Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend 2011 & HEB Lighthouse Cruise with BYC

As our luck has had it in recent months... the winds were crazy this weekend when we set out for Port Aransas.  We weren't going to miss this one so Bruce reefed down the jib and double reefed the main an off we went.  We saw over 20 kt winds with lots of gusts to 30 kts. 
With the boat trimmed conservatively it wasn't a bad ride... just a wet one.  I took the helm for over half of the Bay portion just so I would have something to hang onto.  It was quite a romp and actually a lot of fun.  We had a bit of excitement (and the reason I got the helm) when Bruce needed to trim sails to go above a buoy.  It turned out to be the dredging equipment strung out across our path that others had warned us about.  We had to tack off and go quite a distance out of our way to avoid the poorly marked gear. 
We tacked back once we passed all the pipes and finally we made it to the channel where the rest of the trip was in flat water and no mishaps barred our way to our cozy primo slip in the Port A Marina.  We docked on the end of the new transient slips and then helped others get snugged down too. 
We then began the wait for our turn on the Perfect Partners.  Carl and Mary Jane had graciously volunteered to ferry those of us who weren't anchoring out in the Lydia Ann Channel to St. Jo's Island for our BYC Memorial Day Weekend Event... a visit to the HEB Lighthouse.  Due to the high winds, only one boat actually did anchor out so the ferrying took several hours both ways. 
Thanks to Carl and Mary Jane for getting us all there and back safely.  Of course we have all seen this familiar sight as we sail past in the channel, but now we get to see it up close. 
The Club has been here many times over the years, but this is our first time since joining and we were very excited for the opportunity.  We pulled up to the landing and stepped off to a private world far from the Memorial Holiday crowds and I for one felt very lucky to be here.
Hal was busily grilling burgers by the dozens when we came up the boardwalk.  We were one of the last boatloads to come over but Hal had been here working for hours already. 
Thanks to Hal and Sharon, and Phyllis and Jerry too, for all of their hard work, organization and preparation that made this unique experience a reality for us.  The logistics of getting everything over to the island in these winds would have been a daunting task for anyone, but they pulled it off flawlessly. 
Brittney and I joined other recent arrivals on the front porch where we waited for Bruce and Matt to arrive on the last boatload to the island. 
We took a quick walk through of the buildings and found them fascinating.  There were old pictures of all things nautical hanging on the walls in every room.  Some I would have loved to have had, others must have meant something to the HEB family alone...
We passed from room to room and marvelled at the rustic simplicity of the place.  There were no televisions, no computers... just books and a pool table where the guests could spend quality time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
There were sleeping quarters for probably a dozen or so people in the house, all with crisp clean linens.  The decorators did a marvelous job of keeping the old "feel" of the place but if you look more closely, it is all  meticulously maintained down to the most minor detail.  It was reminiscent of the "Mansions" in Newport, RI., though on a much smaller and more private scale. 
Once the guys arrived, we got to the end of the chow line for the best burgers and fixins' on the island. We got our dinner and found places on the front stairs to sit and eat and enjoy the first class view with our friends. 
We had all brought libations to sip while we enjoyed the day.  We took some pictures for the website and lazed around talking and laughing.  It was such a fun day.
Once we felt that our dinner was sufficiently digested for a climb... we geared up to head to the top!  Why go to the HEB Lighthouse if you aren't going to climb up?
I think I'm borderline afraid of heights... Standing at the bottom looking up, it seemed a bit daunting.  But this isn't my FIRST lighthouse, after all. 
 So up we went.  Nobody counted the steps but there were a LOT of them!  We passed window after window as we spiralled upward.
I grew more nervous as we ascended.  These gauges keeping tabs on the cracks in the walls did nothing to help the situation brewing in my mind...  I had to keep telling myself that this means that someone is keeping tabs on the condition of these old walls and they wouldn't let us go up if it weren't safe...
When we arrived at the top, it was all worth it.  The view was breathtaking.  We could see for miles up the channel and down, all across the flats towards the Bay. 
And with the high winds being even more breezy up here away from all possible windbreaks, it really was "breathtaking".  I was thankful for the fence surrounding the lighthouse landing.  There were gusts that felt like they would sweep us away as we walked the perimeter.
I didn't stay out there much longer than it took to get a good look around and a few pictures before I scrambled back through the tiny door to be back inside out of the winds.  We took one last look around and then climbed (nervously) back to the bottom.
We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the porch pretending to be Lords of the Manor in our private paradise.  We were near last to arrive on the island so we waited for those who had come before us to be taken back to the marina first.
We waited as boatloads of our friends disappeared, leaving us to enjoy the place as they had.  Finally our turn came to board the boat.  We were treated to a rare (for me) close up look at the beautiful "Texas Flamingos" (Roseate Spoonbill) as they spooned through the marshy waters for their supper.  They seemed completely unafraid of us as I busily snapped pic after pic.
We arrived safely back at the dock after a rather more splashy ride.  It was nearing sundown and our boats were a site with all flags fluttering in the waning light.
It wasn't Memorial DAY, but it was the celebratory weekend and we all enjoyed a moment of appreciation for those who protect our country while we go about our lives in safety and privilege. 

