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The day after my husband fell and hurt his mouth we found ourselves in the airport at Ft. Lauderdale having lunch while waiting for our plane to board.  As mentioned before, we both knew that getting the boat back to Texas was going to be almost entirely on my shoulders.  That task was weighing on me.

 

The day before, after he fell, my husband had told me point blank that he was out of commission and I needed to do whatever it took to get the boat back to Texas…and aside from him giving me moral support, not to count too much on him.  He didn’t have to tell me any of that.  I already knew it.  Still, it was time to suck it up and get it done.

 

A couple of days before his fall,  we had gotten an e-mail from the crew that had bailed on us initially because of a difficult delivery they had taken on.  The e-mail was apologetic but also stated they had finally delivered the boat and if there was anything they could do for us to let them know.  After my guy’s fall, I sent them an e-mail with two words:  Please call.  As we were having lunch waiting for the plane, they did.

 

I explained the situation to them and once again asked if they could assist me in bringing the boat around Florida and on to Galveston.  They said they’d be delighted to.  Great! I thought, remembering that was their position when they had bailed on us the first time as well.  Still, as I had blown off all the other crew I’d initially contacted they were the best choice.  It was agreed that we could leave as soon as the weather cleared over the Keys…Tropical Storm Andrea had just ramped up.

 

Subsequently we came back to Houston on Wednesday for the dental work that took place that following Friday.  TS Andrea cleared Florida completely by Saturday afternoon.  Sunday, I was on the phone to the two crew to try to line up a departure day.  Unbelievably, I couldn’t get them on the phone.  Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday I kept trying to contact them…no answer, and no one returned my calls.  It was depressing.

 

Tuesday afternoon, my guy came home from work and as is the case most days, we got in our pool.  I was at wits end.  Though he already knew the scoop, more for my benefit than his, I laid out things.  I told my guy that if we didn’t hear from the crew we had lined up by the end of the day tomorrow, Wednesday, June 12th, I was going to completely disregard them and get another crew, even if it was at a premium.  Time was running…time was money…it was time to stop the bleeding.  He concurred.

 

Later that night, I sent out a flurry of e-mails to different delivery crews inquiring about their availability and joined the dependable Findacrew site.  Just as I was finishing up and before I shut my computer down, I noticed an e-mail had come in; I checked it.  Amazingly, it was from the crew that was supposed to assist me.  The gist of the e-mail was that they were ready, and would be flying into Ft. Lauderdale on the following Friday, June 14th, and to please pick them up at the airport.  The plan was for them to inspect the boat, buy their provisions, and then depart Ft. Lauderdale early Friday evening on an outgoing tide.

 

Super! 

 

It was a great feeling to once again feel as though things were moving forward.  But…there were two things that I knew would need to jump into high gear.  First, I would need to pack up the next day for a flight down to Florida the day after…Thursday.  And, secondly, if you’ll remember I had a boat sitting in a slip that had either a transmission or transmission cable linkage issue.  Until that was fixed neither me, the crew, nor the boat was going anywhere.  In order for us to depart Florida late Friday, on either Thursday afternoon or Friday I had to line up someone to diagnose and repair my boat’s transmission.  More stress…

 

I made the flight reservations so as to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale around noon on Thursday, June 13th.  My husband was to coordinate a marine maintenance contractor to meet me at the boat that very afternoon.  I, indeed, got into Florida at noon and upon calling my guy, was told the contractor would meet me at the boat at 2:30…he didn’t show.  Great…just great!  Another phone call to my guy, who then called the contractor, and the scoop was the contractor was “busy”  and would meet me at 9:00 AM sharp.  Fair enough.

 

I settled in to try and enjoy what I hoped was my last night in Ft. Lauderdale.  Friday would be cutting it close, but it could be done…if the contractors got there at nine.

 

At nine the next morning on the dot, Richard, the contractor showed up with his technician.  I liked Richard a lot.  From the start it was pretty obvious he knew his stuff.  Quite quickly they identified that the issue was not the transmission but the linkage cable that had failed.  Richard guaranteed me that the repair would absolutely be made that day so that “…we can get you out of here this evening.”  That was exactly the news I wanted to hear.  He gave his technician instructions and then left.

