Easter weekend at Harborwalk Marina

For the first time in a long time, we left Galveston Bay for a trip west on the ICW to Harborwalk Marina in Hitchcock, Texas.

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We visited Harborwalk four years ago, and the entire trip left a terrible taste in our mouths. Our engine overheated, the head backed up, the air-conditioning quit, the mosquitoes were unbearable, and drunk fishermen kept pulling up to the restaurant dock and revving their engines and blaring music all night. Then to top that all off, when we went to the pool in the morning a security guard escorted us out because we weren’t wearing Harborwalk wristbands despite having prepaid for our slip but arriving after the office had closed the night before.

Thankfully, this trip was better.

We cast off Friday morning with favorable winds. It’s not often you get both a north wind for the trip to Galveston and a south wind for the trip home, but it was one of those rare weekends.

It was an easy six-hour cruise from Kemah to Harborwalk with only a short delay at the Galveston Causeway Railroad Bridge. Entering the marina we were careful to stay in the center of the channel, but there was a still a section that read 5′ on depth finder. Definitely don’t cut the corners in and out of the channel because on Sunday a sailboat got stuck exiting too close to the bulkhead.

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We had reserved eight slips for the weekend at a flat rate of $50 per night. They were not charging by the size of boat or the size of the slip.

Apparently Harborwalk turned on power to the first eight transient slips. Unfortunately, one of the power poles was shorting out and fried the surge protectors in our friends’ boat. That scooted everyone down a slip. That meant the boat on the end had no power and despite getting called by 6 p.m. Friday night about the issue, the marina didn’t bother to respond and come flip the breaker on for that slip until Saturday morning.

While it was still a little too cold to swim, we took advantage of Harborwalk’s beautiful pool area to hang out and play a few rounds of cornhole. There was no longer a security guard throwing people out, but there’s also no longer a pool bar or restaurant. We heard rumors the marina was signing a lease deal with a new restaurant this week. (Take that rumor with a grain of salt because we kept hearing Watergate would have a new restuarant open in three months every three months for three years before Opus Ocean Grille finally moved in.)

The lack of restuarant and bar definitely cut down on the loud small boat traffic, which made for beautiful, peaceful evenings, and although we didn’t try any, our friends said the food at the ship store was great.

We got to witness a gorgeous blue moon Saturday night.

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Unfortunately the mosquitoes were just as bad as they had been on our previous visit. The marina is surrounded by swampland, so make sure and bring plenty of spray.

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However, the clear view out over the swap made for some great sunsets. It looked like a giant Easter egg on the horizon.

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There was one other strange incident worth mentioning in regard to our visit. There was a crab trap in the water near the transient docks with a dead, bloated otter inside it. It was unclear as to whether the otter somehow crawled inside, got trapped and drowned or if it was stuffed inside and left there. Either way, it was pretty gross.

While the facilities are gorgeous, Harborwalk still has some work to do to become a great marina.

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The difference a dink makes

The wind was a steady 25 knots, gusting over 30, blowing straight off the shore of the small island behind which we were anchored. Both of our dogs, whom refuse to to soil our boat (at least while we’re there) hadn’t relieved themselves in more than 24 hours and looked absolutely miserable.

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I held tight to the standing rigging as I stood on the cabin top and looked over my small kayak trying to decide if I could even make any headway towards the island or if I’d be blown back past the boat and out into the middle of the bay if I attempted the trip to shore.

It wasn’t so much that I was worried about what would happen to me and two dogs in life jackets on a kayak — we’d just be carried ashore somewhere in San Leon. The problem was that if I couldn’t get back to the sailboat, Mary would be stranded there, unable to lift the anchor and leave.

That was the weekend we really began dinghy shopping.

But what type and size of a dinghy did we need and how would we power it?

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Luckily we had many boating friends also looking for dinghies, so we waited and learned from their experiences.

Our friends on the Tina Marie Too had a big double floor West Marine inflatable with a 20hp 4-stroke engine. It was comfortable. It planed up. It held a lot of people. It was way too big for our boat. We ruled out a fiberglass floor inflatable.

Our friends on Escondida had an 8′ slat floor inflatable with a 5 hp. It was small, light and could easily be lifted on and off the foredeck. It could also be rolled up and stowed in the cabin. It didn’t hold much, and it was very slow.

