Thursday, December 31, 2015

Final Texas Cruise

Landed in Austin 6:30 pm and took a shuttle to The Little Truck that Can and headed for Corpus Christi, Hunger always seems to emerge just South of San Antonio, Lucky for me there is a Bill Miller just off Hwy 35.

And since they were near closing time I got a free Pie, I took it to go for a late night snack on the boat,

Yes, I'm in Corpus, it blew for days and rocky nights.

I took a break to go see the new docks on the South end of the Marina, only 4 boats down here so far.

Thanks to YouTube I decided to service the Tohatsu Outboard myself instead of paying $250 to a shop. 1st the spark plugs, they just needed a quick brushing.

Then replaced the tiny fuel filter, changed the oil and the lower unit fluid. Did not have the proper tool to change the impeller, I will take care of that in Kemah.

Took Wand'rin Star out for a sea trial, had to get the cobweb s out of the electronics, some of the connectors had a little corrosion that had to be cleaned.

Each time I turned off the electronics at the panel to reset the depth and anemometer after cleaning the connections the Chart Plotter definitely got confused Check out my average speed and trip miles!

I should have titled this blog The next Empty Dock Box., A sailor can measure his life by the number of dock boxes he fills to the brim and then has to empty as the vessel moves to the next moorage.

Got her ready to go but I'm not leaving till I get my $1:00 Breakfast tacos

WE got so Lucky! A three Day weather window just suddenly appeared the night before our departure, We could just do a Overnight trip on the outside in the Gulf of Mexico instead of a long 6 day or longer trip down the GICW. At the time of year you can get delayed by fog, weather and delays at the Colorado or Brazos flood gates at this time of year. 

I provisioned for the 6 day trip but since we were going on the outside all the meals did not involve cooking.

We had an incredible Full moon clear night down the Safety Channel 30 miles off shore. the Morning Sunrise did not disappoint.

We motor Sailed the whole way, due to the short weather window I did not want to be caught out here when the next front passed through. We had excellent winds but we were close hauled almost the whole time. We made excellent time and were surprised to see our destination so close on the chart plotter.

Jeffery Celebrating as we motored down the Houston Ship Channel nearing Kemah.

The Galveston Causeway bridge is our last obstacle to our Galveston Moorage at Moody Gardens.

Safely tucked in at Moody Gardens.

I never remembered seeing this Paddle Wheeler in Offatts Bayou but they said it has been here for many years.

All the Salt is washed off now time for us to find a shower.

It's a very long walk to the front desk of the Moody Resort Hotel desk to check in, fortunately they gave us a golf cart ride back to the little marina.

I can't even remember what we ate that night.

Moody Gardens lights entertained us till we Crashed.

The Paddle Wheeler giving Christmas rides.

A little fog the next morning as we departed Offatts Bayou

Lining up on the on the Clear Lake Channel

Had to reflect on the many times we have traveled this channel as we started and are now ending our time with Wand'rin Star.

The Kemah Board Walk appears to be fully developed now.

Can you Believe that on e of the Vessels used in the "Captain Ron" movie is here at Waterford Harbor being restored?

The rumor is they have already spent several hundred thousand and have a few more to go.

Who is your Honey Badger?

It Took 5 full days and 5+ Little Truck that Can loads to offload our stuff and get into storage.

Wand'rin Star is now on the T-Head of Dock 4 on the Kent Little Yacht Sales docks getting buffed up for her next owners.