 

Very early in the afternoon I picked up the crew from the airport.  We returned to the boat where the technician was finishing up on installing the new transmission cable.  The tech deemed the repair done.  We cranked the engine and, in fact the repair did appear done.  The technician was a young kid, maybe 21 or so.  He was very polite and very intent on pleasing, particularly in pleasing me.  Before he shoved off, for some unexplainable reason, I asked if he would give me his phone number…just in case.  He gave it to me readily and then shoved off around 4:00, telling me to call if there were any problems…I didn’t think I would have to.  I turned out to be wrong.

 

I then focused my attention on the crew I had hired.

 

I hired a crew to do one thing: assist me in bringing my boat back to Texas.  I didn’t hire a crew to teach me how to sail…or teach me how to undock…or, really, to teach me how to do anything.  I hired a crew to assist me…period.  The crew consisted of a man and his wife.  The guy held a USCG 100 Ton Master’s License.  The girls credentials were entirely based on being the wife of the guy.  The wife was Asian and 14 years or so younger than the guy…he was 67.  Just to be clear, a USCG 100 Ton Master’s License no more means this guy was a great sailor than someone having a driver’s license is necessarily a good driver.  All the USCG license really meant was that he passed the USCG test.  As for the lady, she had been sailing for only eight years or so…essentially since she met him.  I was fine with all of that.  Not to be misunderstood, unless they were lying (I didn’t think they were) I’m sure they had more sea miles under their keel than I did.  Though, again, I’m not so sure what that bought them…or me.

 

The guy seemed nice enough, as first impressions go.  The lady, however, almost from the get-go, took the approach that they were the experts…that they were hired by me to be in command of my boat.  As one might assume, that went over like a lead fucking brick with me.  For the first 8-10 hours I bit my tongue in the interest of harmony.

 

It was Friday afternoon.  We were to depart Ft. Lauderdale later afternoon.  Time was flying.  I suggested that the lady and I go and finish provisioning the boat while the crew guy finished inspecting the boat; I had watched his so-called inspection and felt fairly comfortable he couldn’t or at least wouldn’t screw anything up.  I had my provisions from the previous week, but they had none.  I then needed to return the rental car to the airport before paying the marina fees…we could then undock.  I did just that.

 

By around 8:00 that evening, June 14th, the boat was provisioned, the marina fees were paid, the crew guy had familiarized himself with the boat, the both of them had settled into the crew’s berth.  We were ready to undock.

 

I took the helm and instructed the crew as to how I wanted to leave the slip without nailing the multimillion dollar motor yacht that was docked abeam directly behind us.  The crew manned the dock lines and I cranked the engine…

 

And, to my amazement, the boat’s transmission was in reverse, stuck in reverse, and could not be shifted into either neutral or forward!  In-fucking-credible…

It was at this point that one could have seen a world class example of anger management on my part.

 

I shut the engine down.  Almost immediately I remembered I had the technician’s cell phone number and weighed whether to call him or not.  I didn’t think he had transportation and personally doubted he’d be able to come back out even if he did…and if he did come back out, if he’d be able to fix things anyway.  But, the thought of chit chat with the crew over another night on my boat in Ft. Lauderdale was too much…I called the kid.

 

To my surprise, he answered on the second ring.  He remembered me. 

 

What happened, things were fine when I left?  I don’t know, nothing was touched, but it doesn’t work now.

 

Do you have tools on board?  Yes, any tool you might need.

 

One second, let me check on something?  Sure.

 

I’ll be there in about a half hour.  Great.

 

It was now pitch black dark and thunderstorms all around us.  I was beside myself with frustration.  I wondered if we were ever going to get this bitch of a boat out of Ft. LauderdaleIf we got the boat repaired, it was a certainty I was now going to have to undock the boat, take it a few hundred yards up the ICW, negotiate the 17th Street bridge opening, cruise through Port Everglades all the while hoping it would not be busy, and then exit the inlet into the open Atlantic…all in the dark and with a boat that maneuvered like a house at slow speeds.  I took a deep breath and settled in for what I was sure would be a several hour wait for the technician.

 

I was blown away when less than 15 minutes later the young kid showed up.

