We were fortunate to be able to take part in the Harvest Moon Regatta for our first time this past October. Our friends, Rick and Peggy, entered the HMR not only to race, but to also do a shakedown cruise before taking off on their longer cruise to the Bahamas this coming November. They told us their daughter and her fiancee were going to sail down with them as their crew on their boat, S/V Vision Quest, but they were going to return to their jobs in Dallas at the end of the first leg. They asked if we could drive their daughter's car from our Marina down to Port Aransas so the kids could head out on October 20th, and we were invited to take their place on the return trip. We agreed with that and took the car down on Oct. 19th…Saturday.
When we arrived, Rick and Peggy mentioned some of the problems that happened on their way down to Port Aransas. Rick wanted to go as fast as possible so they would place in the race. He was up on the bow trying to put up the Whisker Pole so he could lift the Spinnaker sail for extra speed, when the pole snapped off and fell on him. Luckily, he wasn't harmed by this, but probably lots of bruises. (Very common on people who sail!! I know this one first hand). Then when they arrived in Port Aransas, their starter burned up. It was literally a smoking mass of fried starter. They had another one, thank goodness, and Rick promptly installed it. They had no idea these problems even existed, and could have very well been on their upcoming cruise to Florida when they happened. So, good thing the problems occurred while still living in Kemah. Much easier to get things fixed before heading out.
We arrived there about 11:30am. While Paul and Rick went to the pavilion to check out what was going on, Peggy showed me around Port Aransas, and some of the places they used to hang out when their children were younger. We also went to an art gallery, a furniture store, and a big souvenir store.
I was going to buy Paul a big beach towel that said "I'm sexy and I know it!" but Peggy talked me out of it. Actually, Paul even said he would have thrown it out (spoiled sport!)…so good thing I didn't buy it. I got him one with Iguanas on it instead.
Later that evening, before the awards ceremony began, we walked over to the channel and looked for dolphins. None that evening, but it was fascinating to watch the ferries take the cars back and forth. I love riding on those! Nice sunset, too!
|Peggy, Rick, and Paul by the Channel|
|Even better sunset!!|
Later, we went to the awards ceremony with them, and who should we see, but our friend, Brad, with Martini his dog. I like his makeshift dog carrier. Good idea!!
|Brad with Tini|
And of course, who could pass up a picture of the Harvest Moon in all it's glory!!!
|Harvest Moon over the boats|
|Leaving Port Aransas for the Gulf|
|Peggy at the helm, leaving Port A|
|Paul helping Rick to prepare for sailing the Gulf|
|Rick preparing to sail the Gulf|
|Rick at the helm, sailing out into the Gulf|
|Me, while under sail, out into the Gulf|
Paul and I were doing fine the first hour we were out. We were sailing slowly out into the gulf going south-east, we were still getting about 5 knts. It felt pretty good. When we were finally out in the gulf waters and turned on our north-east course for Galveston, it was beautiful, lovely day, nice sailing, however everything slowed down and Rick turned the motor on so we could motor sail…the winds were coming straight at us on our bow. Several life changing events happened during this change.
The first one wasn't so bad: after we got out into the Gulf, the wind changed and was just directly on our bow, so we had to motor-sail all the way back to Galveston. Motoring makes it a titch' rougher sailing. Using only the sails makes it smoother on the water. So whether it was the motoring, or just our "newness" to the swells on the Gulf, we both got sick almost exactly at the same moment. We both barfed up our delicious muffins that Peggy had provided for breakfast. Darn. Although, I have to say, they were almost as sweet coming up as they were going down. (Sorry, didn't mean to be that to be so graphic!!) The only reason my green mug wasn't posted is because I had the camera. He and I both filled our zip lock bags at the same time.
|Paul, starting to turn a little green.|
Oh swell! How on earth could that happen??? Because, we weren't used to the SWELLS!!! Most of our sailing experience was done in the Galveston Bay…but those waters are more akin to lake waters than ocean waters. There's a very different feel on the gulf. Doesn't mean I didn't like it…loved being out, just didn't like the moments when I got sick…which were two moments. Paul also had two moments of sickness. The third time he felt it, it was interrupted by a slightly scary event that pumped up his adrenaline, so he forgot to be sick! :) I'll be talking about that event a little later in the post.
