Our Best Photos of 2016

Happy new year and welcome to 2017. I hope all of our readers made it, unlike all those celebrities that didn’t.

I haven’t had time to write anything new for the new year, so I thought I’d kick things off with a photographic retrospective of 2016. Deciding on our “best” photos is very subjective, and I didn’t actually ask Mary’s opinion on these. I just scrolled through all the folders of photos from the past year and picked my favorites. So, in no particular order, here are my favorite photos that we took during our adventures in 2016.

The party never stops in Galveston Bay

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We spent an action-packed weekend on the water. We headed south as soon as Mary got home form work and took a group of my co-workers out for Kemah Friday night Fireworks.

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Everyone seemed to have a great time, and two of the guys even came back Saturday to help crew the Rum Race aboard Antares.

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I hadn’t worked the winches on that boat in a while, so I was a bit rusty the first leg. However, we got everything worked out by the end of the second leg.

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That’s when we ran into Wheeee Doggie, another Cal 40, and the third leg turned into a One Design race. (We won!)

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As usual we celebrated with some rum after the race. Mary REALLY liked Doug’s last selection, so there was quite a bit of dancing later at Outriggers when we dinked over for dinner.

Sunday morning we were up early to prep Gimme Shelter for another cruise around the bay.

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Our ColdCans had arrived and worked great with their non-skid bottoms, keeping our drinks cold in 95+ degree weather.

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It was the perfect day to be on the water with winds ranging from 8 – 12 knots.

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Even Dixie Belle had a good time.

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GBCA Icicle Series Race #4 – Low Tide, No Wind

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Recent north winds have been draining Clear Lake and Galveston Bay of all their water.  This beach pictured above normally does not exist, and you can see how close that channel marker is in the distance.

The low water conditions left us on the dock until the very last minute deciding if we should risk trying to get out.  Our boat is a shoal draft, and is the most likely to make it. Unfortunately it’s pretty under-powered motor wise, and can’t plow through mud very well. In the end we successfully braved it, but we saw plenty of other dedicated sailors who were obviously stuck.

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The winds were 2-5 knots, and we watched our calculated finish time climb past 9pm.  Icicle drop dead time is 3pm.

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Some boats were even flying spinnakers going upwind.

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When the time rolled past 3pm and we were not yet to the second marker we decided to just sail around a bit and then call it a day.  Many of the other boats were doing the same. In the end very few boats ended up finishing.  One of which was Hamburg (pictured above stuck) who took 2nd.

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The highlight of the trip for me was that I docked the boat for the first time, and didn’t hit anything! I took advantage of the extra crew to have Fred show me when to turn etc.  Just need to do that a few more times before I have it down.

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Thanks to Mike Cameron and Tina Caron for a couple of the pictures!

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.

2016 Icicle #2: A Spirited Sail

I took to the bay with a crew of 4 (5 if you count Dixie Belle) for the second race of the GBCA Icicle Series in the most intense wind Gimme Shelter has seen since we’ve owned her.

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We had 18 – 25 knots WNW the entire race, so it’s not a surprise that we finished almost an hour faster than last week with an end time of 1:46.

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Our first leg went well with the main double-reefed and our speed over ground averaging 7 knots. When we made the turn into the second leg we were still towards the front of the fleet.

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Daniel and Andy set to work shaking out our reef.

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We even set an official Gimme Shelter speed record while surfing a wave during a gust!

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However, the rest of the fleet was closing fast. The J-boats were absolutely flying.

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Until they weren’t …

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I wish I’d had a video camera running because there was some spectacular broaching going on behind us. We saw at least three boats go down.

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Meanwhile, our crew was suffering a bit. Dixie Belle was really tired of heeling, and one member of the crew, who shall remain nameless, spent some time feeding the fish on the third leg.

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Unfortunately with our shoal draft and 160 genoa, we just couldn’t point as high as the rest of the fleet on the last leg. I pinched up too much and our average speed dropped to about 4.5 knots. Then we still had to tack twice to finally cross the finish. That was bad driving on my part.