 

He was all apologetic.  I told him to forget about the apologies, but to please just get the transmission cable issue repaired.  I assigned the crew guy to look over the tech’s shoulder and make sure the repair was made correctly.  An hour later, with the boat made fast to the dock, we started the engine and ran the boat through the gears…all appeared well.  Once burned, twice shy…I asked both the tech and the crew guy if they were sure the boat was repaired and then made both of them tell me exactly what the problem was and how they had fixed it…correctly this time.  Reasonably, but not absolutely, sure the repair was now fixed correctly, I bid the tech goodnight.

 

It was now 9:30 in the evening…slight incoming tide…dark.  I cranked the engine.  The crew manned the lines as we eased out of the dock.  Skirting the motor yacht behind us, we turned, immediately entered the ICW, and hailed the 17th  Street Bridge to open.  The bridge opened every half hour on the hour, almost no exceptions…we had a little over 20 minutes to wait.

 

Fighting the increasingly incoming tide and dodging the huge yachts, I spent the next 20 minutes trying to remain in the relatively deep water of the ICW as we waited for the bridge to open.  It did and we quickly went through the channel.  Port Everglades was not busy, thankfully, and I followed the chartplotter’s tracking lines (from my entrance) and slowly brought the boat out into the Atlantic.  Finally, we were out of Ft. Lauderdale.

 

The gulf stream current is very close to the Florida shore in this area.  We positioned a mile or so off of the coast to avoid most of the current and set a way point for Government Cut (Miami)It had been an hellacious 48 hours for me.  I turned the helm over to the crew guy.  Still wound up tighter than Dick’s hat band and not in the least sleepy, I sat back to enjoy the sail down the East coast of South Florida.  The sky had cleared, a million stars were out, and the incredibly beautiful skyline of Hollywood and Dania Beach, Florida were just off our starboard side.  I started to relax…but…not for long.

hollywood florida night

When crew guy took over the helm it seemed he became a bit mesmerized by the new touch screen Chartplotter we had purchased.  On the other hand, he didn’t appear to use the radar at all.  I thought this odd and it concerned me.  The water just off of the East coast of South Florida gets fairly deep, very fast.  We were trotting along in 50-60 feet of water and all along the same depth curve were power boats full of people fishing…some with legal lights, some with no lights at all.  The crew guy didn’t seem phased at all by this and thankfully, though we passed 30-40 yards from these boats, we didn’t hit any of them.  Still, it concerned me.

the crew

On the other hand, it was a drop dead gorgeous night.  The coast is lined with huge condominiums built right on the doorstep of the Atlantic.  At night it’s like watching an endless Christmas Tree as they slide by.  The seas were less than two feet and calming even more.  For mid June, the night was cool.  The crew was sort of hard to talk with, particularly Asian lady.  The boat was behaving and all seemed well.  Well, that is, until the helmsman and his mate had to take evasive action to avoid a freighter exiting Government Cut in Miami…something that could have been prevented if the guy had stopping screwing with the Chartplotter and watched the frigging radar.  It was not that big of a deal, but not something one likes to see from so-called professional crew.  When it comes to big ships vs. sailboats one certainly does not want to be surprised by the big ships.  I said so.  They said nothing in response.  At around 1:30 AM or so I went to bed.

floating boats 

All the next day and night was uneventful.  It would take 30-35 hours to get to Key West, our next stop for fuel and water.  The time seemed to drip by, second by second.  We hugged the 70 foot curve just off of the reefs as we slugged our way against the gulfstream current of the Florida Straits.  What little wind we had was dead on the nose.  Watches were established…6-10PM for me…10-2AM for crew guy…and 2-6AM for Asian Lady…I then relieved her.  The reality is that I stayed at the helm from the time I woke up until 10:00 at night…and then seldom went to sleep before one or two in the morning.  By the end of the first day I had little real confidence in the professional crew and preferred to spend as much time as possible in the cockpit making sure nothing absurd happened.  It was nothing in particular the crew was (or wasn’t) doing but more little things and intuition. 

key west approach at dawn 

As it worked out we arrived in Key West at good dawn the following day…Sunday, June 16th after 32 hours of motor sailing.  Arriving at dawn was good because the stay was to be just long enough to take on fuel and water.  The sooner that was done the better.