About 4pm, Rick put out two fishing lines that dragged behind the boat. Then he just left them alone for a couple of hours. Three of us were up on deck and Peggy was below fixing our dinners.
|Peggy fixing dinner|
She fixed a scrumptious meal of very tender pork, mashed potatoes, and pineapple for us. Delish!! Paul couldn't eat all his, and shortly after dinner, proceeded to quickly stumble to the head to barf it all up! What a waste of good food!!! Hope he at least got the nutrients. I was thinking, "but for the grace of God, there go I". My dinner stayed down. Whew!
While Peggy washed dishes, Rick, Paul, and I were still in the cockpit when the fishing line started yanking. Rick pulled it in and got out his "fish book" to identify it. The first one was a mackerel. Good eating. So he filleted it for Peggy and she stored it in the freezer. Then the other line started yanking, and in came another fish, this time a Bonita, Tuna…which Rick said was not good for eating. So he threw it back.
|Pulling in the fish|
|First one, Mackeral…good eating!|
|Second one, Bonita Tuna…not good eating…throw him back.|
After the fishing experience, the guys went down to get some sleep around 6pm. I was on duty with Peggy until 8pm. We were enjoying the beautiful sunset out over the water. Or, I was, anyway. Peggy was at the helm with the sunset to her back. At the risk of boring some folks out there…especially those who have seen endless sunsets on the ocean…please bear with this newby!! Here are a few pics:
During our 2 hour shift together, she showed me how the radar worked, and what to watch out for on the seas ahead. In the Gulf, you really have to watch out for all the oil platforms dotted all over the dang place. Sheesh! It really can be dangerous. This was before the moon came up, so I had to strain to see them. Some are derelict and have no lights at night, making night sailing rather stressful, and, as mentioned, a strain on the eyes. I was able to catch one on our right up ahead that I could only see out of the corner of my peripheral vision. Glad it was far enough ahead that it presented no problems for us. One of the amazing sites in the dark, though, was the Milky Way just as clear as a bell up in the sky. Wow! I hadn't seen it that clear for many years. It was hard to keep my eyes down on the horizon to watch for rigs with that sight up above me.
Peggy also mentioned to me that there could possibly be some phosphorescence in the ocean and to look over the side to watch the waves as they hit the boat. I did, and there it was!! And it was gorgeous!! A true sight to behold! I had heard of this phenomena many times, but had never witnessed it…so it was such a wonderful treat; it was hypnotic! Wish I could've taken some photos of the Milky Way and the phosphorescence. My camera isn't a very fancy one, but I can see how people would want a good one to catch those amazing moments.
The moon was just starting to be a faint light on the horizon when I woke Paul up for his shift. Below, I was settling in to sleep on the settee (with Lea cloth up), when Paul called down to me…"come up, quick!" I went back up, and the Harvest Moon, in all it's glory, had risen and was sitting on top of the ocean and looking like a huge, orange pumpkin! It was truly amazing. All three of us. (Paul, Peggy and I) were just awestruck for a few moments in time. Such beauty on the ocean!!! Loved it! Unfortunately, I was too tired to think about taking a photo, and as mentioned, don't know if my camera would've captured it. So it's only in my memory now. Good enough.
I slept till about 10:30pm when a horrid, loud, blaring sound woke me up with a shock! Rick was down on the floor with his big spotlight, which was shining right in my eyes, and I had no idea what was happening…just wanted to go back to sleep so badly. Then he told me I had to get up so he could check the water tanks which were under the settee…seems the bilge alarm had gone off, and he didn't understand why. He checked those and then checked the bilge again before going back upstairs. I thought all was well now…so tried to drift back to sleep. Ok, NOT! That dratted alarm went off again, and those of us sleeping (me and Peggy) were awakened again. Rick was desperately trying to find out the problem. Turns out, the Tiller shaft was leaking and bringing on more water than the bilge could handle! Could be serious…but, the solution to this problem was to just keep using the manual bilge pump in the cockpit to keep the water levels down enough so the alarm didn't keep going off. It seemed now to be under control, at least. No more loud, blaring noises!!
Paul woke me at midnight to go on my shift…talk about groggy! And after stumbling around in the rocky boat for a few minutes, I started feeling "green" again, and I realized..uh-oh…gotta visit the toilet again!!! BARF! Dang. I thought I was over that! But once I got up on deck, my tummy mellowed out and I was good again. (Sorry, no pictures!)
