05/11/2013, Bayland Marina, Baytown, TX
Bud and I had originally thought we wouldn't be able to get back down to Baytown until sometime in the middle of June. However, we didn't feel comfortable leaving the boat so long after just tying her in her slip and having to quickly take off to get back to Texarkana. Gary asked us when we wanted our two boxes shipped from St. Augustine, one of which had the dehumidifier in it that we used during Earendil's storage there. We asked Gary to ship that box right away, and decided to come back down this weekend. This probably will be our last chance for over a month, but we wanted to make sure the dock lines were right, the fenders placed properly and take the opportunity to get the dehumidifier working here.
We again left Texarkana at about 6 PM, after Jamie got out of work. She has off this weekend, so we could come. Three things made this trip easier. First, we decided to have some work done on the faithful land barge. It's a 1998 Ford Crown Victoria, and though old has only 106,000 miles on it. It uses oil, but no more now than it did 25,000 miles ago when we bought it. So we decided to get the brakes and suspension fixed, and keep on driving it. Now it drives like a big old American car, not the most responsive ride, but you don't feel like you're taking your life in your hands when you hit the open road. The next thing that improved the trip is that is didn't rain, and finally, both of us were along and Bud drove. So it was an especially relaxed trip for me.
This time we managed to get almost into the boat with all our gear and Fuzzy before it rained. We were actually happy it rained because we wanted to see where the leaks were. It rained hard for a couple of hours and some nasty thunderstorms passed just north of us. But we were snug and dry and there were no leaks. The work we did last time must have been successful. The dock lines seemed fine and in general Earendil was just as we left her.
This morning we tackled a couple of small jobs. I reported that during the gulf crossing the jib furling line had started to fray and Bud had cut one of the dinghy davit lines off the block and tackle to replace it. Now he wanted that gear removed from the arch. No problem, except that it hangs from the very top rear of the arms, about 6 feet behind the deck and about 12 feet above the water. You can see the little holes where the shackles were attached in the picture I took and put in the gallery. I tried climbing over the stern rail and out on the arch and decided that wouldn't work. I got our old jib sheet, about fifty feet of 5/8" thick line. I thought if we ran it back and forth across the frame of the davit arms it would give me something to hang onto as I leaned out. Bud helped me run the line, when we were done we had 6 lines going across from one side of the davit arms to the other. Then Bud suggested we lay one of the cockpit cushions out across those. He held the cushion while I climbed and slid until I was lying along it and could easily reach the shackle. We moved the cushion to the other side and repeated the process and in no time, without me getting wet or dropping anything in the water, we had the block and tackle off both sides.
Next we needed to take the paddle off the wind vane steering gear. To do that you need to pull a pin that's about 18 inches above the water at the back of the wind vane frame. I could try to crawl down the frame, but then I'd have to wedge myself in while I used two hands to work at my feet. Bud suggested we use the boatswain's chair. We used that same old jib sheet, this time over the top of the center of the arch. One end was tied to the boatswain's chair and the other end was wrapped around our jib winch. I got in the chair, climbed over the stern rail and Bud lowered me down until I could reach the pin. Again we quickly had the job done with no problems and nothing lost.
I went into a lot of detail about those tasks because it was so rewarding to have figured out how to get them done, and then successfully do them. Bud and I make a great team when we tackle problems on the boat, and that teamwork is one of the reasons we love doing this.
Anyway, to celebrate that success Bud decided to take a nap. I wanted to bike, but the one folding bike we brought down, with a new front tire, was now completely flat. So I took a walk and explored the immediate surroundings. The picture above typifies this place. I was standing in a nice pavilion in a little waterfront park looking out on Tabbs Bay - at an oil well in the shallows and a ship coming up the Houston Ship Channel. A little nature, a lot of industry, but it's home for Earendil and as often as we can make it, for us.