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But at least we finished fast enough this week that Scott Lacy was still there aboard Tramp to snap our photo. Thanks, Scott!

Of course, this wouldn’t be a real boat story without something breaking.

With the new blocks and all the cam cleats working correctly, we started paying more attention to the actual lines — and they were in bad shape.

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The outer sheath on the starboard jib sheet was completely broken, and the port sheet was almost as bad.

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The outhaul and reefing lines also had big problems. I had planned to spend Sunday removing the old radar tower, but instead I spent the day checking and replacing lines.

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By the end of the day we ended up with new jib sheets, new reefing lines, a new outhaul and a new boom vang.

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My time in Boy Scouts obviously paid off because 25 years later I can still whip the end of a rope.

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I just wish I knew how to splice eyes into the ends of the line. Maybe learning to splice will be a goal for 2016.

Big thanks to Daniel, Shari, Andy and Brian for crewing with me, and an extra special thank to Mary for letting us play on her boat in high winds.

 

 

The 2015 Lakewood Yacht Club Harvest Moon Regatta

When you buy a boat in Kemah, Texas you can’t help but hear stories of certain things like Redfish Island, Double Bayou, and the Harvest Moon Regatta.

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It seemed like every sailor with even a little bit of salt had done the Harvest Moon at some time or another. It also seemed like a whole lot of them had suspiciously “won it” more than once.

The regatta is a three-day, two-night race from Galveston to Port Aransas. It’s been an event that I’ve wanted to participate in for years now, but it always seemed I was traveling for work or had some other major conflict.

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This year I thought I was going to miss it again because Mary was out of vacation, and I was already taking two weeks off for a boat delivery in November. However, we had friends in need of one more crew person at the last minute, and they didn’t need me to help sail the boat back. That meant I would only miss one day of work, and Mary agreed to drive down to Port Aransas to treat herself to a spa day before meeting us at the marina for the party.

The weather is looking a little bit scary. It’s probably going to be raining sideways the entire time. This will also be my first attempt at sleeping on a boat under sail. We’ll see how that goes.

When we start Thursday you’ll be able to follow our track at http://trackleaders.com/harvest15i.php?name=HIPPOKAMPOS

One thing is certain, we’ll have plenty of wind.

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UPDATE: Looks like I won’t be sailing in the Harvest Moon Regatta this year. We got this message from Lakewood Yacht Club a few minutes ago.

THE 2015 HARVEST MOON REGATTA® RACE SCHEDULED TO BEGIN OCTOBER 22, 2015 HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

Due to serious concerns about the safety of participants and their vessels due to hazardous weather conditions predicted by several weather authorities, Lakewood Yacht Club, as Host, and Bay Access, as Organizer, have decided to cancel the 2015 Harvest Moon Regatta® race.

Information regarding the other events scheduled to occur in Port Aransas as part of the regatta, including the Bacardi Rum Party, BBQ, and raffle events will be forthcoming.

The history and goal of the Harvest Moon Regatta® race is to promote offshore sailing in safe conditions such that the participants, whether seasoned sailing veterans or first time offshore sailors, can enjoy the race and trip down the coast with confidence and safety for all concerned. Race safety is paramount. Though it’s possible the weather could moderate during the time the race would have been held, the forecasts indicate the conditions will most likely remain such that race conditions, especially docking and vessel return conditions, will not meet the goals of the race as organized. Therefore, the 2015 Harvest Moon Regatta® race has been cancelled.

Rum Race #7 and a Redfish Island Barbecue

With the race boat that we crew on out of service for the week, we posted on facebook inviting anyone who wanted to come out with us for a little grilling at Redfish Island. Well not five minutes later our friends Shari and Daniel volunteered, and we were getting ready for a day of sailing.

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Even though we have limited destinations in Galveston Bay, one of the best things is that the flurry of boats and wildlife make every trip a new adventure. Today we happened to be sailing through the Cruzan Rum Race #7, and on a very similar course. Fortunately, having no start time we got a bit of a head start.

