Monday, August 20, 2012

Riding out the storm

I knew it was going to rain at some point this weekend. All of the forecasts were sure of it. The radar was very colorful. I just didn't know when it would rain or for how long, and in Houston if you're not going to sail when it rains, you're not going to be sailing at all.

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I was up early enough Saturday morning that I actually got to enjoy a cup of coffee with the sunrise. It's been so hot all summer that after 8 a.m., coffee is out of the question. It's just already too hot.

As the sun was coming up I rigged the spinnaker topping lift with new line and added swivel snap shackles to that, the spinnaker halyard, and the downhaul. I'm still up in the air as to whether or not I want to put a shackle on my  jib sheets. It would make switching between the 120 and the storm jib a little faster, but the added weight would probably affect sail shape in light air. I guess the first time I have to change head sails in rough weather, I'll know if I want a shackle or not.

I made a hike up to the marina office for ice and to complain about the fact that I've burned off two sets of zincs since January. Their solution was to move me to another slip about 15 yards down the dock. Can't say I have any faith that this slip will be any better, but oh well. All I can do is start saving money towards a nicer marina in January when my lease is up.

About 9:30 a.m., I motored away through Clear Lake on my first solo voyage.

The wind was blowing from north, which was very odd for this time of year. It made pulling up the sails a bit awkward as I had to motor extra far down the channel to be able to make a 180 and motor back down the channel into the wind as I pulled them up. However, the entire process went well, and soon I was running downwind towards Redfish Island ... and the largest black cloud I'd ever seen.

I was hoping if I stayed to the southeast side of the bay the storm would pass in front of me, and I'd arrive to Redfish on the backside of it, but no such luck. I turned into the wind, dropped sails and dropped anchor just as the rain hit. I stood in the companionway watching it until it got really bad. Then I had to shut everything up and hunker down until it was over.

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I'd never ridden out a storm in the Starwind before. She bounces. She bounces a lot. It was kind of like being on one of those amusement park boat rides where it swings forward and back, getting higher and faster each time. I've never actually gotten seasick before although I've felt a tinge of queasiness from time to time. This was one of those times. I had been sitting in the salon listening to the weather radio and reading blogs on my phone. I decided I better get up and look out the windows for a while. I made myself a sandwich, and then I was fine.

From time to time I tried to assess my position through the windows to make sure the anchor wasn't dragging, but the rain was so hard I couldn't see the shoreline anymore. However, once it cleared, I found that the seahorse had stayed put with no problem.

Raising the anchor was probably the most strenuous pulling I've done in years. That thing was buried deep in the muddy clay bottom of the bay, and for a minute or so I was worried I was going to have to swim down and blindly attempt to dig it out. Most of the bay is no more than nine feet deep, but the water is very heavy with sediment, so you can't see a thing. Even if I'd had a mask on board, it wouldn't have helped. Then, just as I was resolving myself to the idea of swimming, it came up.

Next issue. I went to start the motor, and the transmission wouldn't go into neutral. After taking that beating the motor was stuck in forward. Thankfully I was nowhere near shore, it was very calm, and there was no traffic in the bay, so I pulled open the engine compartment and gave the transmission linkage a good shake. It popped into neutral, and I was back in business.

Once the storm had passed there was no wind, and the bay was calm enough you could waterski across it, so I motored on to Redfish Island and dropped anchor.

About half an hour later my friends on the Tina Marie arrived and anchored nearby. They dinghied over to get me, and we all had a cold one and discussed how crazy the storm had been. Then they ran off in the dinghy to pick up burgers from Bubba's Shrimp Shack.

It was about the time the dinghy disappeared over the horizon that the dark clouds of the next storm appeared -- and also about the time I realized I had left my companionway wide open. There's nothing like an invigorating swim with the jellyfish to go close your hatches. However, I'm sure the exercise did me good, and I was back aboard to Tina Marie just as the burgers arrived, and we all ate and watched the Seahorse buck through another thunderstorm.

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Lifeline replacement is still top priority on my never-ending repair list, but a bow roller or some kind of centered cleat to tie off the anchor might improve the way the Seahorse behaves when anchored. More stuff for the wish list, I guess.

When the storm finally ended, my friends were kind enough to ferry me back across the gap, so I didn't have to endure anymore jellyfish stings. Notice how far the Tina Marie is listing to port? Apparently the gas station attendant thought they said put 150 gallons in each tank instead of $150 in each tank, so the port tank got quite the fill-up that morning whereas the mistake was realized before they put any gas in the starboard side. If I had to pay for that much gas every weekend, I could not afford to be a boat owner.

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One of my friends joined me for the sail home, and we wowed the crowds by sailing right off the anchor, performing a perfect tack, and heading for home. Of course, the wind completely died halfway there, so we had to motor most of the way, but nobody saw that part, so it didn't matter.

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There was another regatta going on this weekend. At some point I hope to be sailing in them, but I am obviously not plugged into the right crowds because I never even know they're taking place until we see them out there.

Sunday was supposed to be the big day. I had Matt, Tony and my brother Ben all lined up to launch the spinnaker. However, the radar had only been green spots on Saturday, and I'd gotten beat half to death. Sunday morning it was solid green and spattered with red and yellow patches. We decided to postpone yet another weekend.

Ben had already shown up to the marina, so we decided to do some fishing. I'd never caught anything except catfish, but my neighbors had been pulling out redfish like crazy using squid. We made a run to West Marine and got both squid and shrimp, and guess what we caught?

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Yeah, more catfish. I fed them squid and Ben fed them shrimp. They liked the shrimp a little better, but they weren't really that picky.

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Three years, and I've still never caught a thing except catfish. It's getting a bit ridiculous.

When I finally made it home Sunday evening my new V-berth sheets had arrived. I probably spent a little too much on them, but I was tired of fighting with the square sheets bunching up and never fitting. Plus, if I ever want to get a classy lady sleeping in there, I figure I need to make it look a little classier. Anyway, the package touts that these sheets will make you "sleep like a pro."

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I was unaware of these professional sleepers. Personally, I'd rather sleep like a champion who just sleeps for the love of the game, not a spoiled pro getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to sleep. However, if they help me sleep through the night while anchored, they'll be worth every penny.





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