Thursday, October 30, 2008

The new and improved Sailing For SOS

I am extremely proud to announce that the new permanent home of Sailing For SOS has gone live! You can view the new website at Please add it to your favorites as I will no longer be updating this blog. Blogger has served me well over the past few years, but as the scope and reality of the project have grown I’ve developed a new site to support the long term travel I’ll be undertaking.

Thanks Blogger. You’ve been great. Please stay with me as we make the transition to The latest blog highlights some of the new features of my new site. I hope you like it.

Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Climbing the mast and time.

Heights have never really bothered me, but I still get a little nervous climbing the mast on this boat.  When I am doing it solo I rig two safeties.  One is called an ascender and can be picked up from any store with rock climbing gear like an REI.  It has a spring loaded cam in it with teeth pointing in one direction.  It allows you to feed the line through the cam and slide it up.  As soon as any weight is put on the ascender the teeth bite into the line and prevent downward motion.  It forces you to open the cam and slide it down step by step on the way back down.  The second safety is much more low tech.  It is a simple piece of nylon webbing with two carabiners.  One is clipped into my climbing harness and the other is clipped either into the mast steps as I climb or around the mast itself once I reach the height I will be working at.


I just finished replacing every bulb and two complete housings for my running lights, tricolor, anchor, and spreader lights.  I tried plugging in some LED lights for the nav lights, but I didn’t like them at all.  They are not bright enough in all directions and you really have to be careful with the colors.  For instance, do not put the “white” bulb in your green bow light.  It turns it a distinctive shade of blue.  I am sure you could use a green light, but I think I am going to stick with the standard bulbs for the running lights.


I keep thinking about time.  I think I can be ready by the 10th as long as I keep my head down, shut out all interactions with people, and basically turn into a boat maintenance hermit.  Sound like fun?  I haven’t spent any time with my family since last Thanksgiving and this trip will most likely keep me away for several holidays over the next few years.  I’d like to be able to take my time with a few more projects and also spend some time with my good friends and family.  If I look at the next full moon in December it will really take the pressure off to rush projects and get home before I leave.  I keep thinking I have to be through the Panama Canal by April to make the Pacific cruising season, but who says so?  I don’t really know how long I’ll want to explore the Central American coast so why put a time limit on it?


Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Friday, October 24, 2008

One great big step.

I’ve been stressing really bad all week.  The time had come for me to send in my resignation to my company, Thermo Fisher.  I’ve been working with them for over three years and it is in large part due to my success there that I have the funds to take a few years off to go sailing.  My boss and I still need to sort out some details, but he was initially very supportive.  My fear was that it would be taken badly as I’ve seen too many people get let go in a manner you wouldn’t believe.  However, since I am not going to a competitor, or even into a related market, all is well.


Lately I’ve been thinking about all the deadlines I’ve been driven by as well.  Even the countdown timer is a deadline that I’ve artificially imposed on myself.  Odds are I’ll be leaving in November, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s November 10th or December 10th.  What I suddenly have is a lot of time.  That is the exact opposite of where I’ve been for the last six years.  This evening will be spent unwinding a bit with two of my best friends from my days up in Washington State.  Here is to learning to relax and marking major milestones.  For the first time in my life I’ve chosen the route of greatest fulfillment instead of greatest financial benefit.  Let’s see where this goes….


Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Slow Going

Plugging away at projects with my friend, but it is slow going.  We got all the chain plate caps rebidded and spent the day working on my navigation lights.  Had to replace two fixtures which took the better part of the day.  Bigger news coming.


Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Monday, October 20, 2008

Updated Punch List

There are about two dozen projects not on this list, but these were the most critical at the start of last week.  Not bad progress.  Lots to go.


Cancel Slip – 30 Day Notice

Install flexible holding tank

Trace Alternator/Tach Problem

Change Engine impeller and spairs

Dremmel lip off the drop leaf bar

Oven security bar

Helm Mount the command mic (almost done)

Softwood plugs at through hulls

Pick up shackles for parell beads – Kemah Hardware?

Recaulk Chain Plates         (stripping old caulk)

Rebed rusty stanchions

Plumb the water tank deck plate

Replace lazy jack boom cleat

Hang lifeline netting

Install Exhaust Elbow and Prop Lock (at fab)

Install new opening ports (on order)

Get Windlass cover made

Put new 100% on the furler (on order)

Install cockpit speakers (on order)

Design foux potty spot for dog (have grommet kit and turf)

Order/design Ditch Bag – Landfall

Change compression washer and lube furler

Grease winches

Fix plug and anchor chain holder for windlass

Get gas, water, and diesel cans x2 each


Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Reinforcements are on the way.

Saturday was a hard day.  Yesterday was better.  Today is even better yet.  I am way behind on boat projects, but am steadily chipping away at them day after day.  I hardly answer my phone right now.  The storm jib is ready to fly, the water tank is plumbed, the holding tank is in and finished, the mount is ready for the VHF remote at the helm, and I am steadily pulling and cleaning all the chain plate caps for rebidding.


Two of my best friends, Jason and Center, are in town this week starting tomorrow.  I was a little worried at first that this would throw me even further behind schedule, but I am putting Jason to work with me during the days while Center is in class.  Jason rebuilt a Jeep and sailed with me to South Padre over New Years.  I know he can take on a few projects of his own this week without much input from me.  Plus it will make it much easier to pull the stanchion bases for rebidding and go aloft to change all the navigation light bulbs and mount the fixed radar reflectors.  Holy crap I’ve got a lot to do.


Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Not the best of days.

I woke up early this morning ready to start knocking out projects with a vengeance.  It’s now 5:30 and I’ve only managed to plumb the fresh water deck plate to the fresh water holding tank.  This should have been a 2 hour job, tops.  After getting all the parts I needed I got the hoses run without a hitch.  I then went to drill the hole for the new fresh water fill fitting and that’s when it all went bad.  I don’t know what kind of aluminum they used, but this stuff is impossible to drill.  I attacked with a dremel diamond bit, rigid hole saw, and finally a knock out bit.  In the end I ruined both bits and my drill getting the whole cut.  Not to mention an extra hour trying to clean up all the metal shavings in the bottom of my water tank.  I am worried they might shred the fresh water pump.  I’ll be adding a couple of extra spares.  I taped a bag under the hole in the tank, but the shavings were so hot they melted through and fell to the bottom of the tank anyway. 


Rarely, very rarely, I am surprised at how quickly some projects go.  More often, like today, what I estimate at a two hour project turns into a full day fiasco.  I am going to back off for the rest of the day and hope tomorrow brings better boat karma.  My boat looks like a prison cell that just got tossed.  What a mess.


Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Friday, October 17, 2008

Shopping List

I’ve got to go get a bunch of random small parts to clean up a bunch of random small projects.  Here is the list of parts and associated poject I am going out for this morning.


1.       Galvanized carabiners – used to hank the storm jib over the furled headsail

2.       23 ¼ inch long x 1.5 or 2 inch stainless steel tubing and flat end caps – making a security bar at the stove

3.       3M 4000 sealant – for the chainplate caps and stanchion rebidding projects

4.       Teflon tape – I just always run out of this stuff.  Immediate need for engine zinc replacement

5.       Engine zincs – these are sacrificial anodes that wear away instead of eating up the engine

6.       Plumbing parts for water tank and hose – I can’t believe the deck plate isn’t plumbed to the water tank.  It just dead ends in mid air.

7.       Boom cleat for Lazy Jack line – Old plastic one broke

8.       Heavy Duty zip ties – A must have, like duct tape.  Need them for cleaning up the electrical harness and hanging my lifeline netting

9.       1/8 or 3/16 piece of teak – Have to make a mounting plate for a remote radio speaker and microphone for the VHF.  Can’t hear it in the cockpit.

10.   Teflon Grease to lube the FaMet Roller Furling compression washer.


Busy day, but the progress feels good.


Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Thursday, October 16, 2008


It was kind of a cloudy, rainy, miserable day and I didn’t get as much done as I wanted to.  I did manage to pull and replace the old raw water pump impeller, get an impeller puller for next time, and add two spare impellers to the inventory.  After that I went after my Racor 500 fuel filters since my tank was empty.  I only have to run the engine for a few hours and the collection bowls fill up with sludge from the diesel tank.  Hopefully now that they have been cleaned and scrubbed this won’t be an issue anymore.


Cheers to not letting your engine die due to clogged fuel filters!




Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Punch List


1.     Get 130 and Windlass cover to a canvas shop.

2.    Pull Opening ports and get replacements ordered

3.    Pull and replace exhaust elbow and prop-lock

4.    Measure and order cockpit speakers

5.    Order or buy binoks

a.    Nikon Action 7x50 EX Extreme ATB Binocular

6.    Cancel Slip – 30 Day Notice

7.    Recaulk Chain Plates       

8.    Rebed rusty stanchions

9.    Hang lifeline netting

10.           Trace Alternator/RPM Problem

11.           Get Glenn to clean fuel tank



Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The things I think about.

I pulled four different quotes for headsails yesterday.  I wish I could provide you an apples to apples comparison of the various lofts prices, but no one designer would ever give me quite what I was asking for.  Even worse, they often had their own ideas about what I needed and varied wildly from the quotes I was requesting.


Jargo came with two headsails, a great big 150% genoa and a 90% jib.  Neither sail was really designed for a furler and both have quite a bit of age on them.  I was planning on using the 150% as my primary and as such took it down to get a couple of patches put on and have the sun cover replaced.  While it was in the shop I flew the 90% jib and used this sail all the way down to South Padre Island and back.  What I found surprised me.


It’s no secret I single hand a lot.  Smaller sails are easier to handle.  I finally put the big 150% back on after Ike and went sailing this weekend.  What a pain in the ass.  As a result, I’ve decided to replace the 90% with a true, brand new, 100% jib with a high clew and use this new sail as my primary.  I might lose a little bit of speed in lighter airs, but not wearing myself out should more than make up for it.  Of the sail lofts I’ve spoken to Cameron Sails seemed to understand best what I was about and the owner should be on the boat shortly to take measurements for the new jib.


Jargo is after all a sailboat.  If I am going cruising don’t you think I ought to put at least one brand spanking new sail on her?


Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Great Morning – Anchored Out

7:30 a.m. – Rise and shine. Dog needs to go out. Lift her off the transom and convince her she can make the step from the swim ladder to the dingy. After landing on Red Fish Island and letting the dog do her business it’s back to the boat. Convince the dog, again, she can make the step.

8:00 – Coffee time. Start the pot and let it percolate. Good time to clean up the dishes from the spaghetti dinner the night before. Dishes done, I want strong coffee so I let it continue and go to the cockpit to raise the dingy on the davits. Done, boat can sail once I weigh anchor.

