The next morning we pushed off early again. We learned that the winds the day before had been in the twenties, and the forecast for today was to be about the same. I wasn't too concerned because the boat had performed quite well in those conditions, but as I recall, the waves tend to stack up quite a bit in the northern section of the Lower Laguna Madre - if we could beat some of that it would be great. We sailed west in the Port Mansfield channel and as we came closer to the intersection with the Intercoastal, I took a shortcut again across the shallows and got ahead of some boats that had left before us as we entered the northbound channel. As the morning wore on the waves began to increase as expected. Eventually, they were pretty good sized and we were soon surfing down the backsides of the waves. Working the tiller back and forth to keep the boat headed north can really become a chore in these conditions. As the waves overtake you, the stern loses speed through the water, the rudder becomes less effective, the sail is powered up and wanting to turn into the wind and you are working hard to keep the boat pointed downwind. After awhile I asked Kristen if she wanted to take the helm. She asked "What do I do?". "Just keep the boat pointed that way", was my reply and pointed North. She quickly had the hang of it and I let her drive for the next hour or two until we entered the land cut. As I rested sitting in the bottom of the boat, watching Kristen handle the boat, it occurred to me just how well the boat was handling the conditions. I mean these were pretty big seas and she was just flying through them like it was no big deal.
Once we entered the land cut Kristen gave me the helm. Pretty quickly it seemed that the wind was laying down and we were losing boat speed. A couple of boats that we had caught up with in the bay were now able to stay with us. A bigger boat passed us so we quit debating and pulled over to shake out the reef in the sail. As I was untying one of the knots it dawned on me, that there was a pretty good wind blowing. I stopped and considered things for a moment........it didn't make sense. I finally decided that five knots would be fast enough and that it would be better to keep the boat under control and left the reef in.
Now here is the really weird part, as soon as we pushed back out, the boat took off and we were flying! As we were going along the land cut I would occasionally tighten up to keep us to the windward side of the channel, there is nothing I hate more than running aground on a lee shore. Once, as I did this a gust caught the boat and as I turned it back downwind she took off like a banshee!! She hopped on top of the water and we were flying! As the gust died, I turned up again, increasing apparent wind and then when the gust hit, turned it back downwind. At times the front half of the boat must have been completely out of the water because as we were flying along, spray was shooting out both sides of the boat from about halfway back. I have to say that I have never gone this fast in a monohull sailboat in my life – we were having a blast. I really didn't expect the boat to plane in Texas200 trim, what with two people, a bunch of gear, gallons of water and a full ice chest! But....plane she did. As we went along, we caught several boats that had left us behind during our aborted reefing attempt, we even easily passed a Core Sound 17 which had out run us earlier in the morning as we had left the Port Mansfield Jetties. This is probably the most fun I have had sailing in a long time. I had missed my days of sailing a catamaran, but not anymore!
I have no idea how fast we were going because I never got a good read off of my cell phone GPS app. I also didn't have time to open the app I have for recording speed, which in retrospect I really wish I would have made time to do!
We arrived at the infamous "Mud Hole" (also known as "Haps Cut"), and Day Two was over.
We were in the last stages of the moon turning to a full moon and it was dominant in the sky as the sun set and we went to bed. Around 2 am I woke up and looked up through the netting in the roof of my tent. The stars that were visible after the moon had set were amazing. Getting away from the light pollution of the cities, stars that you normally can't see were visible along with a very distinct and strong display of the Milky Way. Truly a beautiful and awe inspiring sight, worth the trip itself.
Day Three was a short day, and mostly uneventful other than sailing through the Baffin Bay area was a little uncomfortable. There was still a pretty good wind blowing and it was more from the east putting the waves on our quarter. It was a pretty good workout at the helm, and as I mentioned earlier I really don't like big waves. But my confidence in the boat at this point was pretty strong. We arrived at camp, Bird Island, around 1 pm and found that some boats had missed the camp. We looked around and admittedly were a little disappointed. The bottom out in the water was a nice, packed sand, but there just wasn't much of a beach here to set up a tent, due to the tides being higher than when they had scouted this area previously. I have seen way too many rattlesnakes at the coast, so we didn't dare set up our tents out in the weeds. We thought about moving on down and trying to find a better camp site, but eventually we decided to stay put and sleep in the boat. We re-arranged our gear, got all the water out, wiped down the floor and let it dry in the sun. We put up an umbrella over the cockpit and enjoyed the remainder of the day. Later as the sun was setting and we were finished with dinner, we laid out our sleeping pads on either side of the centerboard along with our sleeping bags, pillow and a sheet for each of us. I also used a throw cushion for extra head support. We laid down and had our feet to the stern, with the bulkhead passing under our knees, and were surprisingly quite comfortable. I awoke in the middle of the night again and covered up with the sheet because it was getting a little chilly. Later a mosquito buzzed my head, so I just pulled the sheet over my head and went back to sleep. Overall, it was actually a very comfortable sleeping spot and I will sleep there again.
