Sunday, October 13, 2013

October sailing

October always has the best weather for sailing in Houston, but it always ends up being my busiest travel month of the year. Last year it was Seattle to Paris to Tulsa. This year it's Tulsa to Pensacola to Paris and then is capped with my little brother's wedding in Houston.

That doesn't leave much time for sailing, but thankfully we were able to sneak out for a few hours Saturday to wander the bay in light wind.

We needed a light wind day to practice some basic skills and build our confidence back up. The trips to Double Bayou and Harbor Walk with rough winds, no main sail, and an underwater collision had really shaken Mary. Meanwhile I had been fighting with the battery system since July 4 and had become very wary of motoring. In other words, one of us had no confidence in sailing, the other had no confidence in motoring, and we were both wondering if we could make it an afternoon on the water without fighting.  Sailing so far has felt a bit like walking a tight rope that could fall into an argument at any moment.  It also seems that every time I think things are finally looking up that something goes wrong with the boat.  

Thankfully the Universal fired right up, battery bank 1 had no issues, and we got out to the bay with no problem. Mary took the helm while I raised the sails, and we spent the next three hours tacking back and forth across the bay to Redfish Island.  I should have trusted Freddie a long time ago to work the sails. I had the attitude of "it's my boat, so I should know how to work the sails," and I do, but Fred is a lot stronger than me and he did a great job of trimming the sails. I really felt a lot safer with him working them.  

We spent most of the time close hauled, making about 3.5 knots, and we even managed to catch up to and then outrun one of our friends on his Allied Seawind. That felt really good since he is by far the better sailor, but Gimme Shelter moves well in light wind.  It was great to be close hauled with light wind because it feels like you're going so fast, but you don't tip as much as with heavier winds.  

We had left the dock with clenched teeth but the love of sailing was back, and we were in full relaxation mode as I listened to the water streaming off the hull, Mary sunbathed on deck, and the autopilot steered us onward.  It really felt like a victory.  

Now the most remarkable moment of the trip came as we approached Redfish Island, and I started looking around for the wrecked platforms you have to avoid as you approach the island from the west. I spun around wondering if we'd somehow already passed them. They just weren't there!

At some point between Labor Day and last weekend someone has removed at least four platforms that were wrecked in Hurricane Ike five years ago. This is a big deal. I've been using "the barn" as a navigation point for years!  At some point you just give up on seeing things fixed, and trash just becomes landmarks. 

I searched the news for any mention of this and couldn't find a thing, but I would like to issue a big thank you to whatever company or government body it was that finally cleaned up the bay. As boaters, we really do appreciate it. (I just hope you took all those platforms down to the mud, so I don't slam into a bunch of underwater pipes next time I'm out!)  LIke basically all of Trinity Bay. That place is a hazard zone. 

We made a 180 at Redfish and headed back towards Kemah hoping for a nice downwind run. I guess 1 knot is moving, but I don't think it qualifies as a run. Our friend in the Allied Seawind definitely had us beat downwind with his huge bumblebee drifter deployed.  

We have a very large jib, but we completely failed at getting it to fill in the light wind. We fired the Universal back up and chugged home.  It really stinks to motor downwind :(.  It was very dead though.  

I kept an eye on the depth finder as we entered the Watergate channel, and I was very pleased that at no time did we have less then two feet of water under our keel. We would plow through anywhere from 6" to 18" of mud in the Marina Del Sol channel depending on the tide. With no more fear of getting stuck in the lake, that's one more point of stress eliminated from our sailing routine.

Back at Watergate we washed down the boat and met a few of our new neighbors before heading back over to Marina Del Sol for dinner. I mean, after all, nobody can grill pork tenderloin like the Captain of the Tina Marie.  

To Marina Del Sol's credit, they had FINALLY towed away the Bijou, a huge motorboat with a recording of sinking and leaking diesel every four to six weeks for the past three years.

Of course, the owners left an old moldy mattress from the Bijou lying on the dock and it had sat there for a full two weeks undisturbed by marina staff. My bet is that it will still be lying there next weekend if we stop by -- but would you expect anything else from Marina Del Sol?

The storms hit late Saturday night, and we discovered Gimme Shelter does much more rocking and rolling in the wind at Watergate since it's less protected and has deeper water. That's definitely a downside to the new location. It was bad enough that the dogs retreated under the covers for protection, but it wasn't terrible.  It really wasn't bad at all.  I don't even remember it.  

Sunday morning West Marine replaced both our batteries on bank 2 under warranty, and we now seem to have the 12 volt system back up and running at 100 percent. Maybe if I fix the fuel gauge sender Mary will agree to a trip to Offats Bayou this weekend.  As our sailing improves I am pretty excited to go on another longer trip.  It's been just about long enough to forget how bad the last one was.  :)   We are getting noticeably better with time though.