very disorienting, there is nothing to use as a reference other than the radar and GPS so my track across the Bay was a very wiggly line. Lynn focused on the portable GPS to constantly alert me if I was heading out of the channel. Nerve wracking. We neared the Aransas County Wildlife Refuge, this is supposed to be one of the most pleasent parts of the trip, the fog had cleared a bit and we could see the banks clearly now. A huge white shore bird appeared along the bank and we still wonder today if it was a Whooping Crane. I am sure it was but cannot confirm since we were not exactly experienced birders at the time. Our original destination was Port Aransas but the Admiral had had enough and even though as we neared Rockport the visibility improved to about 3/4 mile she did not want to risk crossing the Corpus Christi Shipping channel in any kind of fog. So we made plans to depart the ICW at Marker 49 for the Rockport Marina entrance. Several vessels of all types were now navigating the ICW, one barge that had to be over a half mile long with three to four smaller tows assisting the transit. The Whooping Crane tour boat from Rockport was out and we began to see/hear shrimp boats as well. We hailed the Harbor Master at Rockport on Channel 16 and secured a slip for the night. We arrived at 1445 hours, thanked and tipped the guys who came on Christmas Eve to help us tie up and then just walked about the marina trying to de-escalate our crazy long state of high alertness. Beer is always good for these moments, the Admiral prefers Chardonnay.

Day 6 12/25 Friday just a foggy Christmas Day in Rockport
We woke up to a socked in marina. No Problem we just planned on a short hop to Port Aransas so we could easily wait till the afternoon. We went on a morning walk around the marina and bought some shrimp from a shrimp store on the docks. These would make a great Christmas dinner. We returned to the boat and lazed about and around noon the fog just got worse, We thought we would take another walk but just 6 feet from the boat we could not see anything. We spent the day aboard and pulled out the provisions to prepare our Christmas shrimp feast.
Day 7 12/26 Saturday Rockport to Port Aransas 20-35 kt. SE winds, 85 degrees, light rain patchy fog 12.5 km, avg speed 7 kts @ 2900 rpm, underway 1:46 hours.
We spent the morning hoping for a bit of a window in the fog just to make a quick hop to Port A. After talking to the Harbor Master we felt we had a small window in the afternoon to make the trip, after all she said if the fog closed in again we could just come back to Rockport. It is funny how it can be blowing so hard and still have fog. We called Jeff the Harbor Master in Port A and reserved a spot. We ventured out into the channel at 1150 hours and by 1336 hrs. We arrived at Port Aransas. We tied up easily on the guest dock and it felt good to be close to our destination.
Day 8 12/27 Sunday Port Aransas to Corpus Christi 15-20 SE winds, overcast, light rain 70+ degrees, 18.9 nm, avg speed 6.4 kts @ 2600 rpm, underway time 2:55 hrs.
We departed Port a at 1030 hrs Corpus Christi Bay was choppy with 2-3 foot short chop, we would soon learn this is just a normal day on CC Bay. We soon cleared the Corpus marina breakwaters and called the marina office for a slip, they instructed us to tie up alongside of the bulkhead in front of the Marina Office. We had notified our friends Jake and Jenny Jackson that we would be coming in that day, They saw us come through the breakwater and Jenny with camera in hand started snapping arrival photos. We arrived at 1325hrs and they were there to help us tie up. After some brief hello talk Jake and Jenny accompanied us to the marina office to help us determine a good place to moor Wand'rin Star. After a brief tour of 2-3 docks to see what was available H23 became the new home and Corpus Christi the Home Port of Wand'rin Star.

Trip: 34:26 engine hours, underway time: 31:05, 59 Gallons of diesal used, Avg of 1.71 gallons per hour, 209.8 Nautical Miles.
I was a bit surprised at the diesel usage and learned that anytime I exceeded a cruising speed of 6 kts @2400 rpm and the 1 gallon per hour then the diesel usage for that extra 1.6kts of speed was expensive. The weather dictated this trip a bit and we wanted to shorten the amount of time on the water in the ICW in such conditions.
We learned tons on this trip including ICW navigation, the marinas along the way, where to eat, how to communicate with Tows and actually have them respond, how to deal with running aground, how to use radar, communicating with the controllers at locks and bridges. We will see plenty of the ICW in the not to distant future and this was a great education for the next trip.