05/01/2013, Baytown and Texarkana
I couldn't get away from Texarkana until almost 6 PM on Saturday, but I wasn't going to wait another minute, so Fuzzy and I immediately set out for Baytown. I'll admit to a bit of trepidation, it's a 5-hour drive, Fuzzy is demented and doesn't travel well and the old land barge is showing her age, mostly in a complete lack of suspension and very questionable brakes. But if I stayed in Texarkana and tried to wait until morning I knew I wouldn't sleep anyway, so off I went.
Bud had told me that he had thunderstorms at the boat, but I had 5 hours yet to go so I figured they'd be gone. The storms in Texarkana tend to be intense, but brief. I was listening to the radio on the way down and the programming was interrupted with a weather alert. There were intense thunderstorms just east of me with quarter-sized hail, 60 mph winds and lightning strikes. People were being advised to seek shelter. Fortunately the storms were moving further east, so I just kept on going. Just after dark I did hit periods of rain that slowed me a bit. The open road (4-lane through the country, not limited access) had a 75-mph speed limit. I couldn't manage that in the rain and dark with questionable brakes.
Fuzzy was in his carrier. I'd found he was more comfortable in that now that he's almost totally blind. The top was unzipped so he could sit up or stand and look out. He spent about the first three hours nervously looking out and turning around. Finally he lay down and slept.
I ran back out of the rain, made one quick stop for gas, and kept on pushing. As I got closer to Baytown I started to see lightning in the sky. I didn't see any cloud to ground strikes and hoped this was the sign that the storms had passed or dissipated. About 20 miles north of Baytown I ran back into rain and arrived at the marina at 11:10 PM in rain and wind. It took two trips out to the boat to get Fuzzy and all our stuff aboard.
The first thing I noticed, besides the rain and the wind, was that it smelled like the ocean! And because of that I found I didn't mind the rain and wind at all (that and because it was warm!). It was odd and a bit disorienting to be back aboard Earendil. Her interior felt damp (several new leaks had been noodled out by the driving rain) and small. But I was tired so I put down my stuff and went to bed.
The next morning was clear and calm. After putting away my clothes and things I found the boat felt like home again, and not too small at all. Fuzzy had to be watched constantly, because he insisted on coming up the 6 inch step from the salon to the galley, but couldn't see well enough to step back down, and kind of fell down, which might end up hurting him. We ended up having him sleep in the carrier.
Sunday afternoon Dan and Sharon Murphy from TYC came by with their son, Kevin. Kevin lives in the Galveston area, as do Dan and Sharon in the winter. We had a nice visit and they brought us a bottle of champagne to celebrate getting the boat to Baytown! It made being back on board all the nicer.
Bud was too tired Sunday to move the boat to her permanent dock. Monday the marina office is closed so we couldn't get fuel or pump out, so we didn't move her then either. We spent the time cleaning and packing, tending to potential leaks and getting our chafe guard and dock lines sorted. We had a lot of stuff to pack in the land barge. Based on the first leg of the trip, Bud had really stocked up for the gulf crossing. We brought back 6 cases of water (leaving two on the boat), seven 12 packs of beer (leaving about 4 on the boat), about 5 bags of groceries and a cooler full of frozen and refrigerated food!
Tuesday morning we found out that it would be unwise to come to the fuel dock until the tide came in a bit. So we continued our packing and waited. At 10:15 we gave it a try. We had no problem; our depth gauge read 7 feet at the dock. We fueled up, and it only took 40 gallons. Since they had used the 20 gallons of fuel in the jerry cans that meant the 800-mile leg from Marathon had only taken 60 gallons of fuel. When I get a chance I'll try to estimate the number of hours motorsailing and just motoring, but I think the fuel consumption of the Yanmar is definitely showing improvement.
It took us a little over an hour to move the boat and secure it in the new slip. Happily one of the live-aboards in the marina came over to help us in the slip, as the wind caught Earendil and Bud came in very crooked. We were all secured and packed and left the marina at 1:50 PM.
We were only at the marina a few days, but already we met three couples and one single guy with boats there (and there are only 22 boats in this 103-slip marina). That's one of the great things about boating. No matter how different folks are, they all love boats and are willing to lend a hand to fellow boaters. We have three people who will keep an eye on Earendil for us. And that is good, because now we're back in Texarkana, 5 hours away.