8:30 – Enjoying a strong cup of Community Dark Roast coffee. Looking around and soaking in the water, island, sunrise, birds, breeze, and sounds of my boat. Taking a moment to revel in the work done and contemplate the work to come.

9:00 – Firing up the laptop. Going to figure out how to post my first remote cruising blog. Problem with the sat phone installing on Windows Vista. Have to use my work computer for this one.

9:19 – That’s enough laptop time. Posting, unplugging, and enjoying the thought that there is nothing that I have to do today.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's Alive!!!

I swear I heard angels singing in the heavens when I finally got it all put back together.1 Every hose has been replaced. The toilet was removed, bleached, and completely rebuilt. I never thought I’d have this much respect for my toilet. The only downer is that I am one 1.5 inch elbow joint short of being able to connect the head to the holding tank. Oh well, at least I know it all works.

Going sailing tomorrow. After the IKE, the non-skid project, and a head rebuild I think it’s time to enjoy the old girl. Spending the night out at Red Fish if anyone is headed out. Have a great weekend.

Lee Winters
Skype: (281) 336-0855
Satellite Phone: 8816-316-59853

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Head Project & The Ike Spike

Tuesday morning I cleared the boat off and got her ready to leave the slip for the first time in awhile. After slipping the lines I motored over for a date with the pump out dock. For those not familiar with this particular boating joy, think of Mr. Slurpy from the dentist office only this one feeds off of the boats holding tank. Yes, where you flush. After emptying and backfilling the tank seven times I figured it was about as clean as it was going to get.

Wednesday found me pulling out the old holding tank and macerator. This was one of the single most disgusting jobs I’ve ever done, but the boat already smells better having it off. During removal I noticed that the 90 degree vent elbow on the flexible holding tank had broken. I am sure this is where the odor had been coming from for so long.

This morning, after tending a few emails, I started pulling and replacing every old sanitation hose on the boat. This stuff is like trying to bend steel tubing around small places with your bare hands. Unfortunately, I am no superman. What I thought would be relatively easy spiraled into a much bigger project as usual. Because the hose was so stiff I ended up removing the entire toilet and framing support for it from the head. It was the only way to get access to the hull where the hose needed to run.

Tomorrow I’ll tidy up the hoses, rebuild and clean the now removed toilet, and reinstall the whole lot. I’ll be happy to have this one behind me.

Before hurricane Ike around 250 unique visitors a month would check out the site. I was pretty happy with it. During and since Ike that number has shot up to almost 2100 unique visitors. I know many of them were one time visitors looking for info on the area, but there are many of you who have stuck around. I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to those who have continued reading and commenting during the more boring refit stage and welcome to those of you who may have recently found the site.

The clock is ticking and I hear it loudly. I started running again even though the days are long. I need all the extra energy I can muster to pull it all together. I am excited about the coming switch to the new site. Initial feedback has been resoundingly good.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

If all else fails...

I am turning to pumpkin boat racing.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Long time no blog.

The work continues. The non-skid project is all but done. I ran out of Kiwi-grip with every section completed except for the floor of the cockpit. Overall I am very happy with the way it came out. No complaints.

I spent some time today over at the pump out dock. I flushed and backfilled the holding tank seven times in anticipation of removing the old tank and all the old line. I also got a rebuild kit for the old Raritan PHII head and pump so I can renew everything before I go. I really don’t want to do this job, but I was once told that two systems eat up more cruisers time than any other, generators and heads. I should have both sorted before leaving.

It’s hard to find a fair balance of time these days. I still have a responsibility to perform my duties for my company as long as I am drawing a check. On top of that I’ve been seeing someone for a few weeks and enjoy spending time with her. Everything takes time away from boat prep, but it is getting done. It kind of seems like the fevered pitch of the election is tied to the pitch of my preparations.

I just got my new ships computer sorted with most of the software I’ll need for the trip. Next thing to do is test sending in blog updates from the SatPhone through the laptop. If this works I’ll do a little dance because I still don’t know how to use my HF Radio.

Sorry for the lack of updates more to come.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

It started six years ago...

I was lucky.  Four months after I finished Graduate School I had a good job making some money in sales.  Despite a little early success I could not shake a strong sense of foreboding.  Something wasn't right.

I couldn't put my finger on it, but something had to change.  That's when I began searching myself and the web for an answer.  Eventually I heard the name Slocum and started digging in.  Joshua Slocum was the first to ever sail a small craft around the world single handed.  He documented the voyage in the book, Sailing Alone Around the World in 1900.  Ninety six years later it would profoundly change my life.

Not long after reading Sailing Alone I came across a little website called Project Bluesphere.  It told the story of a modern day Slocum, Alex Dorsey.  Alex was showing in detail through video and blogs how to break free from the safety and security of the status quo and forge a life of rewarding experience and adventure on the sea.  It was then that I knew what I had to do.

For over five years as I learned to sail and struggled through the corporate world I pulled inspiration from Alex and his updates.  I was hooked and it was a rare day I didn't log in looking for a new post.  The navigation and layout of his site was as familiar to me as my own home.  It was that familiarity with BlueSphere that prompted the shock I received this afternoon.

David Wilson is the man behind the technical scenes of Project Bluesphere.  Through a brief conversation with Alex I later met and recently began working with David.  Amazingly he lives just down the road from me.  David has taken the template of my new website and is turning it into the tool I will use to document my own circumnavigation.