conch harbor marina key west 

We dropped the mainsail and I took the helm.  Key West is a great place.  My guy and I spent nine days there last summer.  But, it has one huge problem.  It is surrounded by very, very shallow water that barely hides, at times, very, very hard coral reefs.  If one runs aground in mud on the Gulf Coast it’s not pretty and is a major pain in the butt to get off at times.  If one runs into a coral reef the boat can sink.  A big difference.  Crew guy knew where the Conch Harbor Marina in Key West was located.  I didn’t.  So, I turned the helm over to crew guy to dock.  It was not one of my better decisions.

conch harbor marina key west 2

Crew guy came into the dock a bit hot.  With both me and Asian Lady yelling to put the boat in reverse, he finally did…but not before the anchor and roller on the bow took a knock into one of the dock pilings.  We indeed got docked and there was no damage to the bow but what little hope I’d held out for the crew vanished completely with this less than average dock.  Aside from their normal watch at night, neither of the crew ever steered the boat again after this.  What steering they did from that dock on was strictly punching the buttons on the auto helm in the open sea.

 

Anyway, mysteriously and almost immediately, Asian Lady disappeared.  I asked crew guy where she went and he told me she went “to get us breakfast.”  Cool.  Crew guy and I finished topping off the fuel and water tanks just as Asia Lady returned.  However, to my amazement, she had only gotten breakfast for her and crew guy…and she’d also taken a nice hot shower to boot.  I was a bit taken aback.  If I remembered correctly crew guy and Asian Lady worked for me.  I was struggling to figure out why it wasn’t me who had the hot breakfast and me who had showered.  Crew guy and Asian Lady have no idea how close I came to putting them off the boat at that time.  If there had been anybody I could have gotten on the spur of the moment to help me get the boat home I would have fired them on the spot and sent them on their way.  That’s the truth.

 

But, I calmed myself knowing I couldn’t get anyone else on short notice and absolutely had to get our boat back to Texas.  This so-called crew was what I had to work with and I was just going to have to do the best I could.  They had their lovely breakfast; I had a coke…and then we shoved off…with me at the helm.

tampa starting watch 

Now, getting from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West is a no brainer…one simply follows the Florida Keys around the tip of Florida.  But, from Key West to Galveston is a whole different set of decisions.  These people were supposed to be professional and I had informed my husband that provided they didn’t want to take things down the stupid road, I was going to let them decide which route we took at this point.  The reality is that there were basically three routes we could take from Key West to the Galveston jetties.  One, we could go almost due West for 300 miles and then turn almost due North on to Texas…two, we could follow a rhumb line straight across the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston…or, three, we could sail North a couple of hundred miles to Tampa and then head almost due West to Texas.

 

I didn’t really care which route we took.  There were pros and cons to each one.  But, obviously there was one best route and that was the one I wanted to take.  Prior to leaving Key West, we all hunkered down over our computers and scoured the weather sites.  After all three of us made an analysis of the best way to go – a function of wind, wave, and currents – I figured the best way to go was to jump up to Tampa and then head straight across the Gulf to Galveston but kept my opinion to myself determined to let them decide…crew guy felt the best route was West and then North…Asian Lady didn’t weigh in, deferring to crew guy.  Crew guy asked if his decision was fine with everyone…we said yes.  We motored out of the Key West harbor and raised the mainsail…off again.  Three miles due west from Key West.  What wind we had was from astern…and it dropped to zilch once we changed course.  We wallowed like a sow, motor sailing.

 

We had barely set the sails when I noticed Asian Lady motioned to crew guy to come below for a talk.  A few minutes later, the two of them emerged from below decks.  Crew guy beams that Asian Lady had a great idea…go north to Tampa and then straight across to Galveston…which would have been my route.  He then laid out the pros and cons of taking that route and asked what I thought.  As they were the same pros and cons I’d come up with, I agreed with him.  We immediately tacked and set a way point just off the coast of Tampa Bay.  The arrival time worked out to be some time the afternoon of the next day.  We settled in with nine knots of wind and boat scooting along at almost 8 knots, speed over land.

