Saturday, September 25, 2010

You've Seen Those Giant Rain Clouds Over The Bay...

You know... how you're driving along Ocean Drive and you see the black sheets out there and think..."somewhere it's really pouring".  We left the dock to compete in this BYC Saturday Series Race #7 with a cloud packed sky.  We had Sunshine for the first time in days.  It was beautiful but there were signs of rain everywhere, beginning with these determined little mushrooms growing on top of a piling.

Bruce put me behind the wheel, Mark as Main Sheet Trimmer, Brenda and Bruce would work the winches with Matt and Brett on the foredeck.  Brittney was at home studying.  Our start was at 12:39... the last boat to start today.  We watched all of the others go then made a perfectly timed start ourselves.  We followed the pack out to the High Range Marker then off towards #71.  The sun was shining but we could see two ominous looking black cloud banks with sheets of rain beneath them.  It looked like we might get wet...

After rounding the wellhead we turned our attention to finding the next mark.  We were still moving up in the pack and had passed one boat that found a discrepancy in the map's coordinates the hard way.  We watched as boats disappeared behind the curtains of rain up ahead, but not before we saw how they heeled in the gusty storm winds.  They always say, " if you think you should reef, it's too late"... we reefed the main just in time.

We had been making 6 kts on Port tack with only low 5 kt ranges on Starboard tack.  We were now only making 3 to 4 as I was the helmsman and was disinclined to let the boat heel very much.  So I pinched and, with Mark's help trimming and easing the main sheet in the gusts, we eked in the direction we had last seen the boats ahead.  The crew sat the rail and enjoyed the downpour.  
 I saw some 24 kt winds but nothing more.   We had our biggest head sail and it was hanked onto the deck so that we couldn't roll it to reef.  Water was pouring out of the mainsail like a waterfall.  We rode it out to the next marker, #4, which we found by watching other boats round it.  We really must get that one in our GPS...
Once we rounded the mark and headed for CC, the young foredeck was up there getting things set, but we found there was a snafu.  Bruce went up and helped them get it right and we set our sails wing on wing for the last leg in brilliant sunshine.  It was as if nothing had happened... no rain, no winds... nothing!  It was hot!  The only proof of the rains we had was our wet clothes and spotty sunglasses.  We finished the course creeping inexorably up through the fleet to claim a Third Place finish.  We all had a story to tell and our foredeck had a bit more experience.  There were certainly moments out there today when we were all thinking, "what are we doing?!"  But in the end it was a fun day with hints of the coming fall weather.  Thanks to our intrepid crew for making it another good one for Bruce and I.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Boatload For the Wednesday Night Race!

I wasn't sure I would be off in time to make it to this week's Wednesday night race. Bruce was not too happy about it as it was the first of the new Pursuit races with spinnaker division. The boat was full when I arrived. Brittney invited two friends from College, Marci and Krystal, and an old friend from San Antonio, Jeremy.

Bret began distracting me with some far fetched story until Bruce ordered me below to change so we could head to the start line. When I came back up, I was so happily surprised to find ROBERT! Standing in the cockpit!
It's been several weeks since we've seen him and Kathy and I was so happy he was out with us for a sail. We've missed him dearly.

So off we went to join the other 10 boats out on this lovely evening. We had a boat load tonight! It was certainly perfect weather to take newbies out on the boat so as not to scare them off.

Brittney took her guests out on the rail and gave them all instructions on how to stay alive and out of the way. Once we got going on course, they were already well versed in what happens on a tack so I relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

We had plenty of muscle in the cockpit with Clay, Jon and a first timer on our boat, Nick. It looked like they had it well in hand so I rode the rail with the kids.

I'm not sure what's going on here, but I got it on digital. I knew from the beginning that Clay and Brett would hit it off... I just had no idea how well.....

