Kemah Friday Night Fireworks are Back

This year the Kemah Boardwalk is putting on an incredible fireworks display every Friday evening in June and July, as well as Monday, July 4. I took a break from playing guitar on the dock to snap a few photos this week.

The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and is visible from almost everywhere in the Clear Lake area. From Watergate Marina we get a nice view over Clear Lake Shores.

Remaining 2016 dates for fireworks are June 24, July 1, 4, 8,15,22 and 29.

Hopefully we’ll get to anchor out in the bay to watch them soon.

Sailing with Dolphins

Labor day weekend was a long awaited chance for us to take Gimme Shelter to new destinations and have a bit of real adventure. Dixie had been having stomach issues all week, so Friday morning we had her checked by the veterinarian to make sure she was ok to travel. She got some antibiotics and some anti-nausea medicine then we were on our way to Kemah.

I got to work unloading all of our food and supplies onto the boat and carefully stowing them away while Fred made runs back and forth to the gas station for diesel. Our fuel gauge was only showing slightly above 3/4 when our filter funnel backed up and stopped filling the boat. That spot just above 3/4 was where the gauge was stuck when we bought Gimme Shelter. Apparently 3/4 was as high as the gauge was going to show.

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Around 1:15 we cast off from our marina and started our slow motor into the wind towards our first stop for the weekend, Laguna Harbor on the Bolivar Peninsula.

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We watched patched of rain pass beside and behind us, but thankfully they all missed us.

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Our slow motoring turned into quite the adventure after passing Redfish Island. The dolphins were out in full swing surfing the bow wakes of big cargo ships.

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We were making better time than expected, and despite our late start we were nearing Bolivar around sunset. Something about sunsets really makes dolphins jump out of the water, and as we crossed the ship channel we saw several small families of dolphins doing all sorts of weird things in the water. I’ve seen them swimming around pretending to do what I can only imagine is “playing shark”.  I’ve also seen them sort of “wrestling” around in the water.  Every once in awhile we get a chance to see them doing some jumps just for fun.

We entered Laguna Harbor and rendezvoused with our friends Andy and Jayne aboard their Pearson 422, Hippokampos, who were also making the Labor Day trip but had managed to leave Kemah a little earlier.

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The dogs are always glad when it’s time to start grilling.

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As we sipped a few beers we saw dozens of jellyfish swimming around the marina. They seemed to be popping up everywhere. We decided we wouldn’t be swimming anywhere in the bay that weekend.

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We shared a nice meal of chicken fajitas with Hippokampos before taking the dogs for one last walk before bed. That’s when Dixie walked up in the grass to drop a load — except as she was squatting I noticed she was pooping on a huge black snake. The snake had its head up looking at us inquisitively. Dixie finished her business and trotted on ahead. She never even knew it was there.

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How to avoid boating tickets this holiday weekend

The first warm-weather long holiday weekend of the year is upon us. The lakes and bays are going to be absolutely packed with people who have not operated their boats since the fall.

“You know what, Cousin Grandpa … we should take the boat out!”

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This influx of boating activity also brings heightened activity by the US Coast Guard, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, the Seabrook Police Department, and any other government body in the area with boats and ticket writing authority.

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Expect to see up to six boats from various departments patrolling the no-wake zone of the Kemah channel initiating stops for the following:

  • Boaters exceeding the 5 mph no-wake zone speed limit
  • Boat drivers with a visible open container
  • Drunk drivers
  • Expired registration tags
  • Incorrect bow light placement (Red goes to port!)

Usually if you have remedied the above bullets, you can avoid being stopped, but I’m no stranger to boardings. During my ASA 101 Basic Keelboat class we were stopped, boarded and the instructor was ticketed by Texas Parks and Wildlife for having an expired registration sticker. Then, the next July 4th when I finally had the Seahorse running, I was boarded by the Coast Guard because my bow light lens was on upside down. (Oops!) Thankfully they just let me switch the lens around and sent me on my way.

However, once you’ve been boarded you will definitely get a complete Vessel Safety Check. Expect the officers to go through your boat from top to bottom to make sure you are meeting the minimum safety requirements.

Here is the checklist they use to perform vessel safety inspections.

If the checklist is too hard to understand, you can try this online Virtual Vessel Examiner to see if you meet the standards.

In the Kemah area it seems like the checks focus on lifejackets, a throwable PFD, a horn, a first aid kit, making sure flares and fire extinguishers have not expired, the pollution/no discharge placards, and making sure your holding tank through hull is locked or wired shut.

Give your vessel a check before you hit the water this weekend and save yourself the hassle of being boarded and hopefully save yourself the cost of a ticket if you are.

And remember, getting a ticket sucks, but the guys out on patrol are not the enemy. They are the ones coming to save your ass when something like this occurs.

4 Ways we Reduced Trash, on and off the Boat

In the general spirit of earth day, I decided to try to make 4 changes in our household that would reduce the amount of general trash that we produce. On the boat the reasons are obvious — there is limited space. Besides having a tiny trash can, it gets old to constantly haul tons of tiny bags of trash to the dumpster, and the dumpster is only an option in the marina. At sea you may have to live with that trash for weeks and weeks.

Instead of buying a bigger trashcan and increasing the percentage of our small boat that was full of trash, I decided to make some changes. Most of our trash on the boat is cans and bottles, almost 100%. There is no recycling offered at the marina. So that leads me to..

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#1. Reusable bottles. While I wish we could trust the water from our holding tanks, it tastes terrible. However, from now on we’ve committed to never buying disposable plastic water bottles. We have several reusable bottles of different colors that we refill and keep in the fridge — most of which were free at some event or another. This provides the added benefit of being able to take the big jugs of drinking water home to refill them for free.

Besides buying pony kegs of beer or one of those soda makers I couldn’t think of anymore ways to reduce waste on the boat, and neither of those options seemed highly practical for weekenders. However, I’m open to more tips or suggestions.  We can always use less waste!

Not wanting to give up, I turned to our land-lubbing abode to find my other 3 rules to inflict on my husband.

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#2. Recycling at home. I cleaned out our pantry and went to the garage to find Fred’s recycling crate. He has never once used it…ever. It was totally full of junk, as a lot of things are in our garage. After spending way more time than I expected cleaning the garage (once you start it’s hard to stop), I installed our new recycling crate right in the pantry where hopefully it will get lots of use.

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#3. Composting. To go right along with my gardening I have this delightful composter. While I don’t get a lot of dirt back out of it, it does seem to make all of my yard/kitchen waste go away.

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#4. Reusable grocery bags. I had about 100 of these bags scattered throughout my house, not doing anyone any good.  I combined them all into the biggest bag, and I moved them out into my car. I figure even if I forget to take them back out here and there, I should have enough bags for grocery shopping already in my car for about a year. No excuses.

I know it’s not much, but it’s a start. Please feel free to leave any more tips on reducing waste!

Congratulations to John and Megan

It takes a lot to get Mary and myself off the water, but we had some very important duties this weekend. Mary was serving as the matron of honor in her best friend’s wedding, and I was lending my photography skills to the event. This is a sailing and adventure blog, not a wedding blog, so I’ll keep it short, but I will say, “Congratulations John and Megan. I hope you guys have many happy years together!”

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