David sent me an update today that incorporated all the advanced blogging features a cruising sailor needs.  What astonished me was seeing the all too familiar navigation of BlueSphere, from which I've drawn so much inspiration, incorporated on a site of my own.

I was shocked at my own reaction to seeing the site.  In many ways it is the technical realization of a plan five years in the making.  David and Alex, Thank You.

(The new site should go live in the next few weeks.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A fellow Cruisers Video

Solo from the Caribbean to New York in 28 days from nickj on Vimeo.

Cool Hand Luke

I just heard the news, Paul Newman passed on.  I don't keep track much of popular culture, but Cool Hand Luke was a favorite movie of mine.  I was thinking about that character this morning over my coffee and found a question I could not answer.  Not to ruin the plot, but at the end Luke is shot down after escaping from prison for the third time.  Knowing what his fate would be, he ran anyway. 

I couldn't figure out if the story was about a man who chose to stay true to himself despite the ultimate consequence or did he ever have a choice to run?  I know, it's just a movie, but we did lose a pretty great actor.

Since Ike a strange lethargy settled over my preparations.  I thought it was just me, but after talking to my neighbors and friends down here it hit a lot of people.  I guess after the intense exertion of the storm and immediate clean up everyone just kind of collapsed once a basic return to normalcy had been achieved.

I got shaken out of it by an email from David Wilson, my new web guru and the admin for  He sent me an email saying he was almost done with the blogging tool that will allow me to update the new blog remotely while I am underway.  If a person who is volunteering their time is working to get me ready the least I can do is kick it back into high gear and do my part.

I am posting this blog from my new laptop that will be the ships computer once I am underway.  As soon as this is posted I'll clean up the decks and start laying down more blue tape so I can finish the non-skid painting project.

This past week was the close of my 3rd quarter.  For any salesman it's one of the busiest times of the year.  I had a good finish and now I've got some decisions to make.  It's about to get interesting.

It's a beautiful day.....get outside and enjoy it.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


It is not easy to strike me speechless. In fact, it's pretty damn hard. A couple of my readers figured out how to do it.

As I was walking down my dock I saw three good sized guys walking around my boat. One of them knocked and bellowed, "Lee Winters". I kind of figured I was in big trouble. Not being smart enough to choose the flight part of the fight or flight response I yelled over to them as I approached.

They quickly explained that two of them were boat owners in the Marina, but resided in Austin. When the media was reporting the area was a total loss they referred to my blog for specific updates on our area. In thanks, they handed me a brand new Flip Video Camera to replace the one I lost while wading to our docks.

I was so astonished I don't think I accurately expressed my gratitude. Fellas, Thank You. I still didn't get all of your names so please shoot me an email or comment here. It would be my pleasure to buy you a beer.

Friday, September 19, 2008

IKE - Seeing the good and the bad in people.

Trying times tend to reveal a persons character. Mostly, the revelations I've seen have been resoundingly positive. Since IKE blew threw people have worked really hard around Clear Lake to support one another. It really has been neighbor helping neighbor and much has been accomplished. After the storm, with no power or water, neighbors began walking the streets and talking to one another. Often time for the first time since they had lived in their respective homes. Everyone seemed ready to pitch in and help at the drop of a hat.

The same went before the storm. Many people called me while I was in California to find out if I needed help securing my boat. Had I not been able to make it back I know it would have been as prepared as I was able to make it myself.

I've also been disappointed on more than a few occasions. The disappointments have come almost entirely from the marina management in which I live. I hate to say any of this considering I live here and life could get more difficult, but I think it needs to be said.

First, on Thursday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., 36 hours before the storm hit, the management turned off the power and water to the docks. When you are working your ass off in 90 degree heat, having water, electricity, and air conditioning allow you to get a difficult job done. I was astonished they would leave their residents high and dry.

Second, many boat owners knew that the slip they were in was not well protected enough to ensure they and their boats would make it through the storm. My marina is well known as the best hurricane hole on the Gulf Coast. If a boater wanted to weather the storm in a vacant slip, they only had to drop a non refundable two month rental deposit, on average around $900. It is not price gouging, as their website clearly states that there is a two month minimum. This still seems pretty heartless considering the storm that was bearing down on us.

Finally, the one that bothers me the most. The same guy owned both Sundance 1 & 2. Since Sundance 1 was wiped out by the storm surge some difficult decision had to be made. Unfortunately, a good friend of mine and the long time bartender at Sundance 2 was let go to make room for the staff from Sundance 1. Craig was a staple, a good friend, and one of the best bartenders I've ever known. Many of us will not be back until Craig returns.

A hurricane brings difficult times. How those difficulties are handled depends on the people who are working through them. I see individuals making incredible choices to help each other. I wish I saw more businesses looking after their people the same way.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Marina Report along Clear Lake

Blue Dolphin Marina - 95 percent undamaged
Boardwalk Marina - 80 percent undamaged
Clear Lake Marine Center - 90 percent damage
Clear Lake Shores Marina - 70 percent damage
Hilton Marina - marina wiped out; 15 percent of boats undamaged
Lakewood Yacht Club - 80 percent damaged/destroyed on west side; 90 percent undamaged on east side; 60-, 70- and 80-foot boats sank
Portofino Marina - 80 percent undamaged
Seabrook Ship Yard - marina 50 percent damaged; shipyard 80 percent damaged
South Shore Harbor Marina - most boats undamaged; some torn sails
Waterford Harbor Marina - minimal damage
Watergate Marina - 60 percent damaged; many boats sank

Memory Lane Flooded

I woke up yesterday with an overwhelming need to get my office emptied so that I could walk away from it for good. The salt water, mud, and sewage ruined almost every thing in the office. What took a U-Haul to relocate from New Mexico a year and a half ago only took a few square feet of my truck bed to evacuate yesterday.