 

This leg of the trip turned out to be one of the better sails.  We had good wind for most of the day and flat seas.  The water was absolutely crystal clear turquoise…not a cloud in the sky.  We talked a bit, read, ate, and slept/napped.  As the sun went down, the crew went to real sleep; I started my watch.  On the coast of Florida, some 50 miles off of starboard, I watched nature’s light show of lightning from a thunderstorm.  When my watch was up, I went straight to bed.

 

The next morning I slept kind of late, getting up around 9:30…I needed a good night sleep.  The seas were flat and we hadn’t seen another vessel since we’d left Key West.  Around 1:00 that afternoon we started converging with the Florida shoreline.  That was a good thing because we desperately needed to isolate a place to take on fuel and water before we headed out across the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Though there were numerous marinas in the Tampa area, there appeared to only be two that had the water depth we needed.  Crew guy went below and a half hour later he came back and started punching way points into the Chartplotter.  When he finished, I traced his route closely and found that he had plotted a course that would take us into water that would be very shallow…with almost no wiggle room.  I questioned him about it, asking him if he really thought we could make it through that water.  His response was that we could, but it would take “…some precise navigation.”  No fucking shit…I very much got that part.  Against my better judgement, I said nothing.

 

By this time we were in communication with a marina, but an issue had arose.  Our GPS estimated our arrival at 5:45 PM…the marina closed at 5:30 PM.  They said they’d wait for us.  Onward…

 

As we approached the shallow water mentioned above, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I was at the helm and about a mile in front of me, under the water, I could see the white sand light water in stark contrast to the deeper water we were in.  I could only hope we could find a cut in this and still keep the boat afloat.  The closer we got, the crappier I felt about things…the shoal seems to stretch endlessly out to both sides in front of me.  The sane part of me said to turn around.  I didn’t.  Quickly I saw the water depth go to 6’-0 on my depth gauge while at the same time felt the slow motion nightmare of the boat running aground on the sand bar.  I dropped the boat into reverse and revved the engine but it was too late.  That was the last time I paid any attention whatsoever to the professional crew.

 

The seas were not high, barely over a foot, but they were attempting to push the boat into even shallower water.  For fifteen minutes I tried to get us off the sand before sending crew guy below to dig out my membership card for one of the towing services.  He found the card and relayed our coordinates to them…emerging from below, he said, “They are on the way.”  It was a relief to hear that but I was still trying to get us into deeper water.  A few minutes later I succeeded in spinning the boat around and, with full power to the engine, managed to rock the boat off of the shoal.  I sent crew guy back below to call off Tow Boats US.

 

At this point, crew guy goes into overdrive scouring the charts to recommend to me another route to the marina.  He didn’t know that none of his input was further required.  He had been counted and very much found wanting.  I retraced our track, entered one of the main shipping channels, and then skirted Anna Maria Island in the southern part of Tampa Bay.  I sent crew guy below to beg the marina to stay open for us and once again assure us they had adequate water depth.  Galveston was four sailing days from Tampa and it would have taken every last drop of the remaining fuel in our tanks to get there.  It was imperative that we top off the fuel tanks.  The marina said to take our time…they would be open.  They also said the water depth would be fine and that the channel was well marked.

 

At around 6:00PM we finally spotted their channel markers.  It was high tide; the water depth was 8 feet.  I docked uneventfully and killed the engine.

tampa marina1 

Crew guy and I topped off the tank.  Once again, Asian Lady disappeared.  After the tanks were filled, I paid for the fuel and got a couple of bags of ice.  Predictably, Asian Lady returns, washed, waxed and shampooed, smelling nicer than a Spring bouquet.  I took another deep breath…WTF?

sunset 2 

Prior to departing, we discussed where we would get fuel next…the wind sure wasn’t cooperating.  The choices were most limited.  Pensacola, Mobile, Gulfport, and Biloxi were way, way out of the way and/or had limited water depth.  The options quickly reduced to either Grande Isle, Louisiana, Port of Fourchon, Louisiana, or Sabine Pass, in Texas.  We decided on Fourchon…a mere six miles or so South of where I grew up.  We called a fuel dock and were told that “if we could get in” they would gladly fuel us up.  We undocked and headed out.  The course was basically a rhumb line straight to Galveston…with a slight jog to the coast at Fourchon for fuel on the way.  Estimated travel time to Fourchon…three days.