Our friends on Folie a Deux bought a Port-a-bote. It wasn’t too heavy, and it folded flat to tie against the lifelines. However, it was only rated for a 2.5 hp motor, and they got caught with a strong headwind in Matagorda Bay and couldn’t make any forward progress.

What we really thought we wanted was a Takacat. However, actual Takacat inflatables are quite expensive, so we started looking at the generic Saturn inflatable catamarans available. Our friends on Hippokampos got curious about them as well and bought one.

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Not tapering together at the bow makes for a very wide dinghy. In fact, we referred to it as the barge. It was sort of a strange ride because you could feel the flex in the middle when a wave raised one pontoon and then the other. They’ve been cruising with it for over a year now, and you can actually read their entire review of it here. While they had no major complaints, we realized there was no way we could put a boat that wide on our foredeck, and we weren’t sure we’d even have the space to inflate and deflate it anywhere on Gimme Shelter.

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We went back to thinking we would go with an 8′ slat floor roll-up with a 5hp Lehr propane engine. While small and slow, that seemed to be the best option for our 34′ sailboat. We also wouldn’t have to carry gasoline along with the diesel and propane we were already carrying. We started saving and kept waiting for the big sale at West Marine.

However, sometimes the right dinghy finds you.

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Our friends over at SVMimzy.com asked if we were interested in a 10′ AB rigid floor inflatable with a Mercury 9.9 hp 2-stroke. While it was about ten years old, it was in really nice shape. I just didn’t think we could lift it or that we’d have space for it on the boat. I was incredibly surprised when the boat only weighed around 100 pounds, and I could pick it up and move it around myself — and it just barely fit on our foredeck. I have to lift it up and bit to open and close the anchor locker, but it works.

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We’ve anchored out more times this year than in almost all of our past years of sailing combined thanks to being able to easily get the dogs back and forth to shore.

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Of course, it’s been useful for more than just carting dogs around. Mary and I have made runs up and down the ICW from Bolivar to Stingarees.

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We can finally explore islands and anchorages together instead of taking turns on the kayak.

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It’s also been great for carrying my photography equipment to shore. I’d never risk it on the kayak, but now I can get the camera, lenses and tripod all safely to shore to set up for great shots like this.

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While we’re getting by with raising and lowering the dinghy and motor using our halyards, the next question is to davit or not to davit.

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Looking for those bookings

As has been mentioned in previous blogs, one of our ideas to slow the burn on our savings while cruising is to play music along the way as a source of income. In preparation we’ve started playing shows in the Houston area to hone our skills, make sure we have the right equipment, and add a little bit of cash to the cruising kitty.

Last week I played a solo acoustic show at Little Woodrow’s in Katy, Texas. It was nice that our Gimme Shelter T-shirts had just arrived the night before.

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This was a very last minute booking, so I was lucky that with less than 24 hours notice I still had 10 friends and blog readers come out to see me.

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We’re currently trying to hard to book at least two shows per month for the rest of the year, hopefully some of which are in the Kemah area. As our schedule fills in, we’ll update the events calendar on our Facebook page.

Until then, here’s a new video of Mary and I covering Bubble Toes by Jack Johnson.

2016 GBCA Women’s Regatta

The only requirement for the GBCA Women’s Regatta is that there must be a woman at the helm from the starting line to the finish line. Somehow this year I got volunteered for this honor, and I dared not refuse. On our race boat there is a tradition as well of the woman backing the boat out and returning it to her slip.  “Dockline to dockline”

The Friday before I was greatly discouraged by the men-to-women ratio at the pre-race skippers meeting, and I encouraged all of my sailing girlfriends to come on out and show them how serious we were.

My friend Kayla from SV Folie a Deux joined us as well for her very first race.

We had a great mix of seasoned veterans and newbies out for the ride, and everyone really came together as a team. The veterans became teachers, and the other ladies were really focusing on learning their jobs.

Meanwhile our captain, Doug, was busy teaching me how to trim to the telltales.  A big part of this that I missed was steering from a place where you can actually see them. That helps a lot.

Even harder to do while you’re constantly being distracted by ladies wanting pictures. 😛

Overall we did really well for a heavy boat in light wind, taking 4th.

I can’t wait for next year’s Women’s Regatta!  Which of these lucky ladies will get to helm next?!!!  🙂

Big thank you for all the pictures Mike Cameron!