The tidal surge seemed to place random value on items that in no way coincided with my own value for my stuff. Of the surviving gear I pulled out a news article on my parents form the 60’s, a valentine’s day card someone special gave me years ago, the slingshot my grandpa made for me when I was a little kid, the field book I used to record my masters thesis research. All around the office the faces of people from my past stared from water blurred photos as I moved waterlogged items to the dumpster.

That job is done. I am sorry to have lost so many reminders of times and people in the past. I did find one book soaked from cover to cover that I didn’t even know I still had. It was crumbling like wet toilet paper, but it opened to a page I remember reading very well almost 7 years ago. I’ve kept its message close in my mind as I’ve figured out what I am doing and where I want my path to go. I am quoting it here:

“Listen to the still small voice inside you. If you do not live your life completely, realizing goals you hold to be worthwhile, making your unique contribution to the world, nobody ever will. Your song will die with you.

Many of us have discovered what we want to do with our lives. We have a purpose that resonates to the very core of our being. Somehow our lives will never be complete unless we answer this calling. But, we refrain…the “still small voice” whispers a dream…but later that day or the next our vision starts to fade…immersed in the practical, our dreams and aspirations seem uncertain and perhaps a bit foolish.

We plod the highway of conformity, each following the other. We seek what others seek – comfort, security, money, power, pleasure. We are not alone, but only a stranger to our better selves. Years leave wrinkles upon the skin. But this loss of enthusiasm leaves wrinkles upon the soul.

It is impossible to tell another what path he should follow. Only you, in stillness and humility, can listen to that still small voice. Success and happiness are not distant goals to capture and hold. They happen incidentally while you are fulfilling yourself."
- Michael Lynberg, Author

We’ve taken a pretty good hit down here. Overall, I came out pretty well. Given the very limited time I had to prep I would do it again exactly the same. The boat comes before the office and “stuff” every time. I’ve pulled the countdown timer off the blog for now. I need some time to regroup and reassess where I am and when I can go. It will be back up. We are talking about days weeks, and maybe even a month or two, but not months or years.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane IKE - FEMA: Gas, food, water, and ice

I woke up this morning after a great nights sleep on the boat. The battery bank and propane stove let me listen to the latest news and make a breakfast of eggs, toast, and coffee. Having refueled myself I gathered the motivation to head over to my completely destroyed office.

Opening the door the first thing that hits you is the smell. It was inundated with a little over seven feet of muddy, sewage filled, salt water. I think a few fish may have died in there. I couldn't bring myself to push through the mess yet and opened the doors, taped them off, and left for a few hours to let it dry out.

Once I pulled out of the marina I headed towards a gas station that got power back on early. Coyote's had just received a load of gas so I jumped in line. An hour later I was filling up my truck and our jerry cans that Gary and Lisa brought over from the house. With a new full tank of gas I decided to go check out one of the rumored FEMA PODs or Point of Distribution.

It was located on Nasa Parkway by Clear Lake Park and was pretty well organized. It took about an hour and each car drove away with two bags of ice, two cases of bottled water, and what they are calling MREs or Meals Ready to Eat. They should have a warning label on them.

Military MRE's are not bad at all. They even come with several sides, an entree, instant Gatorade mix, and a little heater so you can eat a hot meal. These things are zip lock bags with canned lasagna, peanuts, a nutri-grain bar, and crystal light. I guess anything is better than nothing if you are really low on supplies. Luckily, I've got lots of food left before we'll really need to resort to canned lasagna.

I am off to check on the office. It's a nasty job, but no one else is going to do it. I am looking forward to getting back to a sense of normalcy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Taken aback at Watergate, Clear Lake, and Surrounding Areas

I need to apologize to anyone I may have sent an email to saying that things had been over hyped down here and that all was well. It really wasn't the case. The truth is that I did luck out as did most people in Waterford Harbor Marina. The damage there is negligible compared to most the other marinas around town.

I took a walk today through Watergate to check on boats there in more details and determine how to handle my office. Well, much of my office and much of Watergate are both total losses. It seems that the close you get to Galveston Bay the worse it is. Additionally, the north side of Clear Lake got hit much harder than the south side. If your boat was at a fixed dock then odds are you'll have some damage. If it had not been prepped for Ike then you almost certainly will.

Fixed piers have accounted for the vast majority of damage to boats. Short piling fixed piers have washed away completely and long fixed pilings often ended up on the wrong side of the boats as the settled back down when the surge started to subside.

I've gotten a lot of requests to check certain boats and I am sorry I haven't been able to respond better. I've been overloaded and moving around is just not that easy. Many areas are still inaccessible. The video camera was lost while trying to reach my boat so still shots only from here out.
One of the piers across from the swimming pool by the restaurant in Watergate. Boats came lose, piled up, and came down on the wrong side of the finger piers. Many sung outright. Carnage is the only word that came to mind.

These are not small boats that got tossed around. The surge picked these vessels up and took them inland before dropping them down in many varied places. People were crying, many were laughing surprisingly, and life carries on. The ducks didn't know what happened.

One of the dealers thought that his boats would be better on the hard than in the water. That might be right when you don't get hit with a 13+ storm surge. The boats were floated up and off of thier jack stands. They landed all over the place.

