Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Magical Mystery Tour - The Gulf after the Storm

The vessel “Timothy Danos” was the Tail Vessel of the 9 mile long seismic cable.




A Zen Crew

Welcoming committee From the Left Mark, Randy, and Wendy complete with  Shiner!

At Home in H23 Corpus Christi Marina

After the Storm

Sunday 5/12

At 0315 Maureen logged Engine on @ 1000 RPM course 270 degrees N27 05.752 W 089 08.060, Jib and Main speed unchanged (avg 6.2 knots)
By 1000 hours we contacted the vessel “Geo Caribbean”, it was a AIS target that reported to be towing a 9 mile seismic cable. There were at least 4 or more targets involved in this operation. The vessel “Timothy Danos” was the Tail Vessel. We changed course to avoid the tow and all the support vessels. This is the first time I have heard of a seismic cable over the 1-2 mile range. We set our course North for the “Timothy Danos” It took nearly two hours to go around the tow and resume our Westward course. Buy 11:48 we turned off the auxiliary and continued West under full headsail at 6 knots. By 14:05 we were entering the Deep Sea Platform fields. The best thing is that all the platforms we encountered on this trip had AIS so they were easy to spot well in advance. The seas were 3-4’ and the motion easy with 10-15 knot winds. The BP Atlantis platform was a Mega Structure, The largest I have ever seen and in depths over 7000 feet. I checked and we were 122 Nm off the coast of the southern most tip of Louisiana. I tried trolling again and had at least 3 strikes, two let go and one took the lure!.
 By 17:51 the winds piped up and we were reefing the headsail. At 18:56 another vessel hailed us on channel 16 and requested that we change course to 290 degrees, he was towing a 5 mile seismic cable and there was no tail vessel. We could see him in the far distance and it seemed like he was farther then 5 miles but we complied with the request for sure since we wanted plenty of room between us and the cable..
Another grilled dinner and fine sunset, the whole day was magical again as the seas and winds were favorable and the Seaman who spend their working days and nights on the seas considerate of our journey.

Monday 5/13

At 0300 I logged N027 14.824 W91 12.97, Maureen came up to take her watch and at 0400 I heard/felt a change in course. The winds had piped up to 15-20 knots and for whatever reason the Autohelm was not steering properly, Maureen released the helm and began to hand steer. I came up to assist and figured the winds just momentarily overwhelmed the autopilot so I turned off the system for a few minutes and the turned it back on to allow it to reset. The autohelm resumed steering and Maureen was again making excellent time with the good winds, I went back to sleep. This was our best sailing day, we only ran the engine 1 hour 30 minutes and most of that was for cooking. With Following seas where else can you watch an endless beautiful blue sea with the waves washing under you, passing in front and seeing the white water crest and the back side of the wave as you slide down the trough? Sorry you can’t take a picture, there is only one way to see this up close and personal. We had all reached a  group rhythm and and individual appreciation of this special crossing. We picked up the camera less, a meditative presence prevailed and we each in our own way absorbed the magic around us.

Tuesday 5/14

By 0600 we were in Texas nearing Galveston, wind was on the Port Beam at 7-9 knots, the heading was 255 N27 36.287 W 093 29.230 at 15:15hours I figured we had 47.6 gallons of fuel left. This would be enough for us to motor the rest of the way if needed. I tried but I still could not catch the Big One. Another magical day in the Gulf of Mexico