Final Texas Cruise

For Months the Admiral and I have discussed the pros and cons of moving Wand'rin Star to the PNW. After takng a big pill I finally came to the practical conclusion that if we wanted a boat in Puget Sound then Wand'rin Star would have to find new owners and being a Southern vessel it would be best to sell her in her native waters. 
I bought a one way ticket to Texas not knowing on how long it would take to get the vessel to Kemah and prepare her for sale. Vessels of this size have to come to Kemah as the biggest brokerages in the South are right here in the Houston/Galveston Bay area. It is the third largest collection of private recreational vessels in the US. You have to be where the action is, large cruising vessels sit for years in the small marinas all along the Gulf of Mexico coast waiting for a buyer to come along. The buyers come here from all parts of the US since there are so many to choose from. 
Living in the Mecca of Puget Sound I had forgotten how huge the Houston area boat market is. The next closest area is Tampa Bay Florida and they can not compare to Galveston Bay in any respects. It is very international here and boats from all over the planet find their way here in huge numbers. We listed with Kent Little since he has served us so well with our last two boat purchases. 
I put out a call to all my sailing buddies to help crew on the trip to Kemah. Being so close to Christmas and possibly requiring 6 or more days to make the trip I knew It would be difficult to find able bodied crew. I have been pretty lucky from day 1 of my existence in this life and as it was meant to be Jeffery Konop texted me and said he thought he might be able to make the trip. Could not have been better as he has sailed many times down the ICW and on the outside along with the Crew of "Apothaker" in the many Harvest Moon Regatta races from Galveston to Port Aransas. He is also adept at finding creative solutions when things go wrong.or need repair. He soon confirmed he could make the trip and so I got into high gear preparing Wand'rin Star for the trip going over every system several times and making sure spare parts and provisions were ready to go when he arrived. 
He arrived the afternoon before departure and so  I had dinner ready on the boat so we could spend the evening going over details. The forecast that week did not point to a favorable Gulf of Mexico route so I had every day charted out down the ICW. Just before retiring that night we checked weather reports again and the forecast changed showing a three day window for a offshore route. I double checked several sources and concluded that we could certainly cut our trip short and sail on the outside in the Gulf of Mexico. You do not want to trust a three day forecast this time of year but I felt we were certainly good for an overnight trip on the outside.
Trips in the Gulf are very different from traveling the protected waters of the ICW. I would need to do some extra preparations but I could do take care of that as we sailed out the Corpus Christi Ship Channel to the Gulf. We woke around  0400 and after a quick coffee we tossed the lines off at 0500 leaving before sunrise. The winds were light so we motored on through the darkness across Corpus Christi Bay entering the ship channel at first light. I secured all things below (almost everything) and lashed down everything on the deck. You never know what kind of conditions you will find in the Channel at Port A.. We encountered the worse conditions with a flood tide which cause huge swells, by the time we reached the mouth of the inlet we were riding up and down 12-16' short period waves crashing down and then up through the tops of waves. Just safely turning the boat East would be a bad idea so we motored on till the waves began to settle to a constant 12' and then began to slowly turn eastward avoiding getting broadside to the waves. 
After about an hour the wave period began to lengthen and we were able to get on our east bound route. Now 12 footers were the big ones and things settle to 8-10'. For a little while I was afraid I had made a terrible mistake but by the early evening we had 6-8' and the motion was far improved with reefed main and Genoa and 18 knot winds were maintaining our planned 6 knot average. We motor sailed the entire trip for many reasons but the main reason is we needed to get off the Gulf before the next front hit. This Yanmar had sit mostly idle for the last two years and needed to stretch for sure. 
I planned our route down the Safety Channel which is about 30 miles offshore. It is called the Safety Channel since there are no oil platforms or any other obstructions in the channel.It makes the trip about 7 or  8 hours longer but you do not have to worry about running into those friggen unlighted rigs. The Channel is very wide and accommodates huge ships which we only saw a couple of during the trip. You just simply stay off to one side of the channel and they do not pass anywhere close to you. 
Having AIS though makes it all much easier and the chart plotter and AIS seemed to be working great but after several hours it became apparent to us that our target was not being broadcast. Another cobweb appeared so I went down below and discovered that one of the cables to the AIS box had vibrated loose. I screwed it in tight and then hailed a passing ship which confirmed that he could see our target on his AIS.
After a calming sea and a full moon clear night we soon approached Galveston Island and made for the ship channel. The ship traffic in and around the inlet to the Houston Ship Channel has multiplied several times since the last time I sailed through here. Every intersection had multiple ships converging and It took both of us to keep a watch to make sure we did not find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Going through a couple of narrow cuts on our way to Offatts Bayou we had to maneuver to close for comfort to a couple of tows. Some Channels are relatively narrow especially when the barges are crabbing taking up most of the channel and the depths outside the channel are less than 5 feet.
We made it with a bit of daylight to spare to Moody Gardens and some very friendly cruisers, one a past Commodore of the Texas Mariners Cruising Association helped us tie up. Always nice to have a welcoming committee! After hosing the salt off Wand'rin Star we looked for the marina showers. First we had to find the check in desk and get the codes to the bathrooms. Moody Gardens is a Huge Resort and it took several wrong turns before we finally found the front desk and got checked in. Fortunately we finally talked to the right guy and got a golf cart ride back to the marina and showers. It was dark so the ride back was filled with some very elaborate Christmas lights. Next was Beer, Dinner, Sleep.
We did not need to set an alarm since Kemah was just a short 5 hour trip up Galveston Bay. There was some morning fog forecast so I wanted to wait until after 10:00 anyway to depart. This 5 hour trip would turn into a nightmare if we tried to navigate in dense fog. It was looking good by 10:00 so we started to get things ready to depart and shoved off at 10:30. As we motored out to the ICW there was fog both ways and since there were no other vessels or land visible I thought we might be turning back to wait a few more hours. But a ship appeared in the distance and it looked as though we had 1/2 to 3/4 mile visibility at least and the temperature would was rising to what was left of the morning fog would continue to dissipate, we continued on with no problem.
We were soon lined up with the Clear Lake Channel and got a great tour of the now fully developed Kemah boardwalk from the water. Jeff had made the trip into Waterford Harbor before so he easily identified the proper channel and we were soon tied up on the T-head of dock 4. Another Welcoming Committee was on the dock catching our lines and helping to Wand'rin Star in her new temporary home. Randy, Pat, Jim, Phillip and Sharon all friends from Corpus who now had their boats here were a welcome sight...Instant Party!

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