Hard to believe all these boats have so far been from Watergate. It's crazy how they end up. Chaos. How do you even begin to start cleaning and recoving from this?
Found it. Now what? Watergate Marina drive next to the main office.

This last shot if of Clear Lake Marine Center on the North Shore of Clear Lake on Nasa Road 1. It was a total and complete disaster. Baots sunk, got tossed on the road, and crushed as they came to thier resting places. Many business will be impacted. Homes in the area are often in the same condition.

So far we are one of the lucky ones. The house we are staying in has had the water pressure come back on, but we are in the vast minority. The city is predicting weeks before power may be restored and days still before water is restored. Neither exists at Waterford. What amazes me is that FEMA hasn't started providing resources to anyone. They are still trying to figure out how to move supplies from the staging areas to distribution centers. I can't count how many times today I heard radio voices telling me that they were trying to figure out how to give food to people. Give me a #^%$ break.

Houston is in a bad way. Far worse than I thought. My friends and I are donig great supporting one another and luckily have about 5 friends who just went out of town. We've been restocking from their freezers as needed saving the presishable foods. We don't need the relief just yet, but some do. There is no gasoline anywhere in the city and Ice is extremely hard to come by.

Weathering Ike wasn't so bad. Weathing the full brunt of the aftermath is what's starting to scare me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike - Photos from the Clear Lake & Kemah area

Here are the photos I got this afternoon. I finally got dry and without running water to take a shower I didn't want to go swimming in the salt water again. The city is pretty well shut down and road blocks are everywhere. Not a bad police presence. A few folks had asked for specific updates and my apologies if I haven't responded yet. Communications are spotty and I can only check things from a cell and a borrowed laptop on occasion connecting through a cell air card.....the old slow kind. Power is coming from a portable generator I bought that got delivered on Thursday. Got lucky there.

Waterford Harbor Marina. Water was 4 - 5 feet over the bulkead this morning. It looked really peacefull this afternoon compared to what we went through this morning. Overall, we fared excellently in this marina. On Nasa 1 there were a few marinas that were completely wiped out. Nothing left. Fixed piers on the North side of Clear Lake got hit hardest around here. If you were on a south side marina, especially Watergate, you have a fair chance of having a salvageable boat.

A tree in the front yard of the house we are staying at. Trees much bigger than this and everything smaller are down all over the place. Road crews have opened up the main roads really quickly. You still have to be carefull where you are going.

This is the scene at the intersection of 2094 and 146 a stones throw from the Kemah Boardwalk. Roads where shut down. I couldn't resist a shot of the evacuation route sign.

My friends and neighbors Gany and Lisa. These things are scattered everywhere. I've only seen one working traffic light in all of the Clear Lake Area.

This is on Nasa Road 1. Boats over here took a beating and reports say that the Marine Center here was wiped out. This sailboat came lose and grounded next to the Hilton. The hotel took quite a bit of damage and the marina behind it doesn't exist anymore.

In trying to get to Seabrook to check on a friends boat we found ourselves in the Home Depot and Target parking lot. It was a debris field. Here is a shot looking over another traffic light, not the one from the other picture, towards the Kemah Bridge.

These boats sit out in a field and have been there for years up on blocks. The surge got high enough to get at least one of them off. The sad part is a bunch of boats were put on blocks at the shipyard at Watergate Marina. We found them this morning scatted all over the place. Boats float. Don't put them on blocks when a storm surge is coming.

Typical structural damage all along Nasa Road 1. This side of the lake really took it hard. We though everyone was exaggerating about how bad this storm was. Turns out, we just lucked out.

We found almost every intersection looking just like this on the way to the marina this morning.

A resident of Clear Lake Shores looking over the debris in Kemah for any remnants that might have come from his house. There was no way for them to get to thier property as the water was, and is, still way too high. The first floor of most two story houses was completely covered. People were being brough out today by boat.

All over Houston billboards are down. We saw several of these in different states from unscathed to demolished.

The activity of the past few days is starting to catch up with me. Going offline for awhile so no worries if updates slow for a bit. Again, sorry if I didn't get back to everyone. Lots of questions and requests. We are alive, unhurt, and our homes - our boats, are OK.

P.S. For those who asked, my pup Georgia has no idea a hurricane even happened. She is happily sleeping on top of my feet as I write this.

Ike - The Aftermath

I finally fell asleep last night around 2:30 a.m. when the first of the eye wall passed. The next thing I remember hearing was my neighbor Gary yelling across the room, "wanna go check on the boats"? I shot up instantly and yelled back, "Yeah".

Driving from Webster to Kemah required more than average attention. Trees and billboards covered the road and there wasn't a traffic light anywhere that wasn't missing it's frame or hanging by a single wire, if it was there at all. We made it as far as Blue Water Ships Store on FM 2094 before the water became too high to take my truck into any further. We parked and prepared for the hike.

Walking down the road in knee deep water we made it to the back entrance thinking we could find an easy route. When we got to the marina edge we were greated with howling winds and the machine gun like flapping of dozens and dozens of sails that had come lose and were flapping violently in the 30 - 40 knot sustained winds. Gusts easily hit 60+. Water had risen over the bulkhead retaining wall making progress slow. Eventually we arrived at our docks.

I looked with extreme trepedation at the water that lie between us and the gangway that connected the bulkhead to the floating pier. It was pointing up at a 45 degree angle and we had a lot water to get through before we could figure out how to climb it. Gary waded into the water with the rest of us following and we worked our way onto the dock with water up to our chest.