radar at fourchon 

The trip across the Gulf to Fourchon was uneventful.  I’d pretty much given up on any long lasting friendship with the crew.  Crew guy had hit on me a few times prior to Tampa; he finally got the point.  Asian Lady resorted to doing what I think was  her version of yoga on the foredeck…always sneaking a glance at me to see if I was looking or not.  It was drudgery.  I looked forward to my watch starting and the solitude of sunset…and then sleep afterwards.  On the morning of the third day I awoke with our location being just off of Southwest Pass and the mouth of the Mississippi River.  The day dragged on.  By 3:00 PM we were off the coast of Grand Isle and Fourchon was just a couple of hours further.  We were well on the way home by this time, less than 200 miles from Galveston.

 

Now, when I grew up, Fourchon was nothing.  There was nothing there, and I mean nothing.  There was a shell road once, but the 1965 hurricane destroyed that.  Fourchon was nothing more than where Bayou Lafourche emptied into the Gulf of Mexico.  Literally, there was nothing there.  Things have changed significantly since I moved away in 1968.

 

As soon as we got within cell phone range we called the fuel dock I had talked to.  It quickly became a carnival of clusterfuck.  The fuel dock I talked to said they could fuel us, but it would be five or six hours.  We didn’t have five or six hours.  They said to call another number.  We did.  Same story.  They gave us another number.  Same story.  But the guy at the third number said that he might know a fuel dock that could fuel us right away.  I gave him my cell phone number; he was going to call us back.  He did.  We called the last number and the folks said to come on in and they would fuel us immediately.  They gave us directions and we entered the jetties.

 

Somewhere along this time, crew guy, in an attempt to help, set a course on the chatplotter.  Nice gesture.  Too bad that I followed the course ahead of me with binoculars only to see that if I followed it I would have run the boat into the rocks.  WTF…I had long since been ignoring his advice.  I erased his course from the Chartplotter and asked that the boats running lights be turned on.  It was getting dark and the weather was threatening to bring a huge thunderstorm just as we docked.

 

I was more than a little surprised at the amount of boat traffic that was entering and leaving Fourchon.  In fact, I was amazed.  Not only at the boat traffic, but also the entire facility.  Fourchon had gone from a way to go up the bayou, to a full blown port.  Every major oil company had a facility there.  Crew/work/supply boats were everywhere.  Shrimp boats were legion.  Jack-up work boats everywhere.  It was like main street in a big city.  The boat skippers were most professional.  All of the boats were very much at slow speed and quite courteous.  People on the docks stopped and watched as we motored by.  I’m quite sure a huge sailboat was a novelty to many of them.  As for me, I was keeping an eye on the weather.  The outflow from the thunderstorm was already being felt.

 

As we turned into the canal where the fuel dock was (Flotation Canal), the thunderstorm hit.  Winds gusted to 30 knots, threatening to blow us into the dock.  I circled three times before attempting to dock.  Crew guy actually advised me not to dock, indicating I would tear the whole starboard side of the boat up if I did.  He was right, but I had no choice.  I sent crew guy and Asian Lady to the rails with the fenders and told them not to let my boat hit.  I then eased to the dock, stopped the boat parallel and three feet out, and allowed the wind to push us the rest of the way.  It was not a perfect dock, but close.  We tied off.

 

The refueling was uneventful.  Asian Lady did not take a shower…only because this was a commercial fuel dock and not a marina…they had no shower.  The three young men who assisted us were great.  All coon asses.  All very polite.  They were full of questions about the boat, where we were from, where we were going, etc.  We topped off with fuel and quickly left.

 

Going back down the channel to the jetties, several miles, I was at the helm and following my GPS tracks back out into the Gulf.  The radar was on.  The huge supply boats showed up perfect on radar.  The thunderstorm was over and the sky was clearing.  All of a sudden crew guy says excitedly, “Do you see that boat?” 

 

“What boat?” I asked him.

