“Breakfast done, cockpit tent stowed and boat tidied up, I pause before raising sail. With the reefng diffculties yesterday maybe it would be best to put the third reef in now so I wouldn’t have to do it later on the water. This afternoon is slated to be as windy as yesterday. “
Reprinted from MAIB.
Day 2: “Even Puddle Ducks are Faster!”
A mild breeze greets us in the pre dawn sky as the sounds of waves washing the nearby gulf shoreline serenade the sleepy boats and crews at camp. It is interesting that I wake early enough to experience this tranquil scene. Not a morning person, I usually sleep in late at home. Yet for some reason on every sail camp trip I’ve been in the pre dawn sky banishes my slumber. Digging into the food box reveals breakfast for this trip, a yellow pound cake to go along with an ice cooled breakfast drink. This is a typical everyday breakfast for me, nothing heavy and just enough calories to get moving. Not to mention preparation involves no cooking at all!
Looking about while kicked back on Mulsae’s bench seats and enjoying the morning coolness before the day’s blistering heat later, I notice activity on a couple of other boats nearby. Today is a relatively long sail of around 38 miles so there are a few captains looking to get an early start. Indeed, even as the pound cake disappears a homebuilt wooden boat glides slowly and silently past with white sails raised and catching the very light wind. The boat’s bow sends small ripples out across the nearly ?at channel water.
Breakfast done, cockpit tent stowed and boat tidied up, I pause before raising sail. With the reefng diffculties yesterday maybe it would be best to put the third reef in now so I wouldn’t have to do it later on the water. This afternoon is slated to be as windy as yesterday. The idea appeals, so it is done. The anchor comes up easily with enough momentum to send the Dovekle out into the channel. The heavily reefed sail picks up just enough wind to make headway and steerage west towards Port Mansfeld.
Anchored at Bird Island and chatting with other participants. Photo Credit: John Bratton
Day 2 Sailing over reefed in the morning on the Laguna Madre
2mph is slow but gives the captain an easy sail and plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. The Sport-a-Seat cushion is wonderfully comfortable to sit on while feet are lazily propped up on the opposite side’s bench seat. The sky brightens as the sun crests the horizon to grace all creatures on earth with a new day. And so it goes for the next hour and a half. The plan is to cut the comer to starboard just after the last right side spoil island, but for some reason the GPS won’t turn on and I well overshoot the mark to sail into the open Laguna Madre. Once I’m past the southern islands marking the channel, the freshening wind driven waves start working on the boat. Taken as a cue to start heading downwind, we turn to starboard, angling northerly to rejoin the ICW.
In the meantime, a parade of boats sail, motor and row on by. With three reefs in and nearly everyone else with full sails raised, I poke along at around 2-3mph while other boats practically zoom past. Yeah, maybe a third reef wasn’t a good idea this morning but surely it’ll pay off this afternoon when it gets really windy. A beneft of getting passed by everyone is the opportunity to video each boat. If there is one thing most captains like to see, it is video of themselves sailing. It is a view captains rarely get to see. Hopefully the videos will eventually get uploaded to my YouTube page.
The Laguna Madre is a long stretch of water, tens of miles long. Long enough for the wind to build up 3′-4′ waves by midday. Waves that easily overtake the slow heavily reefed wallowing Dovekle. My 3mph average speed is so slow that the boat refuses to surf on the faster overtaking waves. Heck, even Puddle Ducks are faster and can surf these waves! I am so glad no Puddle Ducks entered this year, the humiliation of getting passed by a Duck would be mortifying! So the Dovekie wallows in the waves tossing its captain. All I can do is brace and hold on. Taking a reef out is not an option in these conditions, besides, that reef will come in handy later on, right?
By mid afternoon the sides of the Laguna Madre close in towards the Land Cut, a tens of miles long channel cut across shallow water and land to connect the Laguna Madre with the more northerly bays. Only ten miles to go till the Hap’s Cut camp! Woot! The water smoothes out in the protected channel. In 2014 my Dad and I had some of the trip’s best sailing in the Land Cut. Smooth water and good wind usually lets boats stretch out speedily. Mulsae likes the smoother water and the now working GPS shows a refreshing 5mph pace in a mild 10-ish knot wind.
In fact, the sailing is so nice that I cleat off the mainsheet, bungee lash the tiller in place, grab a cool bottled water and stand up in the cockpit to watch the scenery. Now this is good sailing! To my amusement, leaning from one side of the boat to the other causes Mulsae to steer in one direction or the other. Just like others have said, it is possible to steer a boat by leaning.
Tom J’s Com-Pac 16 Tomfoolery slowly overtakes and passes. It is an easily recognizable boat because the name is spread boldly across the sides. We enjoyably chat back and forth before they pull ahead, but not for long. The wind abruptly gusts stronger and sends me scrambling back to the tiller. Within 15 minutes Mulvae is heeling and moving out at 6-7mph. Now this is why that third reef is in! We quickly reel in Tomfoolery, pass by and pull away.
But not for long. Heh. Quickly another boat overtakes us both. The blue Mariner 19 Odisea captained by Matt S is ?ying by sailing wing and wing with a single reef in. It is nearly obscene how relaxed they are, even as I grip the tiller to keep the heeling weather helming Mulsae under control during the windy blasts. Ah, the difference between a ballasted boat and an unballasted boat! Our 2014 Texas 200 in a Holder 20 was as relaxed as Matt and crew’s with the Holder’s 4′ deep ballasted fn keel keeping the boat upright.
Odisea quickly disappears ahead. The miles pass quickly. Our 2014 land cut camp is long behind us. Once or twice the wind nearly rounds up Mulsae but we hang on until fnally the trees marking Hap’s Cut appear. Unfamiliar with the camp, I quickly run the boat’s bow up on the southern edge of the beached sailboat group. Phew! Finally! Not the last boat either. Even beat the rowboats. Puddle Ducks beware! Buahahaha!
The migraine is back again this afternoon. Perhaps it was more stress induced than dehydration as I made a point to drink more during the day. Even so, no headache keeps me from getting Mulsae anchored to shore and then wandering around exploring this new to me camp. Everything said about the legendary Hap’s Cut mud is absolutely true. Sticky, soft, slippery as only a small handful of many words used to describe the mud. Upon beaching and jumping overboard, I nearly fall as sandaled feet skid a little before sinking into the calf deep stuff. Messy as well. Before entering the boat onehas to spend a handful of minutes trying to swish wash the sticky slippery gray stuff off feet and shoes. Even so, some still makes it inside the boat.
Unseen from where I beached and around the comer in the cut itself lie docks, small shacks and most importantly the only true shade trees in this part of Texas. The copse of trees contains a cleared shady area where the early arrivers’ tents are set up. There is even a picnic table. This is where I meet for the frst time participants previously only known by Facebook names such as Ray W sailing Merlin and his crew Painen D.
The migraine eventually drives me back to the boat to a cold bottle of hard root beer, some beef jerky and a short nap that somehow lasts until dusk. Taking advantage of the Dovekle’s perfect suitability for camping onboard, I get the canvas cockpit tent put up and the Sport-a-Seat placed down ?at as a bed cushion. Yeah, it is that comfortable as an impromptu bed. Leaving the hatches uncovered, I get a brief view of the darkening sky and the frst glimpse of stars before sleep reclaims me.