I don't think my heart has ever been lighter than the moment I walked up to my slip and saw that boat riding easily to the wind. Not a line appeared to be out of place and I knew we had weathered the storm. The sudden reliefe makes the damage sustained at my office seem negligable. The "stuff" can be replaced. The boat, and plans, are still in tact.

To be flip video was lost to the surge when we worked out to the boats. I'll try to get some stills this afternoon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A few vids I shot today.

Once all the prep work was done, or at least as done as time allowed, we went to have a look around. These are a few vids I captured today.

In this one I had just realized that it was too late to do much to save my office. I got back into Houston from California Thursday afternoon. Almost every hour from then until the surge was here was spent prepping the boat to take on the full force of Ike. I got to the office just in time to save a few critical things.

When I got back later that day all I could do was laugh. It is only stuff after all. My stuff, but stuff none the less. Anyone want to buy a used bed and desk? Only slightly used. Minor water damage. I really am not looking forward to going back to that office. By now it is probably seven or eight feet under water. Not much left to salvage.

Watergate Marina, where I keep my office, is getting hit much harder than Waterford Harbor Marina, where I keep my boat. You can see that the docs are completely submerged. The big problem is that since these docks are fixed the boats can only go up so high. Most of these boats have already hit that point. If no one loosens the lines then they begin to hold the boats down instead of letting them rise. Something has to give. Also in the distance here you can see canvas being stripped off the boat by the wind. That's why I took everything I could off my boat.

My last for tonight is a quick look at my marina. I think she, my boat, can take the wind. What has me scared is the storm surge. The water has been coming in crazy quick and they are forcasting 15 - 20 feet here. Our pilings are 18 feet. Worst case scenario, the docks simply float off over the top of the pilings and pile themselves up in one huge wreck of a mess. That would do me in for awhile. For now, I believe all is well.

Signing off for tonight. No more blogs or tweets. I want to get some sleep and get back to the boat at first light if possible assuming the eye has passed and the winds abated. There is a lot of water down here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike

I'd put a long blog together documenting the work I'd gotten done lately, but it really doesn't matter at this stage. Hurricane Ike is forcast to come in right on top of us. Luckily its been downgraded from a Category 3 to a Category 2, but who knows before it makes landfall. I've got everything wrapped up in this boat so I am taking it pretty hard right now. She's tied up tight, been stripped of all her canvas and anything else that could create windage, and will ride the storm as best she can.

I really can't say it any better than the most recent marine forcast. Bay waters.....Dangerous.

Tropical storm conditions early...hurricane conditions expected late. Northeast winds 40 to 45 knots with gusts to around 60 knots increasing to 45 to 55 knots with gusts to around 75 knots in the afternoon. Bay waters dangerous. A chance of showers and thunderstorms in the morning...then showers and thunderstorms likely in the afternoon.

Friday Night
Hurricane conditions expected. Northeast winds 55 to 75 knots with gusts to around 90knots becoming southeast 70 to 90 knots with gusts to around 110 knots after midnight. Bay waters dangerous. Showers and thunderstorms.

Hurricane conditions expected early...tropical storm conditions expected late. Southwest winds 55 to 65 knots with gusts to around 85 knots decreasing to around 40 knots with gusts to around 55 knots in the afternoon. Bay waters dangerous decreasing to extremely rough in the afternoon. Showers and thunderstorms.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Here is the story on SPOT. This little beauty uses the GPS satellites to determine its position. Once it’s fixed, it uploads a signal through the communication satellites and plots my position on a google map and sends out an OK email to up to 10 people. This seemed by far the easiest way to keep people informed of where I was. You can find the cheapest deal on a spot hardware unit from ManVentureOutpost at ~ $130 bucks with shipping. After that, log into Yahoo’s FireEagle and get their SPOT Application Code. When you register the unit with that code you get the $150 activation and tracking fee absolutely free. No catches, nothing to purchase, but it is only good until Sept. 15th so I wouldn’t waste time if you want to get it done. One of the things I’ve been working on is setting up my communications for travel. Cell phones are too expensive to roam all over the world so I set up a permanent Skype account. I can take this number with me everywhere I go and have unlimited long distance calls to North America, voice mail, and call forwarding for $60.00 per Year! It does mean finding an internet connections anytime I want to use the phone, but I can live with that.

The next step was setting up communication for being at sea. I love my parents and they simply were not going to let me do this without a satellite phone. After doing quite a bit of research I decided on Iridium and purchased a complete package including the phone, data kit, and 1000 prepaid minutes. I got my whole package from RoadPost. This will let me update the blog and send the occasional email while far out at sea. I also get unlimited free incoming calls and SMS messages which is great. As a fall back, I got several new chip sets and cables to try and connect my old HAM Radio up to my laptop. I’ve still got to get the Pactor Modem, but I think I’ve got my communication systems pretty well in hand.

I am off start boat projects. I kind of freaked out last night thinking about only having 8 weeks left to prepare. There is still so much to do.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Working, but not on the boat.

A good friend of mine from college is in town and I've been showing him around the boating life. Between that and trying to make some money at my day job there hasn't bee a great deal of progress on the boat. It's OK though. I need a short break. Three day weekend coming up and I've got projects aplenty laying around waiting on me.

As my trip gets closer and closer I've slowly stopped reading other peoples sailing blogs. There is one exception and Nick Jaffe just posted a pretty cool vid he took on his Atlantic crossing earlier this year. Enjoy.

