One of the goals I set out for myself for 2015 was to learn as much as possible about sailing and seamanship. This meant reading every book I could get my hands on, taking ASA lessons, and crewing on other yachts. Well this last weekend, I decided to take a weekend off from working on Lorilee and crew on a short offshore passage.
My friend at the yard, Bobby, has a friend with a Lancer 38, Providence, berthed at Payco Marina in Galveston. Bobby mentioned last week that Julian (Providence’s owner) wanted to move her down to the yard in Rockport for a few weeks of haulout. I mentioned in previous blogs the cost difference between yards in Galveston/Kemah vs. Rockport. It’s quite staggering. So much so, that Julian opted to move the boat offshore from Galveston to Rockport over this past weekend, and he needed some crew. So our total crew would be me, Bobby, Julian, and Julian’s friend Connor.
Julian and Connor drove down from Oklahoma to Rockport Thursday night – about an eight hour drive. We got up early Friday and headed to Galveston. Upon our arrival, Julian had a laundry list of items to get Providence ready for the passage.
After working on the boat for six or seven hours, some Mexican food and a tasty margarita, we got some shuteye for the long day to follow…
We pulled the docklines at about 7:30am and made our way offshore. Because of the location of Payco Marina, we had to motor quite a long way around Galveston Island to get to the Gulf. This meant dodging heavy ship channel traffic (tankers move FAST). After we motored comfortably offshore, we hoisted the sails in a nice NE wind of 5-10 knots. The wind was pretty light most of the day Saturday, so progress was slow. We tried flying a “Spinnoa” – whatever the hell that is. (It looked like a symmetrical Spinnaker to me.). With no success on the Spinnoa, we just kept the genoa poled out in typical downwind fashion.
Sometime around eight o’clock Saturday night, the wind went totally slack, and our speed under sail went down to about 2 knots. Since we were in a bit of a time crunch, Julian decided to start up the motor. This is when the problems started.
Providence has an original Volvo Penta motor, though I’m unsure of the model and horsepower. Somehow, the fuel system kept sucking air, effectively killing the engine. Every 30 minutes to an hour, Julian had to go below and bleed the fuel lines. The poor guy got almost no sleep during the entire trip. Any thoughts on what the problem could’ve been?
And crippled thus, we motor-sailed along through the damp darkness of the Gulf of Mexico. During my 1am-4am night watch, I spotted something on the radar that I couldn’t see anywhere on the horizon. It dawned on me that it was an unlit oil rig. I’ve read about these before, but now the reality was right there in front of me – I HAD to keep a sharp watch on the horizon. Most of the rigs in the Gulf are either illuminated like a Christmas tree, or they have a very loud signal alarm that can be heard for miles. Well, we started passing more and more rigs that had no lights or alarms, and only a few are marked on nav charts. Imagine a large, dark shape slowly pacing by, lit only by the moonlight, making no sound or warning. Pretty scary in my book.
Sunday brought slightly stronger winds and a lot of rain. We continued to motor-sail for most of the day until about two o’clock. The wind picked up to 20-25 knots and changed direction out of the WNW. After Bobby and I muscled the whisker pole down, we jibed the genoa and the main giving us a comfortable beam reach, as we made way to Port Aransas.
I didn’t expect Port Aransas to be a busy shipping port, but it was indeed. The channel is fairly narrow, and with a dodgy diesel engine, it was a bit scary coming into port with tankers bearing down on us at 20 knots. After dropping off Connor in Port Aransas to catch his flight back to Oklahoma, we continued motoring up the ICW to Rockport.
All in all, it was a pretty smooth trip. I didn’t get seasick and learned quite a bit. There a few things I took away from the trip:
- I really want to get LASIK eye surgery before my voyage. Screwing around with glasses and/or contacts in the middle of a rainy night at sea is not only inconvenient, but it can be dangerous. It’s not cheap, but I think it will be a worthy investment.
- One cannot underestimate the value of good foul weather gear. The heavy waterproof coat I had was okay – it kept me warm and somewhat dry, but after a few hours in the weather it was soaked and cold, and so was I.
- I am going to find a good used radar system for my boat. After seeing the unlit rigs offshore, my mind is pretty made up on that. That was probably the scariest part of the entire trip.
- I can now fully appreciate the simplicity of Lorilee. There were a lot of things I liked about Providence, and a few things I didn’t like. To each his own, though.
All in all, though, I had a great time, and can’t wait to go on my next trip. I made a couple of new friends, and gained some invaluable experience. I’m thinking about taking Lorilee on the same route when I’m done in the yard. We’ll see how things look when the time comes.
Fair winds and happy sailing :)