Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Laguna Madre Trip

Just Arrived at 0730 at Corpus Christi Marina, Me, Capt. Kevin, and Bud.
Here is Kevin & Kerry's new home " "Bow Out " Hull #7, A Defever 40 Passage Maker

Well we are still in a holding patten waiting to have our new tanks installed. At least we got the drawings/plans for the tanks from RDS for approval and after consulting with Gatewoods there was just one dimension on one tank that needed to be revised. Now the final drawings have to be sent to the US coast Guard for approval since each of the tanks are CUSTOM. Not sure how long this process takes but since we will be moving back aboard the boat at the end of this week I have installed a temporary water tank (5 gallon jerry can) so we can have running hot and cold water on the boat again. It is just a bit to inconvienent to live aboard with out it. Washing dishes by heating water in the microwave and using gallon jugs for dish washing and hand washing and etc. is just to primitive for these Baby Boomer sailors. Now I think I could easily deal with that if I was in a warm island environment if I had to ok, but here at the dock in this winter weather is a bit to much for any more than a few days at a time. The winter Texans have rented our condo through mid April so we will be back on the boat full time.

Thank God for our Bay Yacht Club. I would have been going stir crazy if I could not get my sailing/boating fix.

I had the good fortune to be asked by our dock neighbor & current BYC Vice Commodore Kevin to help him bring back a 70's model Defever 40 "Bow Out" that he had recently bought in Port Isabel down near South Padre Island. I think it was the 7th Hull built, a real Classic! He purchased the boat from the owner of South Point Marina and had spent several days getting the boat ready for the trip North down the Intercoastal Waterway through the Lower and Upper Laguna Madre. Kevin recruited one more BYC member Bud who had just recently joined BYC and purchased his first sailboat a Catalina 30. We met at Corpus Christi Marina around 0800 and jumped into a rental car for the trip down to Port Isabel. We arrived in Port Isabel around 1100 ate a quick lunch, went to Walmart on the way to the marina for a few provisions. Kevin dropped us off and went to return the rental car. He had to drive to Bownsville and take a taxi back but he made quick work of it. While he was gone Bud & I began going through the boat familiarizing ourselves with everything the best we could. Kevin returned and we told him we were ready to go, he said our first stop would be the fuel dock to fill the tanks but he wanted to try and make the 1400 hour opening of the swing bridge that we would need to pass to get out to the lower Laguna Madre and the ICW. The bridge only opened on the hour so if we missed it we would have to wait around another hour to get out. The steering on the Defeavor is Hydraulic and since the boat had been on the hard for the last several years the steering had not been operated in a long time. Even though Kevin topped off the hydraulic fluid there was still a lot of air in the system. When you turned the helm the rudder was slow to respond, it almost felt as if there was no steering. Kevin understood hydraulics since he repaired lots of hydraulic equipment at the company he owned before selling it and retiring. When we threw off the lines and backed off of the dock we sort of drifted around, I was concerned at first that we had absolutely no steering but soon Kevin gained control of the boat and we motored toward the fuel dock just a short distance away. He guided us to the fuel dock and we quickly got tied up. Filling the tanks was a challenge since the pumps seemed to flow faster than the tanks could accept so we had to slow down the fill nozzle. We did not have time to take on the 300+ gallons so after we got around 100 or so gallons Kevin paid the bill and we departed for the swing bridge. I hailed the bridge on VHF 16 but they would not respond, soon another Captain listening in informed us to hail them on 12, we did and soon we had the bridge opening and we slowly slid through the narrow opening. It was just after 1400 hours and we thought we would probably make it to Corpus by 1700 the next day. Kevin turned the helm over to me so I could get used to the feel. The Hydraulic steering was still very unresponsive and I soon found myself zig zagging along the ICW, I began to develop a feel for the helm and wondered if it would get any better or that was just the way Hydrolic steering was. It was a beautiful cool sunny afternoon and we were soon approaching sundown. Bud took over the helm to get the feel and had the same trouble acclimating to the steering. Kevin had heard that a powerboat had run aground where the Colorado Arroyo River met the ICW. As we approached the intersection Kevin took the Helm and slowed from our 7 knot cruising speed to just under 3 knots. We were all watching for any signs of shoaling as we neared the river and just as we entered the intersection at the ICW we ran aground. Kevin tried to back off but it seemed that we were stuck and would have to find another way off. I went to the aft deck to begin to plan