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It wasn’t long though before boats started passing us left and right. I spent most of my time on foredeck trying to snap shots of all of our racing friends.

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All the while Fred is at the helm yelling..”Get this one!”  “You’re missing all the good shots!”

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Well I think I got a couple decent ones.

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At one point we were even passed by Doug, our captain on Antares, crewing on a Walter and Beverley’s boat Shaken not Stirred. Daniel almost had to walk the plank when tried to toss Doug beer, and lost it forever in the drink.

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We even managed to catch a glimpse of this Flying Phantom absolutely streaking through the race.

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After clearing the intensity of the race we started to take down our sails and head for Redfish for an evening grill. As we dropped anchor we could see the racers heading downwind.

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Then it was time to fire up the grill.

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After an incredible meal of beer brats, grilled egg plant and salad it was time to raise anchor and head home. Me and Shari decided that, girl power and all that the two of us were going to raise the anchor. Well we didn’t know that Fred had a patented technique that involves cleating and waiting, and pulling and cleating, and so we were extremely unsuccessful and had to rely on men.

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Our sail home was all downwind jib sailing and was extremely lazy and beautiful.  We set the autopilot and all went up to the foredeck for some relaxing sailing.

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Of course we posed for a small photo shoot.

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After several hours of beautiful sunset sailing we realized that we had in fact been going very very slow.  At about 2 knots we were not going to reach shore anytime soon, so we finally started up the motor.  Arriving well after dark, despite the best efforts of some drunken navigation from foredeck pointing us away from the channel, we managed to arrive home safe and sound.

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GBCA Cruzan Rum Race #5

Saturday we reported to Kemah Boardwalk for Rum Race #5 of the current series. Hippokampus was out of action for the weekend, so their crew joined our crew on Antares. Mary took her post working the main sheet, but with plenty of able bodies aboard, I skipped winch duty and spent the afternoon sitting on the rail and taking photos. Here’s a few of my favorites from the day.

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I decided to shoot this entire race with my vintage 90mm Elmarit. While it provides a great crop for landscape shots of the race and gives me enough reach to capture the crew of passing boats, it’s not so good for capturing any pictures of the crew on your own boat.

While I was goofing off taking photos, Mary was doing a great job on the main sheet. I would say she has definitely conquered her anxiety in regard to heeling since we came across the finish looking like this.

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We had a great run, but a bittersweet ending to the day. The diesel wouldn’t start, so we had cruise up and down the channel a few times waiting for a tow boat to come get us.

But hey, at least we got another photo op when we sailed back past the committee boat.

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Thanks to Scott Lacy for the photos of Antares. Click here to see the rest of his shots from the race.

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.

A slow day racing is better than no day racing

We’re not really hardcore sailboat racers.

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In fact, I entered the boating world by restoring a sunken sailboat that didn’t move for almost three years. That probably makes me more of a sailboat mechanic than an actual sailor. I only took the ASA basic keel boat course because I needed to know how to run the lines when I put the boat back together.

Laid back cruising has always been the plan.

However, after being invited to crew on Antares last year, I’m really starting to enjoy racing. It’s definitely been great practice for sailing on our own boat, and we’ve made lots of new friends.

Last weekend Mary surprised me with a new set of Henry Lloyd foulies as an early birthday present, so I’d have them for the last two icicle series races.

They’re very nice. I put them on Saturday morning, and even the snowy egret hopped up on the breakwater to check them out.

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However, the foulies proved completely unnecessary. By race time the weather was so nice, and the wind was so light that we actually got Mary to come along for the ride as crew photographer.

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There was enough crew to run both Antares, Doug’s Cal 40, and Hippokampus, Andy’s Pearson 422.

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First leg started with the spinnaker flying, but even with the kites up, this photo pretty much captures the speed and intensity of the entire race.

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Yes, he’s napping on the transom. They also had a guy napping on foredeck.

Hippokampus was flying her spinnaker for the first time. The red, white and blue definitely looked good.

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I got some good practice working the spin sheets and the jib sheets, and Mary got some good photos.

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