Day Four we left and headed North again. Kristen and I met up with several boats at "Snoopy's" which is a popular restaurant located at the intersection of the intercoastal and the bridge leading into Corpus Christi. After a delicious lunch and restocking of ice and water at the bait camp next door, we headed out again, eventually turning more east as we entered Corpus Christi Bay. We brought the boat onto a close reach and headed for the east shore and calmer water avoiding the more boisterous middle of the bay. All in all the bay probably wasn't that bad that day, since the winds were around 15 knots. We reached the other side pretty quickly, which actually surprised Kristen and I. My battery had gone dead on my phone exceptionally early this day, and I wasn't exactly sure what direction to head to get to "Stingray Hole" which is the cut that leads into the Port Aransas Ship channel. So I decided to follow Tom Pamperin. The plan was to go around Shamrock Island, hug the shore and then through "Stingray Hole" and up the Port Aransas Ship Channel. The problem was, we got confused.....I mean he must have gotten confused, I am only following. We entered what I think we both thought was the pass between Shamrock Island and the shore, but it turned out to be a small cove instead. Tom continued on looking for a way out, while we turned around and sailed back out. When we came out we ran into John and Rosa Goodman as they came along. We sailed along for a while and John got some good video footage of our boat, which we greatly appreciated. Chuck Pierce joined us as well, and Tom found another way out of the cove and back to the main bay. The four of us sailed toward what I hoped was Stingray Hole, but as we approached the islands that separate us from that Channel, Chuck, who was in the lead, turned back to the West, (I began to wonder if anyone had a working GPS!). I would have sworn that the pass was more to the east of where we were. Eventually, we came to the pass and entered the Ship Channel. Chuck pulled ashore at this point for a break, Tom continued west and I followed John.
Here was a test I had been concerned about for a while. This is going to be a beat to weather, there is a lot of barge traffic and ships using this channel. I really don't want to have to occupy the middle of the channel anymore than I have to. I am still not sure how well the boat is going to go to weather and am wondering how many tacks it will take. We tighten up as we turn into the channel and hope for the best. The boat heels over some in the breeze and we begin our beat. After a few minutes I am pleased, we are doing pretty good and even getting some favorable wind shifts. I have learned by this time that I can trust this boat,she will heel a certain amount and then get pretty stiff. As we get hit with gusts and shifts, I just ease the tiller over and make a little more distance to weather. We sail up the channel with the sail cleated off the whole time. This boat really is quite stable and predictable going to weather. But eventually Chuck catches up with me. Now this really bothers me.....my boat should be faster! Chuck sails a Mayfly 14, and don't get me wrong he is REALLY good at it. This is when I fully realize that although I have gotten the boat to go to weather, I still have sail shape issues that are costing me boat speed. Which is something I knew, but this is a serious reminder of that (more on this later.)
We sail up the channel, and I make a tack when we enter the marked area of the channel. I am thinking that we can make the whole way with one tack, which will please me greatly. As I am thinking this I am admiring the Port Aransas skyline, the boats, the dark green water of the channel and just thoroughly enjoying the moment. I love this area, Port Aransas is my favorite place in Texas, a funky little beach town that has unfortunately become too popular. I notice as we sail along what looks like a giant crane moving through town, this baffles me for a second and then I realize what it is - a ship coming around the corner from the channel that goes out to the Gulf. As it approaches, I tack and head back to the channel's edge to give the boat all the room I can. The winds are getting fluky and I certainly don't want to get caught near it with no wind. It passes without incident and we continue on to play chicken with the ferry boats that are hauling cars across the channel from the mainland to Mustang Island and Port Aransas. We near the Lydia Ann Channel and are thinking we are home free when I see what looks like a miniaturized version of a cruise ship which is actually an off shore gambling boat coming down the channel from the Gulf. We are on a collision course and I eventually have to tack to give it room since he was not yielding.
