While we've been stuck in the slip for the past few weeks, due to a number of circumstances (Like Texas spring weather! , rebuilding our docks and a motorcycle trip), I haven't been sitting around doing nothing.
I've been fleshing out a website that I've had in mind for a few months. Seemed like a good opportunity to learn asp.net and C#. It's been an enjoyable learning experience.
The site's not ready for mass release, but I'm working on it. Feel free to browse over to www.mydockmates.com, register and look around.
One thing I'm really excited about is the ability to upload Spot Tracking data. Before now, those spot track went into the bit bucket after 7 days. MyDockMates will allow you to store them and soon, add comments, and images. Should be fun!
Well, things don't always go as planned. I think that I failed to mention in the past few posts that Ann isn't feeling well. She's had a nasty cold for a couple of days, but that wasn't going to keep her from the trip. Then it either moved into her eye, or she has an infection there. By the time we went to bed last night, her left eye was nearly shut and it was painful. Trust me, when she says something hurts, it does. I wish I had half of her ability to push through pain or adversity.
This morning, when she woke, her left eye was swollen nearly shut and it was obvious that it had spread to the other eye.
So our choices were:
1. Go on, it'll probably be OK
2. Stay in Freeport, try to get medical attention (on Sunday), and if that all works out fine, go on, a day behind the group. If not, turn back.
3. Turn back and get medical attention on Monday back at our home port.
It didn't take too long to decide that the most prudent thing was to head back. We really didn't want to. The weather was predicted to be nice where we were headed. and still bad back at home, but it just seemed the thing to do.
After an 8 1/2 hour motor back, we're back in our slip, I went to the pharmacy and got some things for her eyes and she's glad to be here.
The trip back was our first time on our own on the ICW. It went very well. The boat performed perfectly. We made great time due to rising tide as we headed up the Houston Ship Channel.
Ironically, as we headed up the HSC towards Kemah, the rains started again (can't have a day without rain). There were time when the rain was thick enough that we could barely find the next marker. Thank god for the chartplotter. With lighting striking around us, it made me think about how heavily we counted on the chartplotter that could be gone with one strike of lighting.
8 1/2 hours is a long time to motor, but it went very smoothly. We're feeling pretty comfortable that we could do a long passage on the ICW, but not so sure that we want to...
Leaving Laguna Harbor was more of an effort than expected. I made a rookie mistake and pulled into the pier on my port side. That all worked fine until I started to think about how to get out. I lost a bit of sleep trying to figure out how.
I had pulled in on the port side snug up to a corner in front. There was no way out other than backing out. Unfortunately, this boat pulls pretty hard to port when backing, which means it's going to want to just drag us along the concrete wall until I get enough speed (and do enough damage) to get steerage (the rudder doesn't work until you're moving fast enough for it to get a good flow of water over it).
I decided to put bumpers along the bow and release the stern, pull in the bow as much as possible and make my way out slowly. The best way to compensate for a boat that pulls is to give it a burst of throttle, and then get off the throttle so that it isn't pulling and the rudder can work as the boat starts moving. Worked perfectly. We didn't get away fast, but we got away clean...
Then we headed out of the harbor following the same line we came in on, and somehow ran aground. Luckily the bottom's soft here, so we just plowed through, as I knew we were feet away from the channel. I still can't see what we did different coming out than going in.
To make things worse, 2 of the 10 boats that were with us were having problems. 'A Good Ketch' (our cruise leader) had an electrical problem and had to call for someone to come help. 'Good Timin' was hard aground and burned out an impeller trying to get off. They'd had some overheating problems the day before. so the impeller was likely in bad shape already. We left with most of the rest of the boats while they waited on repairs. Luckily both were successful in getting underway and made it to Freeport fine.
Cruising down the ICW was pretty uneventful, while educational. We'd heard about talking to the tugs, but didn't know the lingo. To be fair, it's in the Inland Navigation Rules, but we hadn't read the sound signal section. Understandable I think since sound signals aren't really used anymore.
In the old days, if two tugs were approaching one another, they'd use horns (called whistles just to confuse) to indicate how they'd pass. One whistle means port to port , two means starboard to starboard. Nowadays, these calls are made on the VHF radio , and have shortened to 'Passing on the one' or 'Passing on the two'.
We did manage to see our first dolphins in the ICW just west of galveston bay. Eagle Eye Annie spotted the pair.
It was pretty well a cold rainy miserable day. We started at 9:30 and arrived in freeport at about 4:15.
As we pulled into the marina, they pointed us to a Mediterranean style silp, which means you have to back in to get off the boat (no finger piers).
When we bought the boat, it was backed into its slip. but after our first sail, we gave up after about 5 tries of backing it in. So much simpler to pull in head first. Never thought about it again. Until this afternoon, when I had no choice. Amazingly enough, I backed in like I knew what I was doing -- until we ran aground. That slip was too shallow for us. So out I go as they look for where to put us. We end up an another slip that I have to back in! We backed in like pros. Two more firsts today.
Strange how such a miserable, cold, rainy day can seem so full of positives in hindsight.
We set out this morning at about 10:30 amidst fog, and a Coast Guard advisory about limited visibilty on the bay. We were thankful to simply have enough water to get out of the slip. This winter has been loaded with days where we were aground in the slip due to North winds blowing water out of Galveston bay.
We met up with 3 other boats at the #2 marker of the clear lake channel and headed out to the Houston ship channel. We elected to motor. It was just too miserable to pull out the sails and wanted to head directly down the HSC without worrying about what direction the wind would steer us. With it being our first trip down the HSC, we wanted our full attention on the ships.
In fact, the traffic was not a big deal. Much easier to deal with than I'd worried about.
The weather was pretty miserable. Cold, Fog limiting visibility to less than a mile, punctuated with a few downpours that left us motoring in the blind. I was very happy to have aboard the radar that I'd installed a few months back.
But we made it here fine, and even managed to dock the boat without help with no damage. A nice accomplishment with the way the winds were blowing and the fact the the bulkhead was concrete. Annie did a great job of getting off the boat and securing a couple of lines quickly.
One last bit of luck is that we pulled up next to the one shorepower pylon that was actually on. All of others were dead.
Most of the 10 boats that arrived after us are running on battery power, but we have A/C so the battery charger's running, the heat is on, and I'm watching TV. The same HiDef Channels from Houston that we get in Kemah.
I installed the jacklines today and we moved the dink from the radar arch to foredeck. I think we have everything ready to go. Ann cooked a few things that we wanted to freeze for the trip.
Still lack a trip or two to stock up on beer and wine, but otherwise, we're provisioned.
The only worry at the moment is that there are North winds predicted for a couple of days. That would make the offshore trip very comfortable, but it has the unfortunate side effect of blowing the water out of the bay, and if it drops enough, we're stuck in our slip.
We have fingers crossed...
We have a SPOT messenger on board and starting Friday, you can follow our progress at
This weekend, we begin our first trip. It's a short one. A 10 day trip planned from here down to Port Aransas and back. Today I received the last of the safety equipment we ordered for this trip. We'll be doing day trips - some offshore and some down the ditch (The intracoastal waterway)