Wednesday 5/14

It was decision time. It was clear we would be arriving in Port A in the late afternoon or possibly even at night. Port Aransas is no place to be arriving at night especially if the winds and seas are up. With all the ships at anchor just outside the Corpus Christi ship channel and all the Port A lights, entering at night is risky business unless this is something you do on a regular basis. I had come in twice at night but that was during the Harvest Moon Regatta and there are lots of sailboats coming in at the same time. We also had a crew of 6 men on board so there was plenty of help for any circumstance. If we were to arrive at night I preferred to just slow down and wait for daylight to enter the Port Aransas channel. At 10:00 we had 15-20 Kt winds and 6-8 following seas, we were making great time. Another huge pod of Dolphins surrounded Wand’rin Star. These guys won the Talent show. I think they had a couple of artist who had escaped SeaWorld. One Dolphin made a run perpendicular to our course and jumped just in front of the bow, made a complete 360 flip right at the apex of the bow and entered the water like a Navy Seal!. These guys won the trophy, sorry the Florida boys could not hold a candle to these Texas Dolphins! After the dolphin show I went back to trying to determine if we could make either Port A or Corpus with daylight. Well since we had been traveling West for so long we had an hour advantage and we calculated that we could easily make Corpus before the sun went down if we maintained our speed. When we were 21 Nm from the Port A jetties we upped the RPM’s to 1650 and enjoyed a light rain washing off the salt. I thought how wonderful, I will not even have to hose down the boat when we get there. The 6-8’ seas on the port quarter tossed the stern around enough that the autohelm was having trouble holding course. I finally put it on standby and hand steered the rest of the way into Port Aransas. By 1630 we were rounding the channel to pass Port Aransas and as I received a text from my friend Bill Wilson in St. Pete he informed us that WindFinder reported that the Bay was full of wind. We would be entering a Bay with 30kt + winds when we just left the Gulf with 15-20 favorable winds on the close beam. We already had the main tucked away so we brought in the Genoa and motored through 5’ short chop, with crazy winds on the close.
 Wand’rin Star would definitely need a good hosing off after this 3 hour trip across the 10-14 foot deep bay. Maureen hand steered us all the way into Corpus. I called Peter, the Marina Superintendent to request an immediate slip on G or H Dock. I let him know we had just crossed the Gulf From Florida and needed a bit of priority. He accommodated us and we were directed to G4, a perfect slip for the moment. At 19:39 hours a welcoming committee of old friends Randy, Wendy, Mark and a Corpus Marina dock Hand greeted us at the dock and in moments we were tied up and enjoying a Mighty Fine Shiner Bock courtesy of Mark Babcock After showers with all the Hot water we could use Mark asked us where we wanted to go Eat and we all agreed on Texas Mexican for Sure. He loaded us up in his Truck and We all went to Acapulco’s. Perfect. 

We sailed 867 Nm. 5.0 Kt average speed, 10.8 maximum speed. We had 98:42 hours total engine time. Used 68.6 gallons of diesel with an average of 0.697 gallons per hour. We sailed without the engine for a total of 3 days 7 hours 18 minutes.

Out of all the stories I have heard from friends and acquaintances making the crossing from Texas to Florida across the Gulf we had a near picture perfect experience. The stories run the gamut from too much wind and seas to no wind at all for the entire crossing. I felt like I was given a gift, not only for the weather during the crossing but from the gift of crew as well. Preparedness from all that we have learned on this trip and from other sail experiences added up to a vessel safe and worthy enough to make the trip. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most respected oceans on the planet due to its nature. I was most concerned about the weather as we neared Texas and Port Aransas. And no matter what all the forecasters predict 7 days out it is just conjecture. I wanted to get my vessel and crew to safety and not spend another night in the Gulf knowing we had been blessed up to the moment we entered the Port A Channel. For the next week the winds and seas were not pleasant after our safe arrival. 

The Next Morning we slept in, I began to get Wand'rin Star ready to be left alone for a few days while I drove the crew back toward home and returned to Florida to fetch the Little Truck that Can. We lounged around, had a nice Happy our and another fine sleep. I received a call from the Marina Office that slip H23 was available and I could move there right away. We woke early the third day to get the boat moved to her new home and prepare the crew to depart Corpus in a Rent Car, We had a fine drive to Houston where we dropped off Maureen at her Mom;s house then John & I continued on to Florida with a quick stop over in Baton Rouge. John Dropped me off in Tallahassee where the Admiral had left the Little Truck that Can at the Airport, then he continued on to his boat in Tampa. I headed West again with a brief stopover in Baton Rouge at the same hotel, then on to Austin to rendezvous with the Admiral in Austin. 

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