Installing new acrylic fixed ports

I finally tackled the leaking fixed ports this weekend. Removing the old leaking windows took much more effort than I had anticipated, but other than that, the entire project went well, and I managed not to stain the deck with too much black Dow Corning sealant.

Step 1: Remove old fixed ports.

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The screws came out easy, but the sealant did not want to let go. As you can see, I didn’t manage to get either window off in one piece. Note that the factory method for mounting these windows required painting the edges and the center black, so that you couldn’t see the sealant through the window. However, that means you’re now bonding to the paint instead of the acrylic, so we decided not to do the painting. We also decided not to use screws.

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The center sections were completely coated in sealant. While this made the old windows ridiculously hard to get off, it did nothing to actually keep them from leaking.

Step 2: Scrape and clean the mounting surface.

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Step 3: Apply 3M mounting tape

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Step 4: Level the new plexiglass window and pop it on the mounting tape.

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Step 5: Mask around the freshly mounted fixed port.

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Step 6: Goop it up with Dow Corning 795.

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Step 7: Smooth the sealant into all the cracks, wipe up the excess, and then pull the tape and peel the paper off the plexiglass.

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Step 8: Admire your new fixed ports that no longer leak when it rains.

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Pelican Rest Marina

PelicanRest02This marina is located just off mile marker 26 in Offat’s Bayou, just across from Moody Gardens on the south side of Galveston Island.  The marina has a total of 10 transient slips, at $2.50 a foot.  Reservations can be made by emailing dockmaster@pelicanrestmarina.com, but be prepared for a hefty amount of paperwork.

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Pelican Rest Marina is a white-glove marina, and they offer all the services to go with it.  This includes a vessel-concierge service that will bring you anything you need from the bait and tackle store, the restaurant, or one of the many ice coolers they have on site. Marina guests can also take advantage of the pool bar, restaurant, and outdoor tiki bar.  There are also water sports rentals available such as sailboats, jet skis, kayaks, and small fishing boats.  While there is not a lot of walking grass, there is a small dog run perfect for small dogs.

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One of the distinguishing characteristics of Pelican Rest is the ability slip owners have to customize their piers.  Fishing boats are able to put fish cleaning stations on the docks outside their boat.  Small motor boats can add lifts to their piers.  They also have small palapas which you can rent monthly, and then have attached to the slip next to your dock.  These palapas are private, and have signs with the owners boat name, blocking off the doorway.  They are very nice, and often include wet bars, rocking chairs, tables and whatever else you can imagine.

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The complaint we had about Pelican Rest was their lack of a breakwater. Despite “no-wake” signs on the surrounding channel the rocking can be a bit extreme.

Amenities: Restaurant, Pool, Fuel Dock, Band and Tackle, Storage, Transportation, Electric, Weigh Station

Cost: $2.50/ft

Contact Number: (409) 744-7428

Website: http://www.pelicanrestmarina.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pelicanrest?fref=ts

Bridge Harbor Yacht Club – Freeport

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This Marina is located in Freeport, Texas on the ICW, just east of the 332 Surfside Bridge. The bridge height is not listed on charts but clearance was no problem for our O’Day 34 or the Pearson 422 that was with us.

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Bridge Harbor Yacht Club has made a huge number of improvements in the past three years. The marina has a full service fuel dock with both diesel and gas. There is a small ship’s store that is open regular hours and sells all the basic boater needs. The store also has a welcoming crew of four beautiful parrots who are an attraction all to themselves.

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There is also a large beautiful restaurant in the main building. We didn’t get a chance to eat here because of our late arrival, but I have heard the burgers are the best in Freeport.

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Attached to the restaurant is a small pool with a swim-up pool bar and several tables.

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Currently they do not have a liquor license, but the bar should be opening soon. There is also another pool as well as tennis courts overlooking the water near the adjoining condos, which are partially owned by BHYC.

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Restrooms were clean and very close to the transient docks, and the owners and crew at the marina were very friendly and helpful. Reservations were simple to make, and there was no trouble getting a slip during Labor Day weekend. I think this place will really draw a crowd next summer, as this marina is really going to be very nice and finished by then.

The only issue we found is that there is very limited dog walking space.

Amenities: Fixed Piers, 50 amp power, bathroom with shower, restaurant, fuel (gas and diesel), pool, tennis courts

Cost: $2 per foot (Transient)

Contact Number: Mingo 979-824-2776

Website: None

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bridge-Harbor-Yacht-Club/155114047858768?fref=ts