Butt Kicker Return to Port A
28 September 2014 | City Marina, Port Aransas
I recruited two other fools to help move Why Knot from Clear Lake, Texas to her home port at Port Aransas, Texas which is roughly 180 nautical distant. This time of year, the Gulf can be stormy, even active hurricanes. For the previous few days, rain was the main forecast and last weekend was no different. The forecast called for thunderstorms "some very heavy" but the winds were to be under 20 knots. Since the trend was for rain caused by a persistent low pressure wave, we decided to leave anyway. This was to be Why Knot's shakedown after recommissioning. We decided to sail first to Galveston then get an early start Thursday morning. If any problems arose, we were likely to see them on the 25 mile hop from Clear Lake to Galveston and still be in position to do repairs. We left Clear Lake with massive, nasty thunderstorms west of us and moving inland. As we motored out of the harbor, we were glad the storms were not chasing us. The Bay was flat and winds practically nonexistent. Since I originally planned to anchor in Bolivar Roads, I brought 10 gallons of spare fuel in case we wanted to run the a/c at night to get away from the bat sized mosquitos that were following me around. Those extra fuel cans would be very important later but not for the original purpose.
As we reached the Houston Ship Channel, the stormy weather started to develop all around us. We had some rain but nothing compared to the next day. We spent a quiet night in a transient slip and prepared for passage from Galveston to Port the next day. Since the distance is about 155 nautical miles, we decided to leave mid morning so that we would not get to Port A too early. At at 1000 hrs, we backed out of the slip in a gentle rain. Rounding the jetty the rain increased in intensity. As is usually the case, the winds were coming over the bow. There was no reason to hoist sails but we hoped that would change as forecast. We were waiting for the east southeast winds so we could have an easy sail. We had 15 knots of wind on our bow and were motoring into swells and waves. Why Knot was doing the tango in a very lively fashion. Though ready for a lively passage, stuff still found ways to take flight below. Waves were hitting us off the port bow. The swells had a ten degree wider angle and that made the ride anything but comfortable. I knew it would test the crew seasickness meds to the fullest. It was a good thing we decided to forego galley cooked meals in favor of sandwiches and snacks since balancing a plate would have been impossible. As it was, one could quickly stuff a sandwich between lurches but that was all. Food and drink was everywhere. Mid afternoon found us no less challenged. The good thing was that the rains kept the temperatures down.
Several times we hoisted sail only to find them useless on our course. Thus, we decided the trip would be motoring the whole way if nothing changed. It did not. Day turned to night and one member of the crew started an ordeal which lasted the rest of the cruise. His first event happened in the forward head when the boat lurched causing him to basically take out the wall mounted shampoo and soap dispensers. Next came the famous drink glass incident when said glass, not for use at sea, flew mid cabin and turned into a million or so shards of foot ventilators. Next came his dead sleep flight from the berth to the sole before awakening upon impact. Mind you, we were all being bludgeoned by the sea but these things were added to his day. Then his Ipad took flight and later his notebook did the same. The latter ejected its cd, memory cards and battery upon impact. While he is a seasoned sailor, he might not have been so accustomed to nasty nighttime weather before.
For the next 27 hours we were cursed with head seas, knarley swells and waves and rain, lots of rain. At times we had to de-tune the radar so much it was practically useless. The other challenge was that of of oil platforms, dozens of them. I told the crew about the need to mind the radar since some were not lighted. I came topside after trying unsuccessfully to get some sleep to find the person on watch eyeballing a radar target with no lights. The thing was huge and except for its radar blip, it was invisible beyond 50 yards distance. The moon was not yet with us and we were far enough offshore that the light level was not enough to see the platform.
Light pollution is a problem even offshore and without a moon. The instruments have night settings but some are still too bright. I usually drape them with a towel and only peek at them once in a while. The benefit is that if there are few clouds, one can actually see great distances in the starlight. The blue afterburner like trail of bioluminescence in the prop wash trails a good 25 yards astern and is a beautiful blue. Those are some of the rewards for being at sea in the wee hours.
As usual in such conditions, the night was a long, tiring ordeal loaded with bruise causing lurches of the boat. One would think sitting on a boat is restful and that is the case in the harbor. At sea, one is always correcting for the three axis movements of the boat and after a few hours of that, one has had the equivalent of a full workout. In this case the workout lasted 27 hours which caused all of us to awake sore as hell the next day after making port. All of us had new unexplained bruises.
The last few hours were in heavy rain and microbursts that would have been pretty exciting had we been sailing. At long last, we made the jetties at Port A and the end of Why Knot's cruise. The familiar smells greeted us such as the rookery on the the north jetty and the fried onion rings from Virginia's restaurant. We heard a shout from an old friend on the second dock whom we have not seen in four years. As we approached the slip, Bear, Scurv and the ladies of the other two crew were waiting. It was a time honored tradition on display at the dock that has played out for thousands of years. Why Knot is now home and ready for the "fufu" duties of coastal cruising. Eeeeee ha! What a cruise it was.