Letters from Mike – Went Oystering, Bob and Larry 2 and Port Lavaca


by Michael Beebe – Rockport, Texas – USA

Went Oystering

Went oystering yesterday, didn’t mean too, just ended up in the midst of them. Had to put on my water shoes and drag, push, and shove my way out of them. The water was low, tide out, the wind soft, not helping a bit, but maybe then it was, after all.

Looking behind me I, did not want to walk the quarter mile and then some, back tracking. Couldn’t sail back, didn’t want to wait for higher water; so onward.

The scrapes and crunches, thinking my little girl is/or could get her belly cut bad was not music to my ears. Deeper water was only 15 or 20 yards ahead, so I went for it. The noise was not good.

Up ahead was some grass where I knew it’d be a bit softer and it was, and deep enough to float, but not sail yet. I kept my eye looking for rising water with-in my Red Top, the Lehman 12’.

The water, being warm and clear, let me see Mr. Ray, whom I was about to step on. At first, I thought him to be a flounder, thinking how to catch it, the tail told me differently. Having the bow line in hand I dropped it atop Mr. Ray and he scurried off a few feet, but still in my way. The second nudge I gave him with the line and he was off a goodly distance and no longer a bother.

Now I’m knee deep in water, deep enough to sail away, except for the closeness of more oysters if a small mishap were to occur. Well aware of my dealing with mishaps I elected to wade out a bit further. I’d put two ties on the furled sail, both lee boards were raised, rudder raised and tied up, I was good to go.

Here came the small mishap that could have put me back on the oyster reef. I foolishly let the rudder down, well in the small wind waves it bounced right off its gudgeons. Another, ‘I’ve been meaning to fix that’, problem.

I’ve read where problems on small sailboats comes in three’s that bring in their wake, disaster. I’ve found a clever way, somehow, to eliminate two of the steps. I’m just one away most of the time. So, wading back out to deeper water, recovering ground that I’d lost reattaching the rudder, I was again set to go.

It came off without any further hitches. The sail back was uneventful. Before this started I had smugly told myself the direction I was going was the best way, that I’d discover a little secret short-cut. Well grace extended, kept it from being really bad on the boat, or me cutting myself falling on the oysters.

Tends to keep one rightfully humble.


Bob and Larry 2 (Continuing a Fictional Story)

Bob and Larry got home all right, from their small boat adventure on the Texas coast. Had the time of their lives, far more than what they had expected.

Wore out, tired, sore, and content as could be; two school buddies after thirty some years, more like forty pushing fifty, I was informed.

These boys had out done themselves. Had decided to do the full monty, in the dead of winter, on the Texas coast. They had elected to follow the same route as the boys of summer. A simple drop off and pick up, unless the unforeseen came along.

They came equipped, prepared, and hyped beyond all reason. If ever there were two fellows one would like to see again, these two fit the bill.

I was told on the flight home they were dead asleep, the flight attendant had to rouse them awake for the refastening of the belts. “Mr. Bob, Mr. Larry, wake up, we’re approaching landing.” She didn’t know their last name, and I never learned them myself.

The excited school boy atmosphere had infected the entire plane, two out-spoken ambassadors for dinghy sailing, quite a dream, eh?

Their wives had met them at the airport, the plumber was fast asleep before his wife even exited the airport. The lawyer, it seems was off and running, as if he had just got back from a business trip.

A fellow lawyer from the home office had called just as his wife, driving, pulled from the curb of baggage claim. “Your client got three years!, BTW, How was the trip?”

Well, Larry and Bob said they’d be back next year. They hoped to make it a yearly pilgrimage, a sort of running of the bulls, a holy grail, a good thing to do.

They had taken the only two small sailboats offered, a twelve and a fourteen, one reworked heavily by the owner, the other kept stock, that would be the fourteen. “Two identical”, they said, might be better for sailing side by side, yet they had no regrets, trepidation’s a plenty, but no regrets.

They hadn’t been rained on, hadn’t experienced a Texas norther, the weather actually, could not have been better. During a norther, they were forewarned, dry-suits would be best, even with-out a norther, the water here in midwinter will kill ya.

So Bob and Larry have started a new page, or chapter, in their decades long friendship, their wives ever grateful for older husbands still carrying about the dreams of youth.


Port Lavaca

I went there today. I went there to visit a friend, an old shrimper, iron worker, bait stand owner; among a host of other employments over the years.

He’s had his share of escapades in those same years as well. He’s not pushing eighty, he is eighty. His wife is eighty-four, has fallen four times just in the last month, quit driving a few years back.

He snuck away to Whataburger with me. While out, I asked what he had been doing. “Babysitting!” Was his quick and short reply. “It’s been hard and lonely”.

If we live long enough we will get there ourselves. The few that see ninety plus, and remain healthy, seem somehow to give us younger ones a false sense of hope.

False because the odds show the ninty’s are reached by only a relative few. But we dream. Five years back now, while sailing the only, so far only, Texas 200, I met one of these rare breeds. As fate would have it we are now communicating after parting ways there in Seadrift at the end that year’s sail.

Our first meeting was on the docks at Port Mansfield, the first stop. Just briefly did we talk. Garry is his name, he was doing the 200 with his grandson. In the morning they were gone before I was back from the bathroom.

Our second meeting was at the Corpus Christi Yacht Club. I was stirring at 3am, and so was Garry, tinkering with something on the borrowed Lido he was sailing.

Our third and last meet was there in Seadrift. I was standing in my Paradox, Garry was on the dock , we were shooting the breeze and up walks a younger couple, the fellow introduces an equally younger gal, she shook his hand and said to Garry she just had to meet him.

I asked Garry at that same time how old he was? “85!” said Garry. Well looking up at him I says, “You’re an inspiration.”

He was, and he still is.

Writing these missives, as i do, I get a letter from Garry, because he stumbled across them in Messing About in Small Boats. Bob Hicks was kind enough to make our connection.

The sparkle in the eye, the shining light of the imagination, they can still be kept burning, Garry and others are testament to that. Mr. Hicks as well.

So old shrimpers, iron workers, magazine editors, our hats are off to ya! May we always cherish the wisdom we gain from you guys.


  1. Mike,
    As a builder and part time carpenter I met a lot of carpenters and was often impressed with the intellect that many of these hard working men imparted. Your writing follows in that vein and is consistently one of the most enjoyable features in Duckworks. Please keep up the craft.
    Doug Nichols

  2. Yes indeed. We do gain wisdom from each other–if we will just slow down enough to catch the drift!!
    Thank You for Your narrative as it caused me sail along with You.

  3. Michael,
    I always find a large measure of encouragement in your articles. Thanks for that.
    ( 72, 1st build, Mayfly 16 project).

      • Chuck guided me to the plans last year when I asked for help in converting a sloop rig plan (Glen L 15) to a balanced lug. Thought that sail would work best. Decided to just build the 16 last spring as the simplest way to go. I bought the sail first as an incentive to finish the project. Built the first frame in May and now have the hull complete with upper and lower leeboard supports attached. Presently glassing the seams and bottom. All major parts complete (rudder, leeboard, spars) but not assembled. Sanding and bottom/hull painting next. Still have to finish the inside and put the decks and seats on when I turn her back over. Basically, learning as I go.

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