The race course was out to #71, then over to #19 and home. We did OK on the first leg. Made some time on a few boats... After rounding #71, we had planned to put up our spinnaker but upon review, it looked like the boats in front of us were having a hard time carrying the big sails.
We were doing over 6 knots and closer to 7 with just the main and jib with no drama, so we decided to hold what we had and put up the kite after rounding #19 for the last leg before home. Clay took the guys under his wing and got the foredeck going... after a bit of a snafu... But HEY, we've never practiced this before.
It wasn't too long before the chute was flying high and beautiful towards the sun setting on our city. Somehow I got pressed into actual service. Clay's Krystal wasn't with us and trimming the sheet has become her job, but fell to me in her absence. I enjoy doing it and I think I do an OK job of it, but it sure is hard on the neck. And the spinnaker knows if you look away for a second!
We enjoyed our short run and none more than Bruce behind the wheel. He was like a little boy surfing those waves. I was very glad of the opportunity to fly the chute for our prospective new crew members so that we could show them how much fun it could be. All too soon it was time to bring it down. Brittney rounded up her crew for the take down. There was a bit of drama with a reluctant halyard, but it came down without going into the Bay.
We finished it off with only Pazuzu still out behind us. We had made good speed, but the other boats were faster tonight. All this did to our crew was to light a fire under them and we finished the race with talk of "practice" and "we'll show 'em next time".
We had a grand time, laughter reigned supreme and nobody got hurt! I call that a success! Sure we've got room for improvement but that only gives us a goal! Later, after everyone had left the boat. Bruce told me that he had more fun tonight than he's had in a long time. And that's a pretty high bar to top. Thanks to our crew members new and old for making our day!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Second Annual Hiler/Swart Shrimp Boil at BYC

This is our second year to do the Shrimp Boil with the Hilers... Actually, it was more like they did the work and I watched! Brenda and I did the shopping early in the day and then hung out at the Club until time to prepare the 2 lbs of onion, 1 lb of lemon, 20 lbs of sausage, 14 lbs of new potatoes, 9 bags of seasoning and 25 lbs of shrimp for boiling.

Bruce and I drove to Port Aransas to visit the Polly Anna for shrimp. These babies were swimming in the Gulf last night!

Mark got the three boiling pots going earlier this year than last. It takes a long time to get that water going. First he did the onions, potatoes and corn, followed by the sausage. There was so much food, that even with 3 pots, it had to be done in stages to get it all cooked just right.

The last to go into the pot were the spice bags and the shrimp. It took the better part of an hour to get everything boiled and we were ready to ring the dinner bell at just after 7pm.

Brenda and I had the easy job of keeping everything warm in foil in the kitchen while our men sweated over the cauldrons on the sunny side porch.

We lined up our servers with some final instructions and rang the bell. We had around 50 RSVPs and ended up feeding just about that many people.

It's not so hard to cook for a crowd when you know how many to expect and BYC has really responded to the request for RSVPs this year.

We bought 30 lbs of shrimp last year and had a BUNCH leftover. This year we hit it just right. We had 25 lbs and about 10 fewer to feed, but ended up with about 25 shrimps uneaten after everyone came back for seconds and some even for thirds.

Everyone was very complementary and we were happy that it was done! We can relax for another year... After the cleanup, like in many homes... the folks gathered in the kitchen to chit chat.

We moved it out onto the front porch upstairs where we could recline in the Adirondack chairs and enjoy the cool (almost) fall breezes off of the Bay. We've had such a good time with these people over the last year. It looks like the next year is going to be even better. There are some great ideas floating around about fun things to do to shake things up a bit.

We said our goodbyes at around 11 pm and Brenda suggested we meet back at the Club in the morning to make a breakfast out of the leftovers. Bruce volunteered to make his Cheesy Potatoes.

We had 15 or so come back to try Brenda's new specialty... Cazuela (Casserole in Spanish) with the shrimp bits.

She threw in some onion, mushroom and tomato... sauteed them up, then cracked a couple of eggs and pierced the yolks, then covered them all with white Mexican cheese and sizzled it all together in the skillet.