 

“THAT BOAT,” he all but screamed, and then reaches over the binnacle and grabs the wheel steering us very much to starboard.  Directly in front of us were two boats that had intentionally run aground to anchor.  I steered us back into the channel.  Crew guy yells, “You are about to hit those boats!”  And, attempts to once again grab the wheel.

 

By now, I realize that crew guy has suffered some version of night blindness or something…he is severely disoriented.  I say, most sternly, “Let go of my fucking wheel…those boats are lying at anchor.”  He let go and I steered us back into the channel.  Crew guy realized what had happened…what he had almost done.  It scared him.  He got quiet.  And, that, was the last time crew guy attempted to even offer advice.  We came within thirty seconds of this crew running my yacht head long into two anchored steel ships.

 

We followed the channel out into the Gulf, pointed the bow West, and reset the way points on the Chartplotter…next stop?  Home.  It was almost 10:00 PM by this time.  A few minutes later I turned the helm over to crew guy and Asian Lady and went below to fix something for dinner. 

 

I went to use the head when all of the sudden the boat was thrown violently around by waves.  As the sea state was dead calm and like a mirror when I went below, I was a bit confused.  I went to the companion way and looked into the cockpit, asking if the crew were OK.  They said they were…the waves were just the wake of a huge crew boat that had crossed in front of us way ahead.  I thought nothing of it and went to bed.

 

The next day, I could see that the crew were not happy campers.  Asian Lady and crew guy appeared to be on the outs for some reason.  I said nothing.  Then Asian Lady started bringing towels and bedding out from below.  It turns out that one of the wake waves they had allowed themselves to steer straight into had broken over the bow of the boat the night before.  Not an issue if the hatches were down.  Unfortunately, their hatches were open.  There bedding and the forward portion of the boat was drenched in sea water.  A soggy and very hot sailboat bed greeted them…not good.  They spent a considerable amount of time cleaning the mess up.

 

The Chartplotter showed 159 nautical miles to the Galveston jetties…we would be home sometimes in the afternoon of the next day. 

rigs southwest pass

I awoke on the last day with us being just 25 miles from the jetties.  For all intents and purposes we were home.  Crew was happy, but I knew we were still many hours from Kemah.  Still, it was a good moment for all of us.  The date was Saturday, June 20th…day nine.  I love sailing, but it was great to know that in a few hours I’d be home after nine days out on the ocean.

 

After we turned into the Galveston jetties, crew guy and my husband talked.  The crew wanted to fly back home as soon as possible, even if it was a red eye flight.  I didn’t blame them, I’d have wanted to as well.  A flight reservation was made for them and tickets bought.  The only issue was us getting on into Kemah in time to get them to Houston Hobby for the flight…we still had 20 miles or so to go…several hours.

ships southwest pass 

I’ve sailed Upper Galveston Bay regularly for five years but when I steered out of the Houston Ship Channel into the bay I’d never seen it as busy as it was that Saturday when we came in.  There were boats of every description on the bay…a gillion of them.  Half way across the bay, I called my husband to let him know where we were.  He was to meet us at the slip.  I asked him one final time about our mast height and clearing the Kemah bridge (our mast height is tall, supposed to be 71’-0 +…bridge clearance is supposed to be 73’-0. )  He said we should be fine.  I told him great…I wasn’t even going to look.

 

As I got into the channel to enter Clear Lake it was jammed with boats; I mean jammed.  A quirk about this particular place is that the entrance is lined on one side with a huge development called the Kemah Boardwalk.  Tons of bars, restaurants, an amusement park, etc. and people line the channel to look at the boats.  The boaters on the other hand generally love to slow way down and be cool as they take to the promenade.  Most of the boaters are drinking and if it is busy, one really has to watch out if they are entering in a sailboat, particularly one that is impossible to stop on a dime like a ski boat is.  Couple all of that with the fact that my boat handles like a pregnant hippo at slow speeds and the pucker factor goes way up.

 

As I entered, some young drunk guy in a bullet boats was almost at a stop as he waved to the girls.  It was all I could do to keep from hitting him.

 

The bridge came and went…the mast didn’t hit it but the antenna did.  Apparently we missed it by the predicted foot or two.

