Offshore 150 miles in 23 hours

The passage home included a crew change.  Three friends from the Bay Yacht Club drove my car down and Linda drove it back home.  As Linda loaded the car for home, the four of us prepped SYL for the offshore run.  Crew arrived shortly after lunch on Saturday.  I had pizza delivered for the night and tomorrow’s lunch.  Today’s lunch provision was a platter of 40 fried shrimp and fries from Dirty Al’s.  The all male crew didn’t spare a shrimp… we were fed and ready to leave in short order.

SYL cast off her lines at 1:00PM leaving the southern end of the ICW in it’s wake.  We happily raised the main sail inside the South Padre cut breakwater with a light East wind in our face.  The passage was indeed expected to be light with leftover waves, so any true sailing we got would be a bonus.  We angled off the Jetty 90 degrees to port at the first red mark.  Anxious to see if we could hold rhumbline to Corpus, I watched the sails and GPS speed with high hopes.  The starboard bow breeze was enough to hold our line…. bumping around 5 knots.. the boat was happy to be sailing instead of motoring as we made our way across the bright green water of the Southern Gulf.  In the light air, apparent wind came around pretty quickly so the 90 degree turn yielded just enough apparent wind, but only just.  It appeared the day would not be fast, but tennable.  As we settled in, everyone tried out a favorite seat for the single tack 24 hour run to Corpus.

We sailed until almost dark.  When the sun set so did the winds, for a while we teetered around 4 knots under sail alone…. soon I cranked the new port engine, that helped us manage 5.5 knots again.  Eventually we lit both motors and would motorsail / motor all the way to Corpus Christi Marina.    Most of the night the sails gave us a bit of help, but they often were only limp decorations against the moonless night sky.   The dark hours proivided us with a massive solid blanket of stars overhead.  My daughter Karen would have loved it.  I stared at the heavens all night long and counted 5 falling stars!  Offshore skies are wonderful, easily the best part of a night passage.

When the wind laid, the 4 to 5 foot ground swells lost their form and the gulf became a confused jumble of jabbing peaks with no winds to hold our little ship straight.  We bobbed along all night in one of the worst seastate I can remember in quite a while.  Much of the night was spent under tight hauled main attempting to dampen the nights sea jumble.. without much success.  New catmaran riders must have said to themselves “this boat rides like a truck!”. 

Hopefully the sea state didn’t wet everyones blanket of joy, I got 4 hours sleep during the passage so that was a big plus for me.  During a night passage the visual wonder turns your attention from blue water to twinkling stars.  In that regard…. we were highly blessed.  I have rarely seen so many stars during a night passage.  Most of the night was clear and unobstructed, the very early morning hours produced some offshore lightning and clouds that loomed well off the starboard beam.  Stray clouds drifted overhead from the localized cells but generally we were clear all night.  I expanded the radar screen to it’s full 32 mile range in an effort to electronically sample the rumbling event.  

Storm clouds were further away than I could detect either electronically or visually (other than by oftlit claps) and remained that way until dawn.  The only thing the weather gave us was a bit of sporatic fresh breeze from the built up CCW outflow.   Morning light found us close to the Aranasas Pass jetties.  The calmness of the Sunday morning brought lots of fishing boats outside the breakwater.  The sea lost much of it’s lumps during the night as the windless sea returned to a more stable state.  Morning at sea always provides a lift of spirits.  The water goes from ink black under the dark night to gray as the sun bounces across it at first light… then to it’s full vivid green when rays gain the angle to pentrate deeply into the depths.  Cold pizza and burritos Linda sent along with a swig of coke from the bottle was our first taste of the new day.  The night had been interesting but not as luxurious and lazy as it could have been.

We motored in the Port A cut with a fine little current.  Zipping in at 3/4 throttle over 7 knots was just what the doctor ordered.  In the land cut and across Coprus Christi Bay the crew gained it’s day legs in clamer water… a nice relief from the nights sea jabber.  Just under 600 yards from the home port entry breakers… we got WIND!!!  I still had full sails up so I keyed off the Yamahas and left them in neutral… dragging in the water for the last 20 minutes of our passage.  Luckily the wind was on our nose as we docked so it didn’t present a problem….. SYL seemed all in the world “home again”.. bouncing alongside E dock in the wind as we washed the salt off her back and zipped up her sails.

Thanks went all around.. and wives there to meet us; the crew parted ways and the passage was over.  A fine sail vacation to the end of the Intercoastal Waterway and back.  Good friends and food, descent weather and water….. yet glad to be home.   It’s funny how driving a nice car with the cold air conditioning in your face after a night passage feels so luxurious.  Our moving average was 5.6 knots, not great but not too shabby.  Top speed was over 8 but only for nanoseconds.  My eyes were full of vivid night stars and the memory of the 4th of july fireworks…. a 10 day boat trip… all mental food to consume next week at work.  Nothing broke, no blood was let that lasted over 15 minutes….. all in all an early summer success.

sv “Sea Yawl Later !!”    Rusty

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