Delivery from Harbor Walk, Galveston to Corpus Christi
I was full of excitement and anticipation as Matt and I drove to Galveston to meet the Anderson’s on Ruthless. We had about a 3 ½ hour drive from Austin to Harbor Walk and were hoping to make it before dark and the presumed down pour. We arrived just after 7:30pm to a welcomed reception by Donald and Ruth where we were promptly handed our drink of choice (Vodka and Sprite Zero for me and Rum and Diet Coke for the others). We sipped our very potent beverages that were more alcohol than mixer and decided to head to dinner at the yacht club. We have had the pleasure of dining at this club before with exquisite food and great service so this dinner was met with pure delight. The cute little waitress seemed to have an eye for Donald (or just knew who was picking up the tab) and barely managed to acknowledge the rest of us and in fact had delivered Ruth’s dinner incorrectly without notice. I had steak, Ruth had soup and salad, Donald started out with a fabulous shrimp cocktail and then had the same meal as Matt, a splendid shrimp dinner. After dinner we headed back to the boat where we hunkered down for the night as it was nearing 11:00pm.
We were expecting two more crew members, Steve Lewis (owner of “What If”) and Don Lemke (owner of “Souvenir” and soon to be “Layla”). Don was undecided as to his participation due to the high winds and bad weather report. He was to decide in the AM. When we woke the next morning, we had hoped to hear from our compatriots, but to no avail.
In the morning, we were greeted with steaming hot pancakes, bacon, fruit, coffee and juice. After fueling our bodies, we went up top to prepare Ruthless for her voyage, leaving all cell phones down below. Neither one of thought to stick our cell phone in our pocket, because who would possibly call us so early in the morning? We checked the sails and the rigging, we filled the water in the batteries and locked items down. Around 8:30 am Ruth called up that Donald’s phone was ringing and another was beeping. I handed Donald his phone only to learn that our companions, Don and Steve had arrived and were waiting at the gate. Evidently they had tried calling both of our cell phones and had not reached us. Luckily Ruth heard the phone on their final try. Ruth went to meet them at the gate and followed them so they could return their rental car. They got up at 4:30am to drive from Corpus, so I am sure they were none to happy to have had to wait for us at the gate. Instead of just waiting idly, Matt, Donald and I decided to move the boat from the slip to the fuel dock. Didn’t seem that difficult, but we were not really taking the wind into consideration. There was about 35knots of wind pushing the starboard side of the boat into the dock. As we fought the wind and the current trying to get the boat out of the slip, we decided that it would be easier to drive out of the slip and reverse upwind to an area where we can turn the boat around. With deft steering, strong pushing and lots of finagling, we managed to get Ruthless out of her slip. We swiftly docked, loaded up with fuel and provisions, picked up Don and Steve and waved goodbye to Ruth.
Yeah! We were starting our projected 26-hour journey to Corpus Christi. We ended up leaving at 10:45 am on Saturday and were hoping to be in the CC jetties by Sunday at 1:00pm. Our weather outlook appeared to be strong winds all day, tapering off after lunch. Since we had to travel the inter coastal waterway or otherwise known as the “ditch” for the first 4-5 hours, we figured the winds would die down before we hit the gulf. There was a bit hope that we might be able to raise the sails, but those were dashed early on as the wind continued to stay strong through out the morning and early afternoon. The concern was if the winds were this strong in the protected “ditch”, how bad were they going to be out in the gulf? With the anticipation of being tossed around like a salad out in the blue water, we decided to stay in the “ditch” and try to make it to Freeport to dock for the night. Without sails, we were still moving about 9-12 knots, which was pretty good. We enjoyed fabulous sandwiches from the Harbor Walk marina with chips, pickle and cookies for lunch. We had hoped to make it to Freeport by dark where we had called ahead to reserve a slip. The ditch proved to be a little drab, no alligators, few land lovers and a few barges. The weather was windy, cold and a bit damp so most of the crew was bundled, but none like me. Just to give you an idea of what a wimp I am, I had a tank top, t-shirt, rash guard, fleece sweatshirt and foul weather gear, gloves and a hat on. I looked good We landed in Freeport after dark around 8pm, found our slip, tied up, hooked up to electricity and hunkered down for the night. Matt and Steve decided to go get some beer at the local pub and not only acquired the beer, but encountered people of another kind. They were none too pleased with the crowd and decided it was not even worth talking about. Donald made an amazing pasta dish with shrimp and sorts of veggies for dinner, where the boys consumed more beer and I enjoyed a nice vodka and sprite zero before bed.
We woke early the next morning, just after dawn so we could make up some of the lost time being at Freeport (I think we fell behind about 8 hours). Donald made us breakfast burritos as we got on our way and successfully navigated our way out of the marina and back to the ditch. Today’s weather was extremely different from yesterday. Where we had too much wind yesterday, we had NO wind today. So, on goes the motor again. Some time around mid-morning, I decided to take the helm from the men. I enjoy being at the helm, as opposed to setting “auto” as it gives me something to do and a chance to be in charge. We cruised along, admired the nice houses and cringed at the damaged ones. Donald went down below to get a few zzzz’s and left Don, Steve, Matt and I in charge. We slipped uneventfully under one bridge and cruised along. Matt had his appendage out, his Garmen GPS, while Don and I were reading the boat’s GPS and his Campbell’s Guide to Cruising Texas (which does not seem to exist anywhere anymore). Matt looks up and asks if we should have any problems with the bridge up ahead and Don replies, there are no more bridges. What he did not realize was a new bridge had been built since the last time he was in this area of the ditch. So he grabbed his book and determined the bridge was 23 meters high. Hmmm…how many feet is that 3 meters to a foot or 3.1 or 3.3. We guessed, with some uncertainty, that it was 3.1, which gave us a clearance of 69-70’, which was good because our mast height is 67’. Oh goodness, our next thought is when is high tide? Lucky for us it was not high tide so as we approached, Don sat down, Matt and Steve jumped to the side of the boat to look up and I wanted to close my eyes. My heart was racing and pounding and doing its best to jump out of my chest. Then I saw the lights hanging from the bottom of the bridge which were not calculated in our estimations. I tried to steer around them and with the grace of God we were able to clear the bridge with a few feet to spare – “not a problem” says Don.