 

To get into my slip I had to make a right turn to starboard…go ten yards and then make another right turn to starboard…go another ten yards and then make, essentially, a hundred and eighty degree turn back around to line up with the slip.  Just before the first turn out of the channel, I saw my guy on the dock waving…a good moment.  He looked happy; I sure was.  Unfortunately, the drunk in the speedboat also turned off of the channel to access the fuel dock.  After I waited for him to get out of the way, I brought the boat’s speed to a crawl and made my turns and lined up with the slip.  As soon as I saw the bow line thrown to my husband by crew guy, I reached down and killed the engine. 

 

It was a great dock.

 

I simply can’t express how wonderful it felt to finally have our boat in Texas and in our slip.  It was a noticeable load off of me.  I hadn’t slept in weeks worrying in some way over the boat.  I knew it was going to be a great feeling.

 

Time was of the essence.  We secured the boat and then rushed through traffic to get the crew to the airport.  After hugs all around, we let them off.  Evidently they made their flight as we haven’t heard from them since.

 

As for me and Captain Husband?  We headed home and jumped in the pool.  Spookie, our cat was glad to see me.  After a few drinks, I broke down and released a lot of emotion that was being kept inside.  Husband held me…it was nice to be in his arms.  Later we bar-b-qued.  That night, I slept like a baby…the boat was home.

 

POSTSCRIPT:

 

I’ve repeated this story to my friends several times.  I always add that though it might seem the crew I hired were real creeps, they really weren’t.  What happened, happened.  But, the truth is that both of the crew were actually pretty nice people.  Crew guy obviously had a lot of sailing miles, even if he did seem a bit whimsical for my taste.  A Chemical Engineer by education, he was decently smart and nothing much seems to excite him.  Asian Lady and I talked quite a bit the last couple of days we were at sea.  She was one of the boat people who fled Viet Nam at the end of the war.  Also a Chemical Engineer, she was a little more excitable than crew guy, but not much.  I think most of my issues with Asian Lady were a cultural thing.  She and crew guy got along great.  Again, please don’t let my writing infer the crew I hired was bad; they really weren’t. 

 

I didn’t mention too much about the crews eating habits.  They were both vegetarians.  They ate no meat and consumed as little processed food as absolutely possible.  They didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs.  As the trip wore on, they ran out of plain yogurt and asked to use some of the skim milk I had along as a substitute.  I told them they were welcome to it but by the time they asked it had spoiled.  They also asked if they could have a bit of my cranberry/pomegranate juice.  I told them sure…they drank most of what was left…really not a problem with me; I hope they enjoyed it.

 

A fairly long passage as this one was is not a monumental accomplishment.  Anyone not afraid of the water or of losing sight of land could probably do it.  But it’s no walk in the park either.  On a couple occasions while underway I was reminded by my husband about my responsibility to bring the boat home safely…to take care of the boat…not allow the boat to be damaged.  He didn’t need to remind me.  We have a huge, huge amount of money invested in our yacht.  She’s a real beauty.  And, she’s insured.  Still, a major snafu bringing the boat back would have been a significant event financially.  I knew this, and it weighed very heavily on my mind for the entire trip.

 

Lastly, I speak of the stress I have been under for months as we’ve isolated, purchased, and then brought home our dream yacht.  And, that is true.  But, my husband has been under just as much stress I’m sure.  After his fall I noticed that he wasn’t sleeping well…that’s very unusual for him.  One night I asked him why he wasn’t sleeping well.  His response was “the boat.”  He didn’t need to say anything else; I understood.  So, as nerve wracking as this endeavor has been for me, I’m sure it’s been just as stressful for my husband.

 

Thankfully our boat is in Kemah and already in the process of being upgraded and refitted.  That will take a couple of years at least.  We’re up for it.

 

2 Comments

    • MWhite:LittleCunningPlan
    • Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:50 PM
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Whew! I am so relieved that you got her home in one piece and I think you are very brave to do this on your own with unknown people on your boat. Your boat is big and heavy like ours and I’m still rather intimidated by the whole docking thing, even though I always docked our cal34.

  1. Yes, she’s well over 40,000 pounds loaded. Though we’ve always managed to dock and undock her successfully, we’ve thrown in the towel and are going to spring for a bow thruster when we have her bottom done this month…a little something to take the angst out of things.


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