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My first offshore passage

 

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Headed out of the Galveston jetties

 

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.

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Prepping the boat for the trip

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…

 

 

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Bobby rigging up the whisker pole

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.

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Dolphins riding the bow wake in the Port Aransas jetty

 

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 :)

-Ryan

Shameless boat selfie at the helm of Providence. 

 

Updated: July 9, 2015 — 08:54

6 Comments

  1. Ryan,

    I got lasik surgery in Buenos Aires like 7 years ago. It’s a ridiculously simple procedure, I got my two eyes done the same day and I was out of the office, seeing well, literally ten minutes later. It was amazing. The doctor punches some numbers into the machine and it’s the machine the one that performs the surgery. I wouldn’t do it in the US if I were you. It’ll cost you ten times as much as anywhere else. Do some research, a return flight to Panama for example costs 300-400 bucks.

    As to foul weather gear, we bought second hand Grundens jackets on eBay (you know the yellow fisherman ones) and we’re very happy, they’re fantastic! They do not “breathe” like the fancy new ones but they’re waterproof. When it pours at sea heat is not an issue at least for me. I get cold very quickly even here in Panama.

    Love your blogs!!

    C.

    1. Thanks Carla! I got evaluated for LASIK a few months ago. I’m a great candidate for it, but it’ll cost like $4,000! I’ll do some research on it. It may be worth going to another country to do it. Maybe a visit to Panama is forthcoming :)

      I’m considering Grundens for the bottoms, but I would like a bit more insulation for the jacket. I like Henry Lloyd or Gill, but I may get some Grundens anyway. They look like they’ll last forever

      1. Great to hear about you being a candidate!! Yes, definitely check abroad, I’d say it would cost a third of that. Let me ask around here. Argentina is great and much cheaper for sure but you’d have like $1200 in flights. Though if it costs less than 2k there you should go just to see Buenos Aires, you can definitely stay with friends of mine!! Hahaaa

        About the jacket, they’re different things. PVC is dry. The newer “breathable” fancy fabrics won’t keep the rain off for long. You can wear big woolen sweaters underneath, wool will keep you warm even if it’s soaking wet. Go for Grundens. Alex says you’ll also look like a fag otherwise haha, don’t get me wrong I love fags : )

        Let me do some research about LASIK. I’ll keep you posted!

  2. Ah, and get your eyes checked first, not everyone can get LASIK, if your corneas are too thin or irregular some doctors won’t risk it. The first doctor I saw said I couldn’t get it done, the second one said yes and I can’t begin to tell you how my life changed overnight! I could watch TV and use the computer that day and play non aggressive sports the third day already. You just gotta sleep with these plastic things on your eyes for a week and make sure no tap water goes in when you shower. Go for it!!

  3. I’m eager to learn more about sailing too. Due to a job loss, I have a nice opportunity right now to decide where to live next – maybe near Lake Michigan. Already know I want to live in a much smaller place (downsize from a 1000 sq ft house to maybe a room somewhere). Am a bit torn between a boat I can sleep on vs one I can tow. My car needs to be replaced now/soon too so do I choose one to accommodate a boat I don’t even have yet? My head is so full of questions.

    Nice job completing your first voyage!! :) I was hoping to maybe cross Lake Michigan with a friend this summer but it turns out he’s going to head south with Alex (what a thrill) and might not make it back from Panama in time for Michigan sailing. Ah, well. I need more practice anyway if I want to be any kind of helpful crew.

    1. Hi Nancy, Sorry to hear about you losing your job. I’ve been there, and it’s no fun when you have bills to pay.

      Living in a smaller space is quite nice. When I decided to start selling off all my junk, I was astonished by the sheer amount of it all. I’m only 30, but somehow I had accumulated enough stuff to fill a 1700 sqft three bedroom house!!! Now that it’s pretty much all gone, I can live comfortably on my boat without all the clutter.

      Having a trailerable boat poses a few problems (at least in my opinion). You have to have a vehicle to tow it, either an SUV or truck. Then you have to have a place to store it (storage unit or your own property). AND, they’re nearly impossible to resale if you want to upgrade later. If it were me, I’d look for a smaller liveaboard and fix her up to your liking. Either way, you’ll be paying a few hundred dollars a month for either an apartment – or a marina. :)

      If you find yourself at a crossroads, take the road that leads to happiness – even if that road is dark and uncharted. I have taken my first steps down this road, and I’m the freest and happiest I’ve ever been.

      Good Luck! :)

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