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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Etsy as a second income: Cruising and beyond

I’m coming up on two years now of having my etsy store up and running and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the numbers.  The idea was to have a small business that I could do while cruising to help slow the burn of savings.  I’ve been selling recycled sailcloth goods and small canvas pieces online and shipping them out all over the world.  I’m going to try to evaluate whether this could work while cruising based on a few basic criteria.

The Work:  When deciding whether the work could be done on a sailboat or not I need to divide the recycled sail work from the canvas work.  I think that if I had a choice I would not want to make recycled sailcloth bags on a boat.  The biggest obstacle with it is space.  The sail takes a lot of room to store before it is made into bags, and afterwards even more space.  The bags don’t sell quickly and the amount of inventory you would end up storing would make your life miserable.  The sail also takes a lot of space to clean and spread out for cutting up.  Sailbags also need hardware to make which takes additional storage.  The canvas work however would be very feasible on a boat.  If you chose a few limited colors and bought large rolls of sunbrella storage would be relatively easy.  Products would be made to order and would not need to be stored afterward.

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The Platform:  My experience with Etsy has been great and it’s only getting better.  They do a lot to advertise your products at no additional cost.  You can of course pay for more advertising, but I never have.  They make it extremely easy to manage your listings and to put your shop on vacation if you need more time.  They also have a built in shipping forms that make it extremely easy to print and ship things.  All of their stats are downloadable in excel and they really try to make them useful and easy to read.  Minimal fees.

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The $$:  So here is the real question.  In almost two years I have made a grand total of $4,486.01 profit on 98 orders.  That’s not counting the cash sales I have made locally. I haven’t spent any money on advertising either locally or online.  I also shut the site down for a bit this spring because of my regular job picking up.  Of all of my products listed most of the revenue came from my small canvas items.

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I think that doing canvas work both online and through etsy would be a viable option while cruising.  It’s definitely working out better than our music career did. While I wouldn’t suggest it as your only source of income I do think that the space and time that it takes in your life would be worth it for the money it brings in.  Having a sewing machine on the boat could also come in handy in a tight spot.

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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2016 Icicle #3: A little bit rainy

The forecast said the thunderstorms wouldn’t start until 3 p.m., but the rain came early Saturday.

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The first leg of Icicle #3 had us close-hauled in 13 knots of wind, so we tried reefing in the jib to drop it from a 130 to a 100 to see if we could point a little higher this week. We made good speed and had a more neutral helm, but we still couldn’t point as high as most of the fleet.

It probably didn’t help that just before we started the race the slug on the back of the mainsail jumped out of the track on the boom, and we had to do some quick rigging with an extra line to tie it back down. I guess we’re going to have to put a larger slug on there.

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The wind then shifted to right off the mark during the second leg, which sent everyone tacking. I saw a couple boats choose to make about 10 short tacks instead of 3 or 4 long ones, and we caught up to a few of them.

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The last leg shifted back and forth between a broad reach and a run and got quite rainy. I wish I had a photo of all four crew members and the dog huddling under a leaky dodger.

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Judging by the time between lightning flashes and the thunder, it was never THAT close to us, but it was still a little unnerving when it would light up the sky.

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Based on performance in the first two races, our PHRF got shifted from 180 to 186, which moved out start time from 11:56 to 11:55. However, due to the mainsail issue we didn’t get started until 11:59. We finished at 2:16 with three boats behind us, which might be the best finish we’ve had so far. More importantly, we didn’t break anything, but we will have to work on the main. I’m also going to have to replace the halyards soon as they’re stretching and chalky, but my budget says we’re going to have to wait a few months on that.

Thank you to Brian, Matt, Shari and Tony for crewing, and special thanks to Shari for bringing kolaches and pulling her phone out in the rain to take a few photos for the blog this week.

That last step is a doozy: Ending 2015 with a break … and a crash

Our apologies for the lack of blogging lately.  Things. got. crazy.

We had an action-packed December planned. There was going to be a tour of a sail loft with a “how it’s made” story about our new mainsail. I was so excited to see the sail loft and try the machines.  We were going to be reporting from the Kemah Christmas Boat Parade. We were scheduled to play our first boat band bar gig. We were even trying to schedule one last dinner cruise for the winners of our the United Way silent auction. We really were going to crank it up and end the year on a high note. We were honestly so excited for all of these plans! 

Notice I said, “were.” All of our plans changed two weeks ago on a sunny Sunday afternoon when Mary was just casually stepping off of a friend’s boat. She was wearing good shoes, the deck wasn’t wet, she had nothing in her hands, and we hadn’t had a thing to drink. She just stepped down wrong, and she heard the bones in her foot crack as she collapsed onto the dock.  I sort of stepped half on-half off the side of the step. I hadn’t even made it off the dock before I blacked out from the pain. 