We had an impromptu dock party while we waited for the music of Larry Joe Taylor to begin across the way at the Back Porch.  We all brought out our folding chairs and lined the dock to listen for free as the breeze carried his music right to our appreciative ears.  Of course I didn't wait too long after dark to slink off to the cozy V-berth for the night.

Brittney and Matt hadn't planned to stay the night with us because Leila doesn't like to sail, so they drove over for the afternoon then changed their minds and went to get the bratty dog and brought her back to Port A. It was nice having the kids with us in the early morning watching the boat parade (fishermen) going out before sunrise.

Leila had no problem tolerating the boat as long as she doesn't have to wear a life jacket and bounce around.  She was very glad to be here with her dogie Mommy for a sleepover.  She seemed thrilled to be out where all the other boat doggies were for a change. 

We really miss having our boat our in Port A.  So much so that we've put our name back on the list for a slip when one comes open.  This is only one of the reasons.  We never tire of early mornings in Port A.

There's nothing like coffee with Bailey's on the deck watching the sun come up.  Even Leila agrees.

Once we all got up and going, we had an hour or so to kill until the expected arrival of Melissa and Michael.  We decided to take Brittney and Matt for a ride around the town on the Trolley.  It's been some time since we did and the kids had never been, so we caught a ride and took the tour.
Back at the Marina, Bruce took me for a spin in the dinghy to take a look around.  We always love checking out the other boats and seeing if there are any slips that look available.  We try to remember the numbers so that when we finally get the call, we'll know if it's a slip we want or not. 

When we arrived back at the boat, Matt was trying (again) to learn to throw the net so that he could catch his own bait for fishing.  He caught this little fellow.  Not a keeper for sure. 

Melissa and Michael arrived and he had to try his luck as well.  I gave it a shot but failed miserably and gave up.  I could only stand about three throws before my puny arms complained.  Michael was much more tenacious however...

He decided the physical approach wasn't working so he got out his phone and found a You Tube video to show him how it's done.  He studied it up and went at it again. 

While he was doing this... Matt made a splash.  Before anyone could tell him it might not be such a good idea... he was in the water paddling around with a big grin on his face.

We put the swim ladder down on the transom but Matt  had to try getting out the hard way.  He sliced his leg and foot up on the barnacles lurking under the dock.  Luckily I had a bunch of first aid stuff on board and I got to brush up on my Florence Nightingale skills with a real victim, er... patient.  I think he's going to live, but no more fun for him today!

We had to depend on Michael for our entertainment after that.  He worked all afternoon honing his net throwing skills. 

Thankfully we weren't dependent upon these guys for our dinner.  We grew bored of this before too long...

The guys decided that they needed cigars.  Off they went in the dinghy in search of them.  The girls went off to the store for some dinner stuff and arrived back at the boat after all the cigar smoking was done.

We lazed away the afternoon.  The heat of the day made us feel disinclined to do much at all...

You might notice that Leila gets around...

Finally it was time to work on dinner!  I must admit that I lied when I said the guys weren't catching our dinner.  Matt did actually catch one thing worth eating.  This was the one and only shrimp that was actually swimming around within minutes of being slapped on the grill...

Everyone waited patiently for the steaks and shrimp to be done...

While Bruce and Chip manned the grill. 

Brenda laid out the spread aboard Starfish and we all dug in.  It was a dinner fit for kings. 

We all agreed that we would much rather cook out on the dock and eat in casual peace, than get dressed up and sit in a crowded restaurant.  Besides... the food was much better than any we could have bought.   THIS is what "eating out" is all about!

We cleaned up our mess, said our goodbyes to Brittney, Matt and Leila, then went off to bed.  It had been a long hot day.  Michael stayed up fishing for a while and we never heard him come to bed.  Monday morning we had our coffee and breakfast, then saw Melissa & Michael on their way back to San Antonio.  We were left alone to start preparing to sail home.  Matt and Brittney arrived late morning and we set out.  We had planned to let the kids have some time at the helm.  Matt jumped right to it as we sailed down the channel. 

Brittney and I had more important things to do...  Time to get in some serious relaxing and sunbathing while we were still enjoying the relative calm of the channel.  We knew that once we got into the Bay it would be a different story.

I look forward to the day when we move our boat back to Port A.  I've missed the peace and feeling of being "somewhere else" I always get when we're there.  The sail across the Bay this Memorial day was quite a raucous one.  We had another go-around with the dredging equipment and the kids handled the big chop and high winds admirably.  We're going to have some great sailors in them.

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