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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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!

The 2016 Southwest International Boat Show

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The boat show is always one of our favorite things to do in Kemah.  We make sure to go at least one day, but it does run Thursday-Sunday.  We went with our friends Tina and Ray who are power boaters, and so naturally they wanted to head down the power boat row first.

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This Cruisers Yacht 45 was the first one we were drawn into.

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We were mesmerized by all its buttons. The shade outside retracts, the cushions on the back go flat and then recline anyway you’d like, and it has an inside sunroof.

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The next boat we wondered into was the 50 ft 2015 Maritimo M50 offered by Galati Yacht Sales.

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It seems like the fully enclosed fly bridges are the new standard. 2016_BoatShow_10

The downstairs had a somewhat small master, but a really cozy cubby of a VIP room that I sort of fell in love with.  Maybe because of my small size, I have always been drawn to small spaces.

The men seemed to be very impressed with the engine room, although I don’t see why.

The winds were really blowing us around on the dock, and climbing on and off boats was getting a bit exhausting, but we pressed on to the end of the power boat dock, and it’s a good thing we did or we never would have seen this pontoon with a water slide.

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After that we headed over to the sailboat dock. A lot of the boats we have already seen at past boat shows broker open houses in our marina. We just yawned as we walked by the 40+ft catamarans.

I did take a second to step onto the 52 Beneteau Sense though, as it was probably the biggest sailboat there.

Boat Show fever hit me hard looking at a little Island Packet 35 named Missy. No pictures of her as we were too busy calculating what we’d have to sell to buy her.

They had a few more toys and plenty of vendors to talk to. What surprised us most this year is how many people we knew. We couldn’t go anywhere without running into a friend. That was my favorite part.

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For us the surprises didn’t end at the festival, the real boat show started when we got back to the marina. Because of the high winds there was a boat stranded outside the channel and slowly dragging its way into the breakwater. I called the harbormaster and the coast guard, but they both just said to keep an eye on it and let them know if there is imminent danger.

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We didn’t get to stay to watch the rescue or demise of the vessel, but we heard from a friend that she eventually got unstuck and is safely back in her slip.

 

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.

 

 

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!

Our visit to Doug Jackson and SV Seeker in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The boat the Internet built — that’s the slogan emblazoned atop the website we’ve visited the past few months watching Doug Jackson’s progress as he continues to build SV Seeker, a 74-foot steel origami hull, junk rigged, cargo, motorsailer in his front yard.

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Doug has come to the conclusion that the best way to realize his dream is to share it with everyone around the world. Readers from across the globe comment with their ideas and expertise, and Doug is willing to house and feed anyone who wants to make the trek to Tulsa, Oklahoma to work on Seeker.

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As we made our way back to Houston on a cold, rainy Sunday after spending a week visiting family, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a small detour to meet Doug and actually see SV Seeker for ourselves.

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When we arrived we met Dave Fickle from Arizona who had spent the week of Thanksgiving helping Doug with wiring the ROV and welding the propeller shroud. He began welding cable guides onto the rudder quadrant while Doug took a break to give Mary and myself the grand tour.

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After a very busy summer the pilot house and hull are mostly constructed and some of the hatches are in place.

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The cabin is also beginning to take shape as Doug continues to leak-test his keels and tanks.

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The pile of portals is growing. If you look back at the hull photos, you can see that Doug has drawn in their future locations.

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The water-tight doors to be installed in Seeker’s cabin are also a sight to behold.

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We even got to check out Doug’s dinghy design, complete with seasonal elf captain.

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The tour was great, but no trip to visit SV Seeker would be complete without doing some work. Mary took an interest in the welding.

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Doug was kind enough to explain to her how the welder worked and gave her a quick lesson.

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And suddenly, Mary, who had never welded before, was attaching a cable guide to the rudder quadrant.

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And it turns out, her welding isn’t too bad!

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Doug said he estimates at least two more years of work before Seeker is ready to hit the water, and you’re probably wondering, how will Seeker get to the water.

Tulsa is actually an inland port city, and just 15 miles away from where Seeker sits is a shipyard on the Arkansas River where she’ll eventually be launched. Then it’s just a matter of making her way through the Oklahoma lock and dam system until eventually she’ll hit the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico.

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We could have stayed all day, but with dogs sitting in the car and another eight hours of driving to do, we had to say goodbye and get back on the road.

Special thanks to Doug for his incredible hospitality. We hope to see you again on the water.

Make sure to visit Doug’s site at www.svseeker.com. There’s also an SV Seeker Facebook Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/svseeker/?fref=ts

 

The cheapest way to add Wi-Fi to any camera (or your boat)

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When you’re boating or backpacking, it’s not so easy to just pull out your camera’s memory card and dump the photos onto a computer. Half the time I have the camera sealed in a dive case or wrapped up in plastic to protect it from the elements, and most of the time I don’t even have a computer with me.

When we were in the Spanish Virgin Islands I really appreciated the fact that my Sony had built-in Wi-Fi. I could climb back on the boat, towel off, then turn on the Wi-Fi to send all my snorkeling photos to my iPad for review without ever having to take the camera out of the dive case. I could then Instagram a good one and hop right back in the water to dive some more. I didn’t have to worry about unsealing and resealing the dive case, defogging the lens again, or any of that rigmarole.

