Saturday, July 30, 2011


Day 1: I cannot imagine the disappointment of preparing for the Texas 200 and then having to pull your boat out of the water and go home on the first day. One sailor had to do just that. He told us later that he let himself get dehydrated during the day preparing his boat for launch, which in turn leads to aggravating a heart condition. We saw him at the boat ramp pulling his boat out still wearing his emergency room wrist band. He looked disappointed, but we did our best to help assure him he had made the right decision to pull out.
getting GIR ready

Mizzen and sprit

We were the last leave Port Isabel. We sailed out of the harbor, and found ourselves all alone headed north up Laguna Madre. We did think about going offshore but we did not have the correct safety gear and since we slept late we where hours behind the others. We continued north. Mik and I spent some time getting to know each other and told each other all sorts of sailing tales and other tall tales. It was some great conversation.
Our goal was to sail to the seaward end Port Mansfield jetties. With the typical direction of the afternoon sea breeze we all knew it was going to be a hard upwind beat to Camp 1, straight upwind a very narrow channel. Most of the morning was in comfortable winds and flat waves so we just enjoyed ourselves. While getting close to our turning point at the Port Mansfield channel we pulled over, trimmed the mizzen tight, dropped the sail and put in the #2 reef and got ourselves ready to sail straight up wind. We watched a few boats ahead of us turn west to Port Mansfield and head into port. We saw one of the catamarans capsize near a small island near the edge of the channel while the other cat was already pulled up on the beach. We cut the corner of the channel but had to back track since the water was getting shallow very quickly.

bailing after the big wave

Tacking up the channel was a bear. Around Texas you can usually cheat the channel markers by a few yards, so while sailing just beyond the red side of the channel we ran aground, rather hard. We tacked over and sailed a few yards beyond the green side of the channel, we ran aground again. We found the tide dropping and as it did the edges of the channel became more and more apparent. We short tacked up the channel against the wind with Mik on the helm, running the mizzen and me on the main sheet. After about the 10th tack we were getting good at short tacking the channel. Unfortunately, as we got closer to the jetties the waves began to stack up, an outgoing tide with a very strong breeze created some big waves rolling squarely down the channel. The waves got bigger the closer we got to the Gulf of Mexico.  A few of the waves would join up and create a bigger wave than normal. The wave was steep on both sides. On more than one tack Mik and I tacked only to find the boat airborne coming off the back side of a wave. We timed our tacks as best we could but the edge of the narrow channel told us when we had to tack so timing the waves was not always an option. Imagine Mik and I both slamming tacks with both of us perched on the windward side hiking out hard to level the boat and power thru the rough chop. We did take at least 2 waves over the bow that forced us to beach the boat on the edge of the channel and bail. One time Mik walked the boat along the shallows while I bailed and another Mik bailed and I walked the boat towards the next camp slowly along the edge of the channel. We ended up walking the last 50 yards up to the other boats that had pulled up onto a small beach, just short of Camp 1.
 Most of us were fine with not making Camp 1 which was about a mile more up the channel. It was straight upwind anyway and we were tired and on vacation. We were curious when we saw the Pilgrim 22 turn in the channel and head downwind towards Port Mansfield. We learned later that their centerboard had jammed and they headed to the boat lift to fix it.

Our Camp 1

Our evening meal

We found a dry spot on the narrow beach and set up camp. I don’t remember what we had for dinner but Mik and I sat in the back of our GIS and enjoyed the cooling breeze. I was still tired from jet lag and slept well. The next morning was beautiful.
Evening Sunset

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Texas 200 Update

The 2011 Texas 200 was a great success for the sailing club and GIR. Last year David, my young son and I sailed the Texas 200 with great success. This year the designer, Michael Storer and I sailed and had an absolute blast sailing my Goat Island Skiff named GIR. Even in the high winds and rough water the GIS performed as if designed for the conditions we sailed in all week. I could not have asked for better conditions to test the boat and crew. With this update I intend to fill in the gaps of our “live” blog with more details that I hope everyone reading will enjoy.
Boat Preparation:
 Getting the boat ready from 1500 miles away could not been done without the support of my wife, Rosa and children, David and Desiree. I would send them an email of things I needed done or items needed to be bought. Then on the weekends I would fly home and these items would be waiting for me to be installed or packed. They are the best land crew I have ever had.
Getting There:
 Mik and I discussed the problems with jet lag as pertaining to risk management. We both would be suffering from jet lag the first few days of the event and were afraid that our enthusiasm and jet lag could lead to a sailing mistake. We discussed how we would sail the boat, eat and camp before we even met. These conversations lead to one of the best trips I have ever had with a complete stranger, much less a crazy Australian sailor.
My family and I started packing the boat and gear within a few hours of me getting back to Texas from California.  Within a day of getting back home, with boat in tow I headed south with a 6 hour drive down to Port Isabel, Texas. The drive was surprisingly easy.
There was a major traffic jam near the White Sands Motel where I was to meet with Mik. It took me close to 2 hours to travel 4 miles near the causeway, all the time worried that someone would run into the boat. I was so close to getting into the parking lot but still so far away from getting the boat into the water. I arrived in the peak heat of the afternoon and found Mik in the comfort of an air conditioned room. We jumped right into boat prep and lugged all the boat gear out of the minivan and into the hotel room. We did do a little work on the boat by adding some non-skid tape to the cockpit floor. (Glad we did)

Night before Preparation:
We put all our gear in the middle of the floor and our beds to see what I packed. I packed not only my gear and food but Mik’s also. I had packed 2 of everything and more food than we needed for 6 days of sailing. After careful consideration we were able to decrease the amount of gear and food by a good amount so we could keep the GIS as light as possible. Water was our biggest weight concern and another larger boat offered to carry half of our water supply. This saved about 50 lbs of water weight.

Mik and I discussed going offshore with some of the others because the weather forecast was predicting the most perfect conditions for the 40 mile sail to the Port Mansfield jetties. Due to our jet lag and never sailing together we elected to sleep in the next morning and take the inshore route. We were last to leave the dock. The extra sleep felt good.