on lowering the dingy and take an anchor off the stern to Kedge off. Kevin and Bud came back and we briefly discussed kedging off but Kevin wanted to try one more time to power off. He poured the diesel on and slowly but surely we backed off. We found an alternative route around the shoaling by motoring up the river inlet and running close to the North shore and back to the ICW. Thankfully this was the only problem we experienced since the rest of the trip would be in the dark. The weather was turning colder and windy as a front was expected to pass through that night. We began taking shifts on the helm and Kevin tried to get the first rest in as he knew he would have a long night. The boat had a GPS chart plotter and radar. The radar was difficult to use though since the backlight was to bright & we did not know how to dim it. If you looked up at the radar it would destroy your night vision so we relied primarily on the chart plotter. We began to get some mist making it difficult to see out of the windshield so one of us stayed outside the cabin to look for obstacles. The helmsman could occasionally stick his head out the starboard side doorway to get a clear look ahead. We had a couple of handheld floodlights and they were used frequently to identify channel markers and anything else that lurked in the shadows. Along both sides of the ICW are rows of fish houses. Some of these are just a plywood box with a door built on pilings, but others look like very elaborate homes obviously built for long-term habitation with all the creature comforts. A few were multi story structures and a couple looked like mini hotels with several rooms. Later I searched the internet to find that these were leased by local fishing guides and you could have a complete weekend or longer fishing the Laguna Madre using the Fishing Hotel as a home base. Most were uninhabited but several had lots of fishing activity about them. Either the hydraulic steering was getting more responsive or we were getting better at the helm as we were able to steer in a straighter course. The Laguna Madre is the best fishing, birding, and sightseeing waters in the entire Gulf ICW since it is still in a natural state with very little development, unfortunately we could not see any of it after the southern end of the Lower Laguna Madre since it was dark by 1800 hours. We steered from light to light, about 1 mile apart were blinking lights on the green cans. Some lights were not operating and or were invisable to us, without the lights we depended entirely on the chart plotter and our handheld flood lights. Kevin had charts of most of this section of the ICW and occasionally I would check our progress. We were making really good time at our 7 knot cruising speed. I revised our ETA to 1200, several hours earlier than we had planned for. As we neared the upper Laguna Madre I stepped out of the cabin to check out the surroundings at night when I noticed that we had just passed a green can on the port side of the boat. I dashed back in to let Bud and Kevin know since we should have passed the can on the Starboard side and it would indicate that we were traveling outside of the channel. Just at that moment was a Big thud...I asked Kevin "What was that?" Kevin said that we had just hit a Green can, after this he sent Bud up to the fly bridge to keep a light on the markers to make sure we would not do that again, the GPS showed us to be exactly in the center of the Channel. Of course the GPS on this boat had not had updated charts loaded in the GPS unit in years. It is reccomended to do so every two years. Also Tows with barges are known to rearrange the channel markers when they hit them and drag them about. Bud was a real trooper, it was pretty cold out but he stayed out on the fly bridge for the next couple of hours till we got into Corpus Christi Bay. We did start paying close attention to the Radar at that point since there are several small gas/oil platforms in the bay to avoid. We now realized we would make the marina by 0700 and so Kevin called and woke up his Admiral to let her know we would soon be in. We motored in just at sun up and Kerry was there to tale a line and help us get her new home into her slip. The Admiral & I will definetly do this trip on our own but we will take our time and do it all in daylight hours to enjoy this special part of the Texas ICW.

Well it took several days to complete this post as we were moving back on board. The Admiral has gone to Port A today to do her volunteer work at the Computer Center, I stayed behind to complete this blog, read, and get blown about our slip as the next front is coming in with 30-40 mile an hour winds and a bit of rain. The most Fantastic news is that we heard from Chris yesterday from Gatewoods and our tanks will be manufactrued this week. So I am learning to be patient as It could easily take another 1-2 weeks for delivery, 1 more week to have the 2 part epoxy applied to the tanks and then we need a weather window to take the boat back to Rockport to have them installed. Mid March if all is perfect but more likely end of March is more realistic the way time travels here on the Texas coast.

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