Brittney was paying close attention and swears she has it down. This is a recipe that Brenda found at a small place on Isla Mujeres this summer. We will definitely be having it again!

We ended our weekend with a relaxing sail with the Watsons. We spent about 3 hours zig-zagging out in the bay before going back to the slip. Bruce and I spent some pleasant alone time back up on the BYC deck in the breeze as we watched sailboats come and go until dark. It was nice to have time to just do nothing for a change.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Port Mansfield Race aboard Adagio Labor Day Weekend 2010

I left work at 3pm, changed clothes and rode with Bruce to Port A to jump aboard Adagio just as it began to rain. There were several sailboats hanging around waiting for time to head out through the jetties to the start line for this year's annual Port Mansfield Race. We got a dolphin fanfare as we motored out.

I muscled the helm to guide the 46 ft Irwin ketch out through the ever present craziness at the mouth of the Port A jetties so that the guys could raise the sails.

The weather forecast was for scattered showers but the radar didn't look too bad and at least there would be wind to move this big boat. We joined the others at the tiny start line briefly before the 6pm horn announced that we were off! No complicated start sequence for this one...

Dean (the skipper) told me that he had been asked by the owner of Caribbean Soul, a Catalina that will soon be featured in Lats & Atts Magazine, to take some pics to go with the article. I was up for the challenge and spent much of the time before dark snapping what shots I could get.

We had an informal sandwich supper and I took the helm back to sail for a couple of hours. It was surprisingly easy to keep this boat on course. Dean and Aleta have very nice chart plotter equipment with a nice big screen. I always enjoy playing this kind of real world "video game". I just watch the screen and keep the boat on the course heading. There really aren't any visual aids out in the Gulf between home and Port Mansfield to speak of.

When darkness fell, we began our Watch rotation with Bruce and I taking the first watch since I was already on the wheel. While Dean was down below trying to get a nap, we began to hear a hail of Adagio by name on the VHF radio. They wanted us to switch channels but we couldn't figure out how to work the thing. Bruce had to tell the Captain of the Research Vessel that we didn't know how to change the channel so he went ahead and made it brief on 16. He had "gear" in the water up ahead and we would be forced to alter course to avoid hitting it.

We were unsure of exactly where the "gear" was and we were preparing to turn without the aid of a wind indicator (dark), when an alarm of some sort began an insistent beeping. The AIS alarm on the chart plotter kept going off but this was different. I went down below to track the alarm and woke our skipper to help us figure out where we were and how to avoid drama.

It was just about time for a watch change so Bruce and I went below once we had figured out where we were supposed to be. We slept for a while and all too soon it was time for us to go up again.

We had lots of radio chatter between shrimpers, the research vessel, and the other race competitors. This made us very uneasy as we were not really sure if we were the object of the hails or if it was the other sailboats that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We could see one shrimper that would soon join us in a crossing situation, so Bruce turned the boat Northwest to avoid unpleasantness. This means we were going back the way we had come with no idea how far we would have to backtrack to be out of danger. Somewhere in the midst of this, we lost power to our navigation instruments and we had no compass light or anything else to guide us.

This brought Dean and Aleta back up from their slumber again to help us out. I was feeling very badly by this point that Bruce and I couldn't seem to get through a watch without being forced to summon our Skipper back up on deck. Lesson learned here: always familiarize yourselves with the instruments when going offshore overnight on an unfamiliar vessel.

Throughout all of this, we had unsettled following seas which made it necessary to wrangle the boat constantly. We had intermittent showers which began by freshening winds up to 30+ kts which were made even more pleasant by rain showers, which seemed to take the punch out of the winds resulting in their dropping down to below 15 kts. Sails flapped in the wave troughs and we went from 3.9 knots speed to a high of near 10 kts over ground. Never a dull moment...

Somehow, the sky was suddenly beginning to lighten in the east and it was dawn. We had survived the night and we were nearing the Port Mansfield jetties. We could now see some of the other sailing vessels on the horizon as we all converged on the entrance and the end of the race.