04/27/2013, Bayland Marina, Baytown, TX
It was a long slog up the Houston Ship Channel with the current going against them (tide was going out). It took them 5 hours from the lighted buoys at the entrance to Galveston Bay to get up to the marina. They tied off at 2:30 AM. Jack's wife, Sharon, was there to meet them and had been waiting for a couple of hours.
As soon as the boat was tied, the crew began to gather their belongings. Jack and Sharon took Skip and Bob directly to Houston airport, even though they did not yet have flights out. Laurene's parents were going to pick her and Travis up at about 5. The others were gone by 4:30. Bud wasn't even going to take a shower, but then thought he'd sleep better if he did. He went into the showers after Jack, Sharon, Skip and Bob left. The last Bud saw of Travis and Laurene they were waiting out at a little pavilion overlooking the docks for her parents. Seems like folks couldn't get away fast enough. Of course, I shouldn't be surprised that Laurene didn't want to wait on the boat. She probably never wants to set foot on a sailboat again, at least not until she forgets about this voyage!
I'll be leaving late this afternoon or early this evening to drive down and join Bud. I'll be happy to be on the boat, anyway.
04/26/2013, Western Gulf of Mexico
Today's phone call found Jack at the helm again. He said there was little wind and they'd been motoring all day with small seas. I asked about the fuel and he referred me to Bud. Bud said they'd been motoring since last night at about 9 PM. He didn't know if the Yanmar had finally gotten broken in or what, but one tank had about a third left and the other two thirds left. They had put in the fuel from the jerry cans on deck, but even so, that seems remarkably good fuel economy. So they should still have close to 40 gallons left. They'd made almost 160 nm in the last 24 hours with an average speed of 6.6 knots. They were only 37 nm from the entrance to Galveston Bay and they were going to head in tonight.
They all must be very tired of being on the boat to persuade Bud to go into a harbor at night. The last time we did that was into Toronto Harbor. Granted that's a busy harbor with a lot of city lights all around to distract you, but we had been there before. We almost sailed into the restricted area in front of the small plane airport out on the Toronto Islands. We also came closer than we wanted to some kayakers out there without lights. It was not fun and something we said we'd never do again. But Jack has sailed in Galveston Bay before. He said the Houston Ship Channel is wide and well marked, easy to see even at night. And Bud feels that with radar and the spot light and plenty of people they'll have no trouble. But like I said, they all must be really anxious to step foot on land and probably more important, take a long, hot shower.
I called Bayland Marina for Bud and they told me he should come straight down the middle of their entrance channel, there'd be plenty of water at least two boat lengths out from the docks and he could take either of two T-heads just past a catamaran. A T-head is at the end of a secondary dock, so you don't have to pull into a slip. You just pull alongside and tie up, no other boats to worry about. Since they won't get there until midnight or 1 AM, that's a very good thing.
Unfortunately, Jamie has to work tomorrow, so I won't be able to leave here until late afternoon at the earliest, or if it's busy at the hospital I may wait and leave at about 3 AM early Sunday morning to get there for breakfast. I'll do a quick update to the blog on the arrival, after that I won't do another entry until I'm on board.
04/25/2013, Northwest Central Gulf of Mexico
The crew had a somewhat wild night, at least for a while. They were coming into what they feared might be a violent squall. There was lightning all over. Bud said it lit things up so you could practically read up on deck. There were long, long bolts of lightening traveling across the clouds, with occasional bolts striking down to the water. Bud wanted to furl the jib in anticipation of some strong winds. Our jib is on a roller furler. When the jib is let out it winds the furling line up on the spool of the furler. When you want to take the jib in you pull that line out, it winds the jib up around the forestay. There was resistance when they tried to furl. The furling line had chafed. This is the second time that has happened to us. The first time the line snapped as we crossed at night back from the Bahamas. That time we'd had to take the jib down. This time, the core of the line was still intact and they managed to get the jib furled.