A quick run to the emergency room confirmed not one, but two broken bones — one in her foot and one in her ankle. It looked like our boating was done for the year.

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As they say, when it rains, it pours. Just a day later she suffered another accident that totaled her car. Ironically, I was driving to the hospital to have a follow-up done on my foot. Thankfully I did not have to go to the hospital because of the crash.

I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to keep Mary as calm as possible, which is a challenge. If I leave the room for too long I’ll catch her hopping around the house working on various projects or trying to clean instead of resting and icing her leg. I think putting your wife in bed and taking away the crutches should be illegal.  I mean, I already lost my car…

The entire incident brought up a big question. What if this had happened while we were cruising? How would we have handled this if we were hours or even days away from a hospital? What kind of medications and first aid supplies should we have on board? What kind of health insurance would we need in a foreign country? The good news is last weekend we found out that I can navigate the boat on one leg without too much trouble — albeit somewhat slowly. 

Thankfully these were simple fractures. The only treatment is to splint the ankle and ice the foot while we wait for the bones to heal. In Scouts we used to practice making splints out of magazines and other random objects, so should we ever face a simple fracture in the future, I’m ready. However, if it’s a compound fracture with jagged bones sticking out of the skin, we’re probably calling the Coast Guard.

As Mary continues to recover we’re now trying to decide what kind of car to buy. Saying that our taste in vehicles differs greatly would be a mild understatement. Honestly we’re both making bad choices, but in different directions.

We want to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year. The 2016 GBCA Icicle Series begins January 2, so we’ll be kicking off the new year with lots of activity.

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Have a safe holiday, and watch that last step in 2015, it’s a doozy!

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

Weekend plans

It looks like we’ll finally have an entire weekend with no rain here in Houston.

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Saturday we’ll be crewing in the Galveston Bay Cruising Association Women’s Regatta. Mary isn’t quite ready to helm Gimme Shelter in a race, so we’ll be on Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed on during the Icicle Series earlier this year.

Sunday we hope to stop by Lakewood Yacht Club for the 2015 Keels & Wheels Show. Who doesn’t want to classic cars and some gorgeous wooden boats while benefiting Boys & Girls Harbor?

Then sometime in-between all that excitement I plan to change the steaming light, mount a wind instrument, run cables down the mast, install a NMEA 2000 backbone, and change the zincs in our heat exchanger … unless, of course, we decide to just go sailing instead.

Planning the Spanish Virgin Islands

In June we’ll be making our first big trip of the year, flying from Houston to Puerto Rico, then spending a week on a Lagoon Catamaran exploring the Spanish Virgin Islands.

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We were invited on the trip by friends we made crewing in the Icicle Series Regatta — yet another reason why it pays to spend some time crewing on different boats and meeting new people in the sailing community.

While it’s too early to know what the weather will be doing in June, we have started mapping out our planned destinations and creating an ambitious but tentative itinerary. I wasn’t familiar with the SVIs, so I spent today mapping it out to better understand the trip.

Now to do some research on all of the things to see and do in these locations!

2015 GBCA Icicle Series begins

With rainy weather in the mid-50s, there were no actual icicles to be seen during the first race of the 2015 Galveston Bay Cruising Association Icicle Series Regatta. However, I was glad I decided to put on a coupe extra layers of clothing before reporting to the boat Saturday morning.

With Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed with last year, suffering from a leaking fuel pump, I crewed for our friends Andy and Jayne aboard their new boat Hippokampus, a Pearson 422. It was my first time sailing with them, and it was their first time racing the boat, so it was a learning experience for all of us.image

All was going well as we approached the starting line. Then we attempted our first tack to begin the race.

That turned out to be a very long tack. The jib wrapped itself up on the furled stay sail, and it never took less than two of us to run to the foredeck and work it loose. Jibes were no problem, but a clean tack proved impossible, and we ended up starting ten minutes late.

Once started, the first leg of the race went well. Then when we were about ten minutes away from the second marker, the wind shifted. That resulted in a couple more very dirty tacks to stay out of the ship channel and make it around the tower.

The last leg would have been uneventful until we were about ten minutes from the finish, at which point the wind completely died. That last ten minutes stretched to thirty as we sped towards the channel at a whopping 1 knot.

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Of course, the day wouldn’t have ended appropriately if we hadn’t had to make one last tack to get through the finish markers. We actually furled the jib and used to stay sail to  make the turn, then unfurled the jib to finally crawl across the line.

It’s interesting how many time during the race that starting ten minutes late made a difference. Of course, nobody was worried about where we placed. It was great just to be on the water with friends, learning the ins and outs of a new boat. Of course, the rum served after the race was great too.

More photos of the regatta can be found here, courtesy of John & Scott Lacy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lacyphotos/sets/72157649706310299/