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Unfortunately, not all cameras come with Wi-Fi. However, Wi-Fi SD cards have been around for a few years now and are getting better all the time. You might have heard of Eye-Fi. They were the pioneers of Wi-Fi SD cards, but an Eyefi Mobi Pro card still runs about $99. There’s also the Transcend Wi-Fi option.

I was almost ready to spend the money on an Eye-Fi when I came across the Toshiba Flashair. Apparently, the FlashAir has never been too popular, and the iPhone and Android apps were downright terrible when it first came out. However, a 32GB FlashAir SD card is now only $30 (I ordered mine on eBay). At that price, I decided to give it a try.

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Setup of the card was easy. You just pop it in the camera and download the free FlashAir app to your phone. Each time you launch it after the card has been formatted, it gives you the option to change the Wi-Fi name and password. This is a nice feature if you were shooting a professional event where lots of people might be using Wi-Fi, however, it has one major flaw. Every time you format the SD card in the camera, it resets the SSID and Password to the factory default. I might format the card three times a day when I’m working, so I gave up on setting a custom Wi-Fi name.

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Once the app is launched, your phone or tablet will automatically connect to the Wi-Fi generated by the SD card and allow you to browse the photos on the card. (I found Android devices are much faster at connecting than iOS devices, which sometimes need help finding the network.)

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Just select the photos you want to download to your phone, and it beams them right over. But here’s the cool part, the FlashAir app doesn’t just work for photos. It also does music and movie files, so you can use it in other devices like a Zoom recorder or a video camera.

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Perhaps you do have a computer, but you don’t have an SD card reader available, or maybe you just hate installing apps on your phone. If you connect the computer or a phone to the FlashAir Wi-Fi and then open the web browser, it reads the card in the web browser and lets you browse and download the photos that way as well.

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But wait, that’s not all! If you stick the FlashAir in an SD card reader, it still generates Wi-Fi. That means, if you need Wi-Fi on your boat, you could grab one of these FlashAir cards and a card reader, stick it in an SD slot on your chartplotter or even a 12 volt DC plug and suddenly have a portable Wi-Fi network for all the devices on your boat.

Now don’t get too excited. It won’t give you Internet, just a Wi-Fi network that allows all of your devices to connect to each other. For instance, if you have an AIS system that needs Wi-Fi to send info to your chartplotter, this $30 SD card will allow that. It can connect up to six devices. (However, if you do have an Internet connection, it also allows Internet pass through.)

So what’s the downside to a Wi-Fi SD card you ask? Well, although the transmitter has a very low power draw, it still drains the battery faster. Cameras with built-in Wi-Fi like the Sony are able to turn it on and off to conserve battery, but with the FlashAir, from what I can tell the Wi-Fi is on all the time. However, in use I can’t say I’ve seen a noticeable change in battery life.

Yes, the FlashAir app does transfer RAW files. I shoot everything in RAW, but I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to transfer a 45 MB file over Wi-Fi. I shoot RAW + 1.2 MB JPG Small. The RAW is for my photo archives and for making prints. I download those files when I get home. The JPG small file saves space on the SD card and my phone or tablet but has plenty of resolution for social media. Here’s a few examples straight out of the camera via the FlashAir card.

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So there you have it, the Toshiba Flashair 3 Wi-Fi SD card, the $30 solution to adding Wi-Fi to any camera.

Autumn is in the Air!

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A mixture of the cool Autumn air and a few weeks of going to bed very early had us up at sunrise this week.  Or at least it had me up, and I got everyone else up. :).

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Fred and the dogs were happy to join me in the cockpit for some early morning coffee and dog sweater fun.

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Can’t wait to break out those fancy yacht sweaters, and drink and eat on deck once again. Excited for apple cider, carving pumpkins, and lighting bonfires.

Happy Fall everyone!

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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.

Old Ships and New Friendships

Sunday morning we woke up to a slow start thanks to some excessive after-race partying.  We had planned to take some new friends out on our boat around 10, and woke up around 9:30 to a very messy, and totally unprepared boat.  After making Fred and the dogs get out of bed, rushing around throwing things into drawers/closets/the V-berth, and a quick trip to the store for supplies we were ready not a second too early.

We met Kayla and TJ when they courageously decided to buy the 25ft Oday that had been for sale next to ours. We were excited to meet some new friends with whom we could share our sailing knowledge. While it’s a real pleasure to sail with experienced sailors, its also nice once in awhile to be the expert. Plus, we were greeted by a pod of dolphins as soon as we passed the Kemah Boardwalk, so we knew it would be a great day.

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Kayla and TJ also invited their friends Ashley and Chase along for the sail. They had been staying with them on their boat all weekend, and were excited to get a chance to get out on the water.  Tex was also there…grumpy and hot.

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The day started out slow with 0-2 knots of wind.  We kind of bobbed around with both sails flapping. We were joined by this lovely home built catamaran loaded up with bikini clad girls. They did not seem to be minding the lack of wind either.

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We all decided to jump in the water for a quick swim as it was over 100 degrees out with no breeze. Right as we started to get comfortable the wind suddenly jumped to 7 knots and we were all being towed behind the boat.  As fun as that was, thinking we might look like shark bait, we all climbed aboard and decided to do some real sailing.

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We tried to give TJ and Kayla a chance to helm and to work the winches. They did an amazing job!

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Everyone on the crew did a great job helping out.  Even in this Texas heat, we managed to have an amazing day on the water.