Sailing alone across the Atlantic in 30 days from nickj on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cruising couple attacked, one killed, on Guatamala’s Rio Dulce

Dan and Nancy Dryden spent the last six months working on their sailboat Sunday’s Child preparing for an extended cruise. Horribly, four armed men boarded the boat one recent Saturday evening turning the dream into a nightmare.

The men boarded carrying machete’s and demanded money from the couple. Either not having money on board or being unwilling to part with it, Dan Dryden began to fight. Unfortunately, the ice pick he wielded was taken and used against him.

Despite her trauma Nancy is recovering in a local hospital having successfully called for help on the ships radio after the attack. Her three children have joined her in Guatamala to care for her during her recovery and to see to the cremation of their father.

In a bazaar twist, two more individuals lost their lives on the evening of the 14th. These were not sailors, but two of the four men believed to have taken part in the attack on the Drydens. Two men had already been arrested by the local police, but the rest of the community appears to have taken care of those the police had not yet found.

The people of the Rio Dulce river rely on the cruising community who visit its sheltered waters during hurricane season. Clearly, a message was sent that an attack on the sailboats will not be tolerated by the locals.

A Word on Pirates: The men that carried out this attack were cowardly thugs. They are no different from the cowards who carry out muggings or car jackings by land. The only difference is that they have a means to reach boaters thereby earning them the status of Pirate.

These kinds of attacks are incredibly rare and the odds of ever being victimized are far less on the water then they ever will be on land. Walking in downtown Houston is a far riskier proposition than sailing when it comes to the likelihood of meeting this type of bad element.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Texas A & M Sailing Accident Update - The Cynthia Woods

On the first of this month a report was given showing the current state of the investigation. The link to the presentation is here. The Harvest Moon Regatta is coming up soon. It's a near shore race, but technically does qualify as an offshore regatta. The Cynthia Woods wasn't but about 60 miles off the coast when she capsized. Be careful folks, and if you have keel bolts make sure they are tight and your backing plates large and sound.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Never mind the Russians; I am at war with the Ducks.

I can’t even get Georgia, a stone cold killer of a Siberian Husky to chase them anymore. I guess I kept her from it for way too long and now she just assumes I must be setting her up when I tell her to sick them. Yes, I know they are cute, but do have any idea how much poop a flock of 30+ ducks produce? They won’t go anywhere else and have camped out permanently on my finger pier and on the floating dock I keep in front of my boat. It’s like walking on a frozen pond it’s so slick with poop. If the hose and my running at them like a mad man doesn’t get them to relocate I’ll have to resort to the BB gun.

Before anyone calls PETA I’d like to invite any duck lovers to come down to the dock to keep a duck vigil. I promise them no harm as long as they stop pooping on my dock.

Progress has been good. The new cowl vents and the life raft are installed and looking good. I’ve been playing with my storm sails and think I’ve finally settled on a way to fly my storm jib. Instead of installing a new inner wire stay to hang it from I am going to buy six parrel bead necklaces and use them to hank the jib on over the roller furled head sail. It’s not perfect, but like everything on a cruising boat it’s a good compromise. Plus, at ~ $250 for the hardware it’s a whole lot cheaper than ~ $1,000+ for the inner stay.

I need to start taking pictures again……

Go Sailing.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Like Christmas……..but HOT!

Ok, so after something like 17 days on the road I am back on the boat and very glad of it. We weathered Edouard which turned out to be a non event in Kemah. I think maximum sustained winds might have peaked at 30 mph. No big deal at all.

I’ve mostly been resting and recovering from the time spent on the road, but woke this morning ready to dig back in. My first stop was the marina office to see what new projects had shown up in the mail. Sure enough, I got my life raft. This is the six man Elliott SOLAS A that Practical Sailor Magazine just did a recent review of and found to be an excellent raft with a budget price. The trick will be mounting this 175 lb beast on my deck.

In addition to the life raft I got two gallons of Kiwi Grip for my new non-skid decks, my ABI stainless steel cowl vents, and nautical charts from Galveston Island to and through the Panama Canal. The vents direct air from outside down below into the cabin without letting any water down.

Just to make sure I didn’t run out of things to do I also placed an order for 100 feet of boat rail netting and a new SPOT Satellite Tracker. The netting is as much for the dog as it is for me. I figure it will be a little bit harder for either of us to go overboard with the nets up. It might even save a tool or two here and there.

It really does feel like Christmas with all the packages I’ve been opening. The only drawback is the 100+ degree heat in 95% humidity. I think each hour of work will be punctuated by a dip in the pool. Have a good weekend everyone. Go sailing, and if you don’t know how, take a lesson!


Monday, August 04, 2008


This is kind of my worst nightmare. I am away on business and on short order a Tropical Storm /hurricane blows up just off the Texas coast. the forcast is projecting Edouard's path to run right over the top of Clear Lake where my boat is in its slip. I am at the LAX airport and assuming I don't get delayed or cancelled I should be home by 10:30 this evening for last minute preparations.

All I can really say is Thank You Gary and Lisa. My neighbors have all called to let me know they are there if I need them, but Gary and Lisa stepped up and already started getting my dingy off the davits and securing my loose canvas in prepartion of 60+ mph winds. To Gary and Lisa, all the good folks on 13, and friends on Clear Lake my heartfelt thanks for looking out for me. Hang on tight.....this should be quite a ride.