We had such a feeling of well being. It's difficult to describe to those who have not experienced. The whole night was something to be endured but now that we could see and things were good... all of the night drama was forgotten and we were just happy! Dean did have a moment of minor panic when I dove for the camera to get a shot of this little waterspout that was beginning to form off to our Port side. It never did make it down to the surface but it was fun to watch. Suddenly a thought... were there waterspouts in the night that came near and we just didn't see them?!!

We crossed the "finish line"? Well, where the finish line was supposed to be anyway. The floating marker that we were looking for was no longer there... so we all called a time to the race committee at the channel marker that was still in position.

We made the delightful sail in flat water through the Port Mansfield cut. This was our first time in since it was dredged back out enough to allow a sailboat through. Bruce and I went to the bow and sat out on the bowsprit to enjoy the scenery.

The water is beautiful here. I just don't understand why this is.
Bruce brought me some coffee with Baileys... my favorite time of day! All is right with the world. We made our way across the ICW and into the "Port Mansfield Harbor" if you will... We found our slip and got settled in. It was late morning and we had nothing to do until the evening. I went below for a shower and a nice long nap. We all lounged around until it was time to prepare for our short walk to the "Windjammer" restaurant where the awards presentation and race party were held.
We bought raffle tickets and both Aleta and I won Larry Joe Taylor tshirts with CDs. Lucky us! We had a pretty nice dinner of fish, shrimp, rice and veggies along with cocktails for dinner. We had some good times comparing race stories with the other competitors. We found out that we had been the lucky ones... One boat lost their mainsail due to a snapped halyard, another two boats had ripped jibs. There were lots of little issues but we had come out relatively unscathed. We also came out of it with a Third Place Win! Way to go Adagio!

We left the party to go back to the boat for a very pleasant night all cozy in our cocoon. I love big boats with AC... Bruce and I felt more like honored guests than crew... In the morning, we left by 7 am so that we could make it to the causeway over the ICW and into CC Bay before dark.
We set out for a motor sail down the ICW in great spirits. We had a fabulous rainbow and flat water. That pot of gold must be TINY if I can't see it from this close!!!
We enjoyed our coffee and good company.
We went up on deck and enjoyed the brisk breeze as we waited for it to clock around enough to fill the sails. Aleta went to the low side rail for a "spa treatment". The water pummelled her legs so hard I thought she would be swept overboard. Evidently this is one of her favorite things to do. She ended up drenched!
Later in the day... after I had a nice nap... Aleta prepared a late lunch fit for Kings! She went below and slaved over a hot stove to make spaghetti with salad and served it on real dishes. The boat was heeled over just a bit too much for this to work out. At one point, the pasta was pitched over and this ended our attempts at normalcy.

Well before dark, we made our approach to the causeway bridge. Bruce was on the helm while Dean watched with trepidation as we neared the crossing. He said with shaky confidence... we should clear with about 10 ft leeway...
It never looks like you have as much clearance as you think you have when you're passing underneath a bridge looking up at the top of the mast. It always looks like you made it by the skin of your teeth! No sweat when it's not YOUR boat!
By sunset we were entering our home waters of Corpus Christi Bay. We enjoyed the view and mentally adjusted to being HOME.
We were greeted by the CC Chop (as usual) and escorted in by this little guy. I took the helm in self defense. I'm always the control freak when it comes to the downwind sail in our Bay. I would rather be in control of the helm than at the mercy of others as the boat lurches in the waves.
It was a raucous romp across the bay which I thoroughly enjoyed. I got a workout as I manhandled the helm in the gusts and wave troughs. We were greeted by the familiar site of our beloved skyline. We made it to Adagio's slip in time to dock and make our way to Harrison's Landing for dinner by 10pm. We enjoyed an informal sandwich on dry land (sort of), said our goodbyes and retired to our own boat for the night.
Thank you to our Host and Hostess for a memorable and exciting Labor Day Weekend 2010!