On Wednesday, October 24, 2007, Ruthless laid in her slip at Harbor Walk Marina and Yacht Club awaiting her time to taste the salt of the high seas. Two days earlier she survived 60 knots winds as the first norther blew through the Texas coast. During the day, the Donald loaded provisions, washed her deck, checked instruments and running lights, stocked the ice coolers with water, soft drinks, and beer.
Doc showed up around 3:00 PM, and jumped on putting out the cockpit cushions, safety gear, and arranging the bunks and storage. Donald and Doc picked up Christine and Matt at the Galveston airport where their good friend John had delivered them in his newly painted Beechcraft Bonansa. Brenda and Mark’s plane from San Antonio was delayed and Wayne and Steve had to grab a Southwest Airlines flight from Corpus Christi due to Hertz not having any rental cars available. All the crew arrived by 9:00 PM, and were served some of Donald’s seafood pasta for dinner. Everyone was eager to get to bed expecting Thursday to be a full and exciting day. Brenda, Mark, Christine, and Matt retired to Uncle Billy’s house on Tiki Island for the night. The four boys stayed on the boat.
Everyone was up and ready to go when the two couples arrived at 7:40 AM, Thursday with breakfast tacos. At 9:00 AM, on schedule, the crew untied the dock lines and Ruthless slowly turned her bow into a stiff northwest wind out of the her slip.
After a quick stop at the Harbor Walk fuel dock for topping of the fuel tanks, pumping the heads, and picking up the deli sandwiches from the Harbor Walk grill, Ruthless began her trip out of the Harbor Walk channel into the ICW for the 4 hour trip to the start line off Galveston lsland. The earlier norther had blown about 2 feet of water out of Galveston Bay. At the entrance to the harbor, Ruthless bumped bottom but quickly recovered and continued on her way.
After clearing the Galveston Railway Bridge and Bird Island, Ruthless turned seaward out the Galveston Ship Channel. She was greeted by the fleet of sailboats heading out from Clear Lake and north Galveston Bay. She arrived in the vicinity of the start line around 1:30 PM in the shadow of the Tall Ship Elissa.
The crew decided to eat a quick sandwich prepared by the HarborWalk deli before the start. The start for the Cruising Spinnaker Class was scheduled for 2:45 PM. The crew made several runs up and down the course getting wind and sail adjustments and timing the approach to the start line. They knew that the following 3-4 hours would be intense as Ruthless would begin settling in on a course set by the wind.
The crew readied the sails and practiced upwind, downwind, and reaching sail angles. The wind direction and angle to the start line was recorded along with the heading of the start line. It was decided Ruthless would start as close to the outer end of the line as possible. The start was good and the boats were off in a 18-20 knot breeze. The strategy for the race was to sail out at a heading of 218 degrees for about 3 hours and then turn on a heading to Port A of 234 degrees. The crew deployed the asymmetrical spinnaker and the boat speed began to top 8 knots. The wind increased to 23-25 knots.
The watch schedules were previously worked out with Donald, Wayne and Doc, Crew A; Brenda, Mark and Steve, Crew B; and Christine, Matt, and Doc/Steve, Crew C. The crew was treated to a beautiful sunset. Donald went below and prepared chicken caldo made with chicken, squash, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions. Buttered seven grain bread was served with the caldo. At 7:00 PM, right at dusk, the crew was treated to a showing of the International Space Station. The Freeport outer buoy was approached by 10:00 PM and reported over the VHF radio. SV Lupe was kind enough to acknowledge the passing. About 11:00 PM, the wind began to weaken and by midnight had slowed to less than 10 knots. By 1:00 AM, Ruthless was making 1 knot in no wind. This went on for nearly three hours. The wind picked up again around 3:00 AM with Ruthless making a solid 7.0 to 7.5 knots.
This wind pocket lasted until almost 6:00 AM, when again the winds laid and so did the spinnaker and main sail. Ruthless was slowed to less than a knot. The crew, frustrated with seeing wind to our starboard and boats under sail, desparately tried all tactics, but no one could make the wind blow. The harvest moon was setting in the west and the sun rose in the east. The night had been a memorable one for everyone.
During the 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM watch, a meteor shower generated by particles from Halley’s Comet entered the earth’s atmosphere. Everyone “wished on a star” for stronger wind. The wish was finally answered around 10:00 AM,
but again for only about 3 hours.
The doldrums struck again after noon. The crew watched as boats passed far to the port and starboard. They were obviously in good wind. The wind finally returned around 4:00 PM, and Ruthless began her run to the finish line. Many of the boats that had passed her earlier began to fall into her wake and were left behind.
Her Corpus Christi neighbor ship, SV Sweet LeLaini appeared of the starboard bow. Christine and Donald hurried to treat her crew to jello shots. Not knowing Ruthless’ intent she veered away. Christine hailed her and informed her of our intent. She quickly turned her heading. Donald threw the bag of shots, but not into the bilge of Sweet Lelaini, but into the spinnaker of Ruthless and into the water.
The balance of the afternoon was spent with Steve experimenting with running the spinnaker pole to the tack of the spinnaker. This allowed the tack of the spinnaker to be pulled around the bow to the opposite side of the wind providing a higher wind angle off the stern. Donald and Brenda grilled hamburgers on the galley stove top and served the crew chips, drinks, and cookies.
The ride into Port Aransas was uneventful with the crew focused on making the highest VMG to the “Red 6”, the turn into the Port Aransas ship channel and two miles from the finish line. Ruthless cross the line with the HRM Race Committee announcing her arrival at 10:10 PM, Friday night. The crew dosed the spinnaker and cleared the foredeck for the run down the Corpus Christi Ship Channel and home to Slip C-4 in the Corpus Christi City Marina. Donald set the chartplotter with marks for Green 43, the channel marker used to mark the entrance into Corpus Christi bay. The next mark was the CC Bay Weather Station located about 2 miles from the entrance to the Corpus Christi City Marina.
The crew was tired and drubbed into a lazy state of mind by the sound of the engine. Steve spoke first. “I don’t remember that blinking yellow light, what is that?” Matt was at the helm and noticed a dredge barge to starboard. The moonlight shined across the water and illuminated a large dredge pipe stretching across the path of Ruthless. Matt reacted by canceling the autopilot and turning the boat 180 degrees. The maneuver stopped Ruthless within 3 feet of the dredge pipe. Disaster was avoided.
After dropping the mainsail, Ruthless made her way into the waterway leading to her slip. The wind was blowing from the NNE making docking the boat by backing into the slip tricking. Donald maintained 2.5 knots until turning the bow into the wind and bringing the bow around 90 degrees lining her up with the slip. Donald put the engine in reverse and the prop wash brought the stern around. Ruthless backed into the slip without using the outer pilings or dock. She was quickly tied up, electrical cables connected, and onboard systems shutdown. The crew was ready for a hot shower and a regular bed.
The HRM Bacardi Rum party was scheduled to start at 4:30 PM, on Saturday. The crew decided to honor navigation by dressing as “nuns and cans” for the Halloween Costume Contest. Christine and Brenda dressed as naughty, sexy nuns and the guys donned “Buzzed Light Beer Can” outfits. People at the party were wild about the costumes. One after one, people asked the crew for group pictures.
The party was fun and everyone had a great time. After a dinner of barbeque by Mikeska’s from El Campo, Texas, the awards started.
Ruthless was award 2nd place in Division C, of the Cruising Spinnaker Class. The class times were very competitive. The balance of the race was determined by how long boats stayed in the doldrums. She also won the 1st Catalina to finish for the third year in a row.
This marked the end of great weekend. The crew congratulated each other and promised to repeat the adventure again next year.