Tuesday, January 15, 2008

South Padre & Today

The trip to South Padre was excellent. We left the Kemah fuel dock at ~2:00 p.m. and pulled into South Padre at 2:30 p.m. two days later. My buddy Jason, who knew nothing about sailing at the time we left, could handle the boat on his own by the time we got back home. I was really impressed with how quickly he picked everything up. The sail down had us running for 48 hours with winds ranging from 15 – 30 knots. I think I tried almost every sail combination possible with my rig. Right after we got out of the Galveston Jetties I saw the spinnaker go up on Transcend, the boat that sailed with us. Not to be outrun, Jason and I spent the next 30 minutes at sunset trying to hoist my spinnaker. It didn’t exactly go as planned, but we did get it up. Not two hours later the 15 not winds picked up to 25 knots which was way too much for us. Unfortunately, when we went to strike the spinnaker, the line that controls the dousing sock got fouled on my mast. There was only one way to retrieve it without going up the mast. Not something I was prepared to do at that moment. So, with Jason laying across the sail on the foredeck I ran down below for a knife, came up, and viola, no more tangle. Sure I’ve got to replace that line now, but it was better than the alternative.

The rest of the sail down was fairly uneventful. We arrived in South Padre and immediately after securing the boat, went for beers and oysters at a place just across from the marina. We were supposed to hang out with the crew of Transcend that evening, but wiped out from the trip, I fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. and slept undisturbed for 14 hours. It was a lot of work for two people. Jason and I started out with three hour shifts, but neither of us was getting enough useful rest to be any good to each other or the boat. There was never a decision made, but we naturally started taking longer and longer watches letting the other person sleep until the person on watch needed a break. This was typically 4 – 6 hours. I think this worked much better for both of us.

We woke up the next morning, New Years Eve, to a beautiful sunny day with 80 degree weather. We took a few walks around Padre and knocked off a few boat projects before settling into a place called Coconuts to ring in the New Year. The local bars pull together every year and set a fireworks barge off at midnight on the back bay. It was a great show and a great way to start the New Year.

The crew of Transcend were late additions to this trip, but they made it infinitely better. I was having a drink or maybe two at the marina restaurant and saw a group of people I knew in passing from my time here. They invited me over and we all got to talking about sailing and boats, of course. Next thing I know I am regaling them with the woes of Project Romance and they are laughing hysterically. When I start talking about the pending shake down cruise, Joe, the Captain of Transcend looks at his main crew, Jeslyn, and they are immediately in. These two people, mere acquaintances before, are now very good friends of mine. They are both great sailors and just good people to boot.

The trip home was a one tack deal. We headed out on Thursday the 3rd after the norther blew itself out and made the reach home in good time. The only real difficulty came when, about 60 miles from Galveston, the engine quit on Jason’s watch. I figured it was a clogged fuel filter, but the problem was compounded by the fact that the solenoid picked this inopportune moment to go out again. So, with trusty jumper wire in hand I climbed into the engine room to jump start Rusty, my Westerbeke 4108. Sure enough the jump got the engine spinning, but still no start. I figured out how to switch the lines to get the alternate primary Racor fuel filter in line and started bleeding the engine. Eventually she started purring again. I’ve got a leak in the line somewhere that is letting air in as my RPMs are not holding steady. Another project for the punch list.

I also learned I get really seasick. Not debilitatingly so, but enough that my head was over the rail a time or two. Again, Jason, who is completely unaffected by the sea, stepped in and did all the cooking saving me from any more time spent down below than was absolutely necessary.

There were a couple of the most serine moments I’ve ever experienced on the trip home. I literally spent hours with the autopilot on gazing up at the stars. The Big Dipper was HUGE and we were pointed right at it. My stargazing was only interrupted by the rise of a quarter moon bright orange on the horizon. The sun rose not much later and the dawn brought dolphins. I see these beautifully graceful creatures all the time playing around the entrance to Galveston, but I wasn’t expecting them 70 miles offshore in 250 feet of water. They spent 30 minutes riding the tops of the swells into my bow wave and running back to do it all again.

I learned more about my boat in those 540 miles of sailing than I have in the 13 months I’ve owned her. I think this new found knowledge along with the New Year has really kind of freaked me out. The scope of the project I am undertaking is setting in and I am figuring out how to deal with it. You can see the current punch list below of projects, but the scariest part for me will be actually quitting my job. To leave the lifestyle and security I’ve come to know. A sales role like I am in requires you to earn your living by getting the job done, otherwise you don’t get the commission check. I guess sailing isn’t much different, get the job done or you don’t get there safely.

I am getting serious about the planning stages for the trip. I realized I didn’t even know where I was going or how to get there. Pouring over the maps, I’ve decided not to head East first. Rounding the Dominican Republic before turning south for Panama will not give me time to explore the places I visit like I want too. Instead, I am going to run down Latin America on a more direct route to Panama. There are at least 4 SOS Villages I can visit on this route, 2 more than I could have hit going the other way. I’ve ordered large scale charts for route planning, mapped the SOS Villages and tentative routes on Google earth, purchased cruising guides for the western Caribbean, and purchased Spanish language lesson tapes. It’s time to get serious or this will end up like too many other cruising dreams and never make it to reality.




To-Do List
high
Source Life Raft

high
Buy and Install a new Radar

high
replace lines

high
repair/replace macerator

high
buy and install GPS

high
running lights and bulbs

high
repair spinnaker sock

high
replace spinnaker halyard with swivel

high
bleed engine and replace primary racor

high
pull windlass and have painted/powder coated

high
Pull starter and solenoid to replace

med
Take main and mizzen into Cameron Sails

med
paint nonskid

med
fix the radio!

med
clean out and test water maker

med
recast and make brakes for prop lock

med
redo toilet lines and get rebuild kit

med
positive latches on all drawers and storage locations

med
run line to mast steps to prevent halyard wrap

med
anchor chain howser replacement

med
rig secondary anchor with rode and line

med
calibrate knot/speed log

med
inspect/replace cabins side ports - bronze flush

med
rig removable inner stay

med
replace storm jib halyard and block

low
weather strip fridge and freezer hatch

low
re-enforce dock steps and paint

low
Seal anchor chain hawse pipes with epoxy

low
Rewire and get battery for dingy

low
Book ASA 105 Test

low
get dogs chipped

low
replace 70's lamp

low
Georgia platform

low
design maintenance log

low
recover barge

low
paint interior

low
New cushions and recover

low
Photo classes

low
replace cowl vents with permanent fixtures

low
cockpit burner

low
upgrade solar panel

low
weather seal port lights

low
Put 150 back on

low
get pot holders from transcend

low
grind lip of drop leaf table mount for easy removal

low
Helm Mount: Autopilot R/C and Commandmic

low
plumb water deck plate to tank

1 comment:

Lorena said...

Well written article.