The Minimalist Sailor

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The Move (a bit of a long read)

I feel like I have crossed a major milestone in my journey.  After nearly eighteen months in Rockport, I have finally moved Lorilee closer to home.   Though nearly 200 nautical miles, this trip pales in comparison to Alex’s move of Eleanor from New York down to Panama.  However, it was my longest journey to date on my boat, and as far as I know, the longest continuous journey Lorilee has taken.

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Leaving Rockport

The weather forecast was as follows: strong winds and heavy seas offshore Thursday and Friday, diminishing to 15-20 knots and 4-6ft seas Saturday, continually diminishing to 10-15 knots and 2-4 foot seas on Sunday.   Because of this and my distrust in some of the rig, I opted to take the ICW to Port O’Connor for the first leg of the trip.

Thursday afternoon, Dad and I headed to Kemah – my destination – to sign my slip’s lease and to leave behind our truck.  From there, we made way for Rockport.  As soon as we arrived, I set to work on all the last minute preparations.  Dad volunteered to go provision, whilst I bent the sails, scraped the prop and bottom, and secured the deck.

Allow me to preface this by saying that at this point, the wind was blowing hard at 25-30 knots out of the East-Southeast, with possibly even stronger gusts.  This made me somewhat uneasy.  Not only would it be the strongest winds that I would’ve sailed in, and being that my dad isn’t altogether that experienced with sailing, I’d be practically singlehanding.  This was going to be a challenge of everything I’ve learned to date.

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Dad enjoying the comfy ride

However, we awoke early Friday morning to a reprieve in the wind – only blowing about 20 knots. After I made some coffee and a quick breakfast, we cast off the lines and made way out of Cove Harbor for the last time.  Since I was uncertain about the weather, I started with a double-reefed mainsail and staysail only.  For those nonsailors reading this, that means that I had about half the sail area up for the boat.  Lorilee is a cutter rig, so she has three primary sails – two headsails: a yankee and a staysail, and a large mainsail.  The mainsail can be reduced in size – or “reefed” – in order to reduce the wind’s power on the sail area.  This allows for easier control and keeps the boat upright in stronger wind.  So to start the day with prudence, I had a greatly reduced sail plan and I was glad for it.  Shortly after leaving the harbor, we got into open bay.  Lorilee handled the higher wind with ease.  Even under this short sail plan, we were easily making over six knots across Aransas Bay.

With Aransas Bay in our wake and a calm jaunt up the first stretch of inland Intercoastal Waterway, we began our crossing of San Antonio Bay.  This bay is notoriously shallow, with the ICW running right up the middle of it.  The ICW is particularly narrow as well, so there is not much forgiveness for a full keeled sailboat.  Because of the weather, barge traffic on the ICW was uncommonly light.  So feeling confident in my navigation and Lorilee’s sailing, we cruised across the Bay with relative ease.  Our last leg for the day before docking up in Port O’Connor was a long narrow stretch of inland ICW.  At this point, I saw a large double-stacked barge coming south, and because of the wind, it was what we call “crabbing” cockeyed down the channel.  To ensure that we had maneuverability when passing the barge, I decided to start the engine.  *Click*.  “That’s odd, I said.” So I gave it another turn, and nothing. Not even a click.  And down into the engine room I go.

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Docked at Port O’Connor

Turns out there was a huge voltage drop across the main switch panel, so Dad took over so I could steer us past the barge, and he managed to jump start the engine.  Needless to say, I left the motor on all the way to the dock in Port O’Connor. Once safely docked up in Port O’Connor, a couple of cold beers and a shower later, we were ready to call it a day.  Right at sunset, however, we were greeted with a fairly intense storm.  The wind was howling, rain blowing in sideways, and lightening striking all around us.   My decision to stay inshore that night was strongly affirmed.  Both exhausted, Dad and I needed a good night’s rest before the offshore passage in the morning.  However, some white trash jackass on a powerboat insisted on blasting rap “music” until 2am, even after I asked him politely to turn it down.  ARRGGHH.

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Tanbark drifter up in calm wind

Groggy and pissed off, we set off for the Port O’Connor jetties to head offshore.  The inbound current and swell coming through the jetty was much stronger than I had predicted.  With sails up and the engine at full throttle, we barely cleared the jetty.   After I made the turn to the northeast, I realized that the swell was much larger than predicted, and I needed more power to get through them.  So I quite literally crawled out on the bowsprit to launch the yankee (jibsail).  In 8-10 foot waves, this was an interesting experience to say the least.   Once the yankee was up though, we had enough speed to overcome the oncoming swell, and the boat was much more stable.   And thus we pointed her bow to Galveston, sailing beautifully all day and into the night.

And at about 0200, the wind totally slacked.  To keep steerage and headway, I reluctantly made the call to start the engine.  Dad and I were running two-hour watches, so I managed to catch up on some much needed sleep.  Dad had the sunrise watch, so I arose to a beautiful morning.  Flat seas and sunny.  The Houston Ship Channel was closed that day due to recent flooding, so tanker traffic was thankfully very sparse.  We rounded marker 05A at the Galveston jetty and made way under engine power all the way up to Kemah.

Being that it was Memorial Day weekend, every power boater in the area was headed out as we were coming in.  I had never seen such a parade of morons.   But without much ado, we had Lorilee docked up and nestled in her new slip.  Marina life is going to be a bit of an adjustment for me, but I’ll be very thankful to have my boat much closer.

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Secured in her new slip

– Ryan

Published in Ryan Bradfield
Updated: June 16, 2016 — 08:46
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