I was amazed at how pretty it was on deck. The moon was up high by now, and it lit everything in the Gulf up so that seeing what was out there wasn't quite as stressful as it had been without the moon's light. At one point, Peggy and I were watching this very bright light off in the distance. We thought it was an oil rig. It seemed to take forever to get to it, and it was hard to tell whether it was close or far away. It was so bright, it seemed like it should've been close. However, it took us over an hour to get close enough to figure out that it wasn't a rig, it was a shrimp boat. And that darned boat seemed to be coming right at us…even though Peggy changed course to get out of it's way. As we crept closer, the bright lights just seemed to get brighter and closer to us. They appeared to be turning in our direction, and then a few minutes later, like they were moving away. We couldn't tell what these guys were doing at all, but we were concerned they weren't acknowledging our presence. We felt like we were dangerously close to that boat, and Peggy kept changing the course more so as to miss it. When we finally got by it, we were both so relieved, that we heaved a huge sigh. Peggy went down to sleep and Rick came up for the second half of my shift. Thankfully, everything went quietly and well. It seemed like the rest of my two, wee morning hours went very quickly and it was 4am, time to get Paul up again for his shift. He was so deeply asleep, I mentioned that I could take his shift for another hour or so…because I felt wide awake. But Rick said it's best to stay with the schedule so everyone gets at least SOME sleep. So I got Paul up and as soon as he went upstairs, I zonked out faster than I thought.
It must've been about halfway through our sleep time that Peggy and I were rudely awakened by a sharp, loud CRACK. It definitely sounded like an accident. She quickly hollered up at Rick asking what was going on, and he told her the snatch block for the jib sheet completely broke off. It was just a twisted piece of metal when we saw it. Yet another not-so-nice "event" to happen!!! Holy Moly!! He said there was nothing we could do and to go back to sleep. Paul mentioned later, that he was just starting to feel sick again when that snatch block broke. He said that as soon as he heard the CRACK, his adrenaline kicked in and his nausea went on hold.
The rest of the trip went pretty well. When we arrived in Galveston, we had to enter using the Galveston Ship Channel, and that is always a challenge because of the heavy traffic of the large cargo ships, tankers, etc. There was one particularly large ship that was behind us, and steaming along quite fast, which concerned us all a wee bit, since his wake could suck us in and seriously make mincemeat out of us. It was at that point that I said "nighty-night" to everyone…and went down to zonk out for several hours. I just couldn't be all that concerned about that ship…utterly too tired. Good thing Rick was at the helm.
When I woke up, we were almost home…already in the Kemah channel past the Boardwalk. We docked (Rick is a master docker!!!) and after Paul and I said our goodbyes to both Rick and Peggy with our thanks for having us aboard, and for the delicious food, we went to our boat, walked straight back to the aft master cabin, fell on the bed and crashed for several hours. Felt so good to be home and not going over swells!!! We have heard several times since then that one DOES get used to the routine of taking shifts and that there's about a 3 day time period where you're dog tired..then, after the 3rd day, you get into the groove and feel fine. We hadn't gotten into the groove yet, so we were whipped.
We appreciate having had this opportunity with Rick and Peggy on the Gulf so much. It was an eye opener for me. We enjoyed their company and the experiences we had, however some instances were more enjoyable than others. Neither of us much cared for being sea-sick.
Ok, here are some lessons learned from our 2 day Gulf experience!
1. Always take sea-sickness pills the day before and the day of going on the ocean or Gulf.
2. May not want to eat a whole lot…and be careful what we DO eat.
3. Remember what Capn' Ron said, "If anything's gonna' happen, it's gonna' happen out there!
4. Remember to keep eyes wide open at night, especially in areas where there are lots of objects in the
water, such as oil rigs.
5. Give the right of way to all big ships..they have a lot more power and can't stop for you.
6. Always get as much sleep as you can on your off shift.
7. Enjoy the beauty out on the open seas!!! It's truly amazing!
8. Go on a week long trip so you can get into the groove!!!
I'm sure there are many more lessons we learned and we're going to learn, and we're fortunate that we didn't have to learn about torrential rain storms or a broken engine, etc. I know those things can happen to people. I'm feeling happy that our journey was reasonably safe, and on calm seas. If it had been more windy, and rocky I don't want to even think about how often I would've been over the toilet!!!