Well, I was grateful we made it under that bridge with no problems. Don alerted me that we were approaching some locks (they did not raise, but they did lock you in). He asked if I could handle the boat through the locks and I said, “sure, did you see the bridge clearance?” Little cocky, I know, but I was feeling good and had never cruised through locks before – how cool. Not knowing what to expect, what did I have to worry about? We contacted the operator, they opened the first lock and in we went. I was surprised at the strength of the current and found myself over correcting at times. As they closed the back lock, they opened the front one so on we went. Then there was a 2nd set and again, I found myself overcorrecting, but truth be told, doing a pretty good job. We exited the locks and continued on down the ditch – where the heck is the gulf when you need it?
Don then announced that we would soon be approaching a draw bridge (it opened side ways as opposed to up and down) and that we had to slow in order to call the operator. I had been at the helm for almost 4 ½ hours and was feeling a little fatigued and Steve offered to take the helm to handle this maneuver. Don had to look up the channel and the code that was needed to call the operator. We made contact and had to wait for them to open bridge. Donald had come up as we were waiting, I was relaxing, Matt and Don were doing their thing as we were approaching the side of the ditch rather rapidly. All of a sudden there were people yelling, reverse, hard, throw her into a 360, get her away from the dock and shore. Steve acted swiftly and moved the boat away only for a smart comment to come flying out of his mouth “Should have left you at the helm Christine”, which gained him a huge smile from me. We made it through the bridge and down the ditch with not much incidence.
Don took the helm as we hit the entrance to the gulf with the red and green markers. As everyone knows, red, right returning, so we hugged the green markers. Matt was intent on his GPS, checking depth, direction and waypoints. Don relied on the boat’s GPS and instruments that reflected 30-40’ depth. We have about a 6-7’ draft. There were times it we landed in 10’ of water and quickly escaped, but for the most part we were in 30-40’ of water. Matt had discovered that it was very shallow by buoy 19 and had made best attempts to warn Don and the rest of the crew. I seemed to be the only one paying attention to him, which did not help as I was sitting in front of the helm leaning against the binnacle, with Don at the wheel. We kept approaching 19 cruising in 30’ feet of water with no indication of the shallow water. Matt tried again to warn the crew and again was not heard (maybe he needs to speak louder?). Everyone is chatting along, when all of a sudden BOOM! We ran aground, were stopped and Don was upside trying to smell my neck. Thank goodness he was at the helm as he knew exactly what to do, got us off the land mass and successfully navigated us back into deep water – phew, what a morning we have had! So much for hugging the greens!
On we went, we made it to the gulf and up went the sails. Keep in mind, that we still had no wind so we were really motor sailing. It was nice to be out in the big blue ocean, Matt was at the helm with Auto steering the boat and we were on our way. Most of the trip in the gulf was extremely uneventful. The weather was a bit gloomy and chilly, but we were “sailing”. Several hours later, Matt had asked me to step behind the wheel so he could go down below. Don and Donald were already below, so that left Steve and I up on deck. Just as I stepped behind the wheel, had not taken auto off yet or even touched the wheel and the engine dies. Not, sputter, but dies. Dead! I look at Steve and we both shout down to the team that the engine is dead (the sails are still up so we are kicking along at about 4-5 knots). They shout back up, start the engine. I turn the key, push the button and the engine sputters to life. Ahhh, all is good in the neighborhood. We motor/sail along for about 5-8 minutes when I look at Steve and simultaneously we say, “do you smell that?”. We shout down again that something smells, shout down again and again, until we hear “Shut the engine off!”. We do so dutifully. As the remove the staircase to inspect the engine, I stay at the helm and Steve peers down below. We wait patiently, and wait as Don (our expert boat mechanic who seems to be able to fix anything). They close everything up and come up and calmly say, the starter is dead, we cannot use the engine. Hmm, what? Evidently, the starter was supposed to shut off after it starts the engine and it did not. It kept running and blew itself up. Nice! Well, we quickly deduced that we were not going to be able to sail across CC bay with no wind (there was very little wind where we were and in a protected bay, there would be virtually none). Where was the wind from yesterday? We had decided to sail to Port A and call in for a tow. The boat was going to have to stay there for the night until Donald could get a mechanic out to look at the starter. We arrived safely to Port A, called ahead to get a slip, get Wayne to pick up Matt and I and Ruth to pick up everyone else. Luckily we had plenty of time to contact everyone since our sail was so slow and we had to wait for our tow.
There is nothing worse than having to be towed. It is such a sad day for the boat and it makes me as a crew member feel so useless. This is my 2nd tow and I am sure it won’t be my last. We met our awaiting peeps at the dock, tied down the boat, stowed everything and said our goodbyes. It was an incredibly interesting voyage, one that won’t easily be forgotten. We were fed well, we escaped many unique escapades, we delivered the boat relatively unharmed and we spent two days sailing. We arrived at Port A (4 hours short of our destination) around 7:30p and Matt and I were on the road, heading for Austin by 8:30pm.