The voyage down the Lydia Ann Channel and the remainder of our journey to camp 4 was thankfully uneventful. Chuck Pierce is just ahead of us the remainder of the way and I observe his sailing technique as best as I can. At one point he heads up into the wind and fiddles with his sail for about 15 seconds, then turns back on the wind, in that time he has shaken out a reef! He really is good.
That evening as Kristen and I are sitting in the opening to our tents and relaxing before turning in, I am thinking about the weather forecast for the next day - winds are predicted to be 5-10 knots. I continue thinking about various other issues concerning the trip when Kristen says, "What a beautiful view we have from our rooms". I am shaken from my thoughts and look around. She continues, "I really love all of the beautiful places we have camped this week, it is like having the best hotel rooms in the world". I am brought completely back into the moment by her words. You can get so caught up in all of the logistics, navigation, boat issues and everything else, that you miss out on the real beauty of the trip. I looked around and she was right, we truly had a million dollar room.
On Day Five we broke camp, loaded up and literally drifted out onto the bay by 7:30 am. The winds were almost non-existent near shore. Once out on the bay some breeze filled in and we were making about 3 knots. I played with the sails quite a bit trying to get more boat speed, it seemed that the wind....breeze.....or zephyrs were coming a little more out of the east. But no matter what I did, itdidn't seem right. Sometime after eleven in the morning we were coming up on Paul's Mott. Kristen and I had decided that this would be the point where we would make a decision as to whether to continue or pull out. My calculations said it would be as late as 8:30 pm when we made camp 5. A concern was that in the middle of the day the winds would become even lighter. The forecast was for more of the same tomorrow, with the direction being from the North for a while. I didn't have enough fuel to motor very far. I really didn't want to pull out, mainly because I wanted to finish the course so as not to tarnish the reputation of the design. By this time I am truly impressed with this boat as far as it being a very capable beach cruiser and fun day boat. But......with no wind, it is really hot and we have no shade. I decide that no one cares about the boats drifting abilities and so, after much debate, we turn west and head to pull out at Goose Island.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE SNS
After the way the boat performed in the Texas200, I am thoroughly impressed with this design. The boat is exceptionally seaworthy, in all the conditions we faced that week, the boat never gave us cause for concern and as the week wore on I became less concerned about what waves we might encounter in the bays. She is very stable on all points of sail, I have come to believe that she will be quite difficult to blow over. I have had her pretty far over and she just holds there, with the side decks, she is unlikely to take on water when heeled way over. She is quite capable of sailing in shallow water, this opens up so many areas that are off limits to others. She is fast.....I mean FAST.....very capable of planing! I look forward to getting her to do this more as I really learn this boat. I love the way this boat is fully decked, and the front and rear storage compartments. We had everything we needed for the week packed in there. We could have put in more but were trying to give some nod to weight control. The boat is light, maybe 250 pounds??? I haven't weighed it, but my son and I can lift in on and off the trailer. I also like the fast the fact that you can sleep in the cockpit, this is very useful when you arrive at your camp and find it less hospitable than anticipated.
As far as my sail trim problems, I have resolved most of those. Turns out I changed too many things at once and have returned most of the changes back to design spec. The main problem is that I just need to learn the lug rig. Most of my sailing has been with the Marconi rig, I have some gaff experience too, but it wasn't a huge adjustment. I know this sail is fast because Chuck Pierce has a lug rig on his Mayfly 14. I have also seen John Goodman flying along in his Goat Island Skiff, so there is nothing wrong with the lug rig, there is just a learning curve. I feel that the curve is well worth it, because it is the easiest rig to deal with on the water I have ever had and one of the quickest to set up when you arrive at the boat ramp. I am convinced that I could have this boat launched in 15 minutes after arriving with a little practice, this makes the boat very useable.
This is the fastest, most versatile, seaworthy, easy to use, fun sailboat I have ever had!
And .........I got to sail the Texas200 in it, what a blast!
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