Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Wrath of the wasps" or "Why you should always have spare glasses aboard"

For over four years I've kept an extra set of eyeglasses in a drawer on the boat. I'm not completely blind without them, but I shouldn't be driving without them.

Every time I'd see the spares in the drawer my mind would quickly play through some drastic scenario where I was braving 6' seas with 50 knot winds as I struggled to survive and got hit in the head with the boom, knocking my glasses overboard or breaking them beyond use.

I never thought I'd lose my glasses while standing on the dock because of a measly insect.

Sunday morning Mary wanted to scrub the boat down, so I opened to dock box to grab the scrub brush and some other cleaning supplies. I was greeted with a face full of wasps.

I jumped backwards in pain and only faintly heard the splash that I realized were my brand new glasses disappearing into the murky waters of Marina Del Sol.

It took ten minutes for the angry wasps to settle down enough that I could walk past the dock box to
get back on the boat. All I could think about was the fact that over $360 had just disappeared from my pocket.

I changed into my swimsuit and sullenly walked back to where it seemed like the glasses had disappeared. Several carp that were eating the moss off the side of the dock fled as I eased myself into the water. The left side of my face was throbbing.

I took a big breath and made my first dive.

The visibility in our marina water is less than six inches and the bottom is dark, soft mud. I quickly realized that without a mask I was never going to see the glasses. I resorted to the lifeguard's lost bathers search -- diving  down and doing arm sweeps across the bottom. After a half dozen dives I'd found nothing, but a zinc anode and stirred up enough mud that visibility was now zero.

I returned to the boat, now angry, and grabbed a flip flop to go crush all the wasps. Mary intervened and talked me down, reminding me that people wind up in the hospital and even die from bee and wasp attacks.

I calmed down and decided to dive a few more times. I still found nothing behind the neighbor's boat, and I sure wasn't going to swim underneath boats in the marina or the docks without a mask or air.

The glasses were gone.

I rinsed off with the hose, changed clothes, pulled out the spare glasses, and drove home in defeat.

Two days later, and my lip STILL hasn't stopped swelling.

I never thought I'd be defeated by a bug, but I guess you win some and you lose some.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Destination Review: Harborwalk, Hitchcock, Texas

After passing beneath the Galveston Causeway, if you head west along the ICW you'll find Harborwalk Marina in Hitchcock, Texas. www.harborwalk.com

The marina suffered major damage from Hurricane Ike and just re-opened with newly renovated facilities in 2013. 

We were able to reserve a slip two weeks in advance with no problem, but there were quite a few transient boaters staying the weekend. 

Slip fees were $75 a night with electric and water hook-ups. The marina boasts a pool, an outdoor bar, a restaurant, a ship store with sandwich shop, a bait shop, gas docks and supposedly pump out facilities although I never got a clear answer on where they were and if we could use them, so don't count on being able to pump out there.

On paper and in the photos, it seems great. Unfortunately, Harborwalk really let us down.

We had a rough sail with strong headwinds, so we didn't arrive until near 5 p.m. on a Saturday. The pool bar stayed open to make us one strawberry daiquiri, but then closed up for the night. At that point Floyd's restaurant was the only thing left open, and with 30 or so boaters waiting for tables as well as a steady stream of locals, there was an hour wait to be seated.

Some of our friends opted to place an order for carry out, so they could eat back on the boat, but they were greatly disappointed with quality of food -- think Chilis quality but at $25 an entree.

Although very willing to pay Harborwalk prices for drinks, we were left without a bar, so we spent the evening sitting in the pavilion drinking the beer we brought, playing guitars and getting eat alive by some of the biggest mosquitoes I've ever seen. 

Harborwalk is built in a swamp with standing water everywhere. Our Deep Woods Off and citronella candles didn't even seem to phase the swarms of mosquitoes.

Normally, this would have been a great evening despite all the mosquitoes, but there was a tension in the air over the fact that we had brought our own coolers. Was it allowed? Was it not allowed? As I said, we were perfectly willing to buy our drinks from Harborwalk, but weren't given the opportunity.

All evening there were also locals pulling up in small motorboats that would just tie up to the dock and then stand beside their boats drinking beer and smoking cigarettes with their stereos cranked up as loud as they could get them to play while shouting to one another over the music -- incredibly annoying. 

Sunday morning we went over to the ship store to pay for our slip rental and then went to the pool to enjoy the water for an hour or two before heading back to Kemah. Unfortunately, a security guard promptly showed up to tell us that we couldn't swim in the pool unless we were members. We calmly explained that we had paid for slips and those were our boats tied up right in front of the pool. He then said we need wrist bands to be in the pool and once again insisted we get out. You know, it would have been nice of the guy in the ship store who took our slip rental money to give us wrist bands or even mention wrist bands in any way. 

At this point I was just fed up with the attitude of the staff and with whole place in general, so instead of walking back to the ship store to get wrist bands we decided to start the trip back to Kemah.

Hours: 9-5, Mon-Sat, 10-5 Sunday
1445 Harborwalk Blvd, Hitchcock, Texas 77563
Toll free 866-435-8777 or local 409-935-3737

Harborwalk gets a big thumbs down. I've never felt more unwelcome for $75 a night.