It's a good thing, too, because Jack had 29 knots of wind for about 90 minutes and had the boat going 7 knots with just the main. The wind switched all around and then died. They used the main and staysail for the rest of the night, but there wasn't really enough wind to sail and the engine was on most of the night. They never did get into any rain or thunderstorm, just those 90 minutes of strong wind. What they saw was a cold front that drifted near them, stalled and died. There should be nothing else the rest of the trip.
Bud said he wanted to get the jib back in service during his watch from 3 to 6 AM. The wind was coming back a bit and he wanted to be ready to sail. He retied a reefing line that had come loose on the boom, and then he went in search of a line that would work for the furler. He ended up taking one of the lines we have on the davits to raise the dinghy. Those are very long, because they go through a block and tackle to get a 6 to 1 advantage, and on the rigger's advice we made them long enough to hook to the dingy when it's about 10 feet away from the boat, to make sure we could get it up in the davits in rough weather. Anyway, the line was the right size and turned out to be just about the exact length Bud needed for the furler. Now we'll need a new line for the davits, but since the dingy is secured on the foredeck for this passage that's something we'll worry about in Baytown.
Bud said the reason the furling line chafed was that the pulley it runs through that's attached to our bow pulpit had turned about 60 degrees, so the lead into the furler was no longer true. He fixed that, too.
The crew also had trouble with the toilets. Both toilets plugged. Although I had pretty good reception, I missed the name, but one of the Gaskill brothers spent a good part of the day cleaning sewage from the salon where it ran when the forward head plugged. The other brother managed to plug the aft toilet. That, at least, is clear now, but everyone is a bit wary of them (the toilets, not the brothers, though the rest of the crew may be a bit wary of them, now, too).
They are making good progress today. The current dissipated right around 89 degrees west, as predicted by our weather guy. They've had 15 to 17 knots of wind from the NNE and are sailing in the 7's now. Bud said they are sailing a bit south of their line, because they expect the wind to go east, then south of east and push them to the north again. I was able to plot their position on our navigation software while Bud was still on the phone so I could report to him that they'd gone 146 nm since I talked to him yesterday. I also did a quick measurement and let him know they have about 196 nm to go to the mouth of the bay. I didn't figure out their average speed, though, which was just about 6 knots for the day.
I asked Bud if he'd seen the oilrigs yet. He saw them today. He said there is a lot of boat traffic to them and the tenders seem to have a very long aft deck. I gave him Dan's warning that at night the lights are so bright that it looks like the shore. I imagine they'll see that tonight.
Travis and Laurene are well enough to be up on deck now, but not well enough to spend any time below unless they are sleeping. I asked Bud if Laurene hated sailing. "It's not her favorite thing," he said.
Bud had to go then, he had to get the garbage compressed and stowed on the foredeck under the dinghy before dark. I imagine the boat will be quite a mess by the time it gets to Galveston, but I'll still be thrilled to see it!
04/24/2013, North Central Gulf of Mexico
The crew kept the spinnaker up through most of the night, but the wind veered towards the southeast, pushing them more towards the north. They didn't want to try to turn the boat to the other tack and have to move the spinnaker to the other side at night (a jibe), so they just tried to keep the course as far to the west as they could. Finally a gust pushed the boat over far enough that it woke everyone up and they came up on deck and doused the spinnaker.
The detour to the north got them in an eastward current they were trying to avoid, so now they are going slowly and have just decided to use the engine for the next 5 hours to try to get far enough west to get out of the worst of the current. The good news is they hadn't used the engine for the last two days, so their fuel supply should still be OK.
Checking the numbers, they made just less than 130 nm since the position yesterday; their speed came to and average of 5.43 knots. They have about 345 nm to the entrance of the Bay of Galveston if they manage to sail straight. If they continue at 5 knots they would get there at noon on Saturday. I now expect they will make the entrance to the bay around sunrise Saturday. It's almost 30 nm from the entrance to the bay to Bayland Marina in Baytown, so they will probably get there early to mid afternoon on Saturday. We'll see how my prediction works out.
I didn't get much other information as the phone was breaking up so much that Bud couldn't hear me. I did find out that they haven't seen any oil platforms yet, but they are occasionally seeing freighters.