Sunday, February 28, 2010

Everyone knows it's windy...

We've had three seasons in the past week... chilly, warm, calm, windy, sunny, rainy. Through it all, I've been out most days on Wild Blue; the pilothouse and enclosed cabin keep you out of the wind and rain. Turn on the Wallas for heat. Listen to some Radio Margaritaville on the satellite radio.

We're averaging about 10º below normal temps on average year to date. Unlike most of the rest of the country, no nights below freezing and nothing to shovel.

Spring is only three weeks away. ;-)

Monday, February 22, 2010


Yesterday in the Tropical Tip, while heading toward the Gulf...

Today in our canal...

I enjoy the contrasts. Yesterday, the temp was 62º, today it was 60º. Sure feels different without the sunshine and 100% humidity.

I think I'd like having a job as a weather guy. One of our TV weasels often predicts the wind as: "Between 5 and 25 mph." Isn't that a bit like saying, "It will be either sunny or cloudy, with a temp ranging somewhere between 40 and 80 degrees"???

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It must be me...

I've been on OPB (other peoples' boats) the past couple days. This morning, Wild Blue and I left the dock before the sun came up. My favorite time on the water - watching the sky change colors and seeing the sun rise. I went through the swingbridge and headed from the ICW into the Laguna Madre. Within a couple minutes, I saw the orange boat coming at me at a high rate of speed. Yep, the fine young men on the Coast Guard small boat turned on their blue flashing light and came up alongside Wild Blue.

They were VERY thorough this morning. After presenting all my paperwork and safety equipment, they asked what was under the hatches in the cockpit... "Fuel tank and the bilge." They opened all the hatches and checked around with flashlights. They asked about my MSD (marine sanitation device - that's a toilet for you land-lubbers). When they were satisfied that everything was in order, they asked about the boat... mostly how I use it. When I explained all the different places we've cruised with this, they seemed impressed. When I said, "We've spent up to 5 months onboard," they looked mildly horrified.

"You LIVE on it?"

"Well, no; we have a home. But this is like an RV on the water. See - fridge, shower, hot water, galley, nice berth. And we spend every night on it when we're out cruising." A couple of them thought that was interesting... I could see on the face of the other guy that he had memories of spending extended time onboard with other guys. "Hey, we get off the boat all the time - out for lunch, stop for ice cream, go for a hike." Yeah, that eased his mind.

By the time they were done with me, I had pretty well missed the best of the sunrise photo ops.

I continued cruising around the area, enjoying the calm water and pleasant morning temp. Out in the jetties area, it was clear I wasn't the only one taking in the morning - quite a few people fishing from the jetties, and this guy carrying his surfboard... it's easier to walk out to the surf than swim against the waves.

There's a lot of seaweed coming in with the tide. And this guy...

It's a Portuguese Man o' War, a jelly-fish type critter with long stinging tentacles that hang below. OK, not a true jelly-fish, it's a siphonophore... but, it stings like a jelly-fish, so close enough. And when you see one of these, you generally see lots. They are blown about by the wind and tide. Not a good day for a swim... if you could stand the 59º water.

It was a beautiful cruise this morning; lots of dolphins and birds to watch. There is a dredging operation about to start, with a HUGE dredge and an armada of tugs to support moving the pipe around. They were on the move this morning. It's kinda fun to listen to them on the radio, especially when they talk to the Brownsville Harbormaster... I know we're all speaking English, but between the local Spanish accent and the tug guys' Cajun accents, it's a real treat for your ears.


And for the Izzy fans, here's a photo update:

Peeking through the trim on the couch...

Laying on my legs while I'm on the computer...

Monday, February 15, 2010

What a difference...

... a day makes. Yesterday was probably the nicest day since we've been back in Texas. During the night, the next norther blew in... with a real kick. When we went to bed, the wind was calm and it was still in the mid-60s. Shortly after midnight, the front hit like a slap upside the head - wind gusts over 40 mph, dropping temps, and rain. I got up a couple times to check the boat; no problem. I had put an extra line on before going to bed. Sure do like the weather alerts I get on my Droid phone.

With temps in the 40s and the wind still howling, it's going to be an inside kinda day today. The palm trees aren't just swaying today, they're shaking like a hula-girl.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

It was a beautiful day. After breakfast and the Sunday paper, we decided a boat ride was in order. Yep, Izzy got to go along again.

Joan packed us a lunch and we set out. It is warmer and windier today, and plenty of sunshine. On our way to the Gulf, we stopped for nearly an hour to watch the dolphins. It seemed as though several pods came together; we had them all around us.

From there, we poked around in the Gulf for a while then came back to Barracuda Cove. Yep, dropped the anchor again for some gaming. We split the wins today.

By late afternoon, it was time to head for home. Izzy sat on Joan’s lap for part of the ride; out in the cockpit for part of the ride; and on “her own” dinette seat much of the time.

We were back in time for a sunset on the deck... a lovely way to spend Valentine’s Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sunrise Cruise...

This is the first time in a while that I’ve been out before sunrise on the boat. Easy to see why it’s my favorite time of the day. Here’s a look at the sky just before the sun came up.

Out in the ship channel, I watched the sky go through an entire palette of colors. The glow was almost surreal looking with the light refracting along the clouds and the smooth water.

Yes, there were dolphins. They were moving slowly... must be a Saturday morning kinda thing.
I ran Wild Blue into the jetties, with the idea of heading out into the Gulf. I changed my mind when I saw the “marching elephants” - the waves out on the horizon that were stirred up still from the big winds we’ve had the past couple days. I think the bay will be just fine this morning.
I ran north in the Laguna. The sun was getting higher when I ran under the causeway... and the clouds streaked the sky. Not as dramatic as the early morning, but still worth the time to sit back and admire.

North in the small boat channel along the island. There is still reconstruction going on from the hurricane a year and a half ago. Some new docks, a couple rebuilt homes, and the shell of some former beautiful places. This is one of my favorite lazy cruises... the entire channel is a No Wake Zone, so slow-going.

On the way back south, I captured this image of this Great Egret, working the shallows. It’s been a while since I worked up an image with some art effects... this simple composition lent itself well to that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Checking Out The Ranger Tug...

The other day while out and about on Wild Blue, I came across our friends Leonard and Doris in their Ranger Tug. They were coming in from the Gulf as I was heading out. We stopped to visit for a bit. Their tug, Gabriela, is a very pretty boat...

This morning, Leonard called and said, "Well, it's rainy and chilly - what do you think, a good day for a boat ride?"

"Absolutely," I said, and we made plans to shove off in about an hour. Their tug is about the same size as Wild Blue, even has a similar floorplan, but a completely different execution. Wild Blue is often described as "work boat-ish" inside; the Ranger tug has lots of warm wood tones, teak and holly sole, and even more height. Classy. It has an inboard diesel motor as opposed to an outboard. Since the inboard and rudder doesn't turn as sharp, the boat is also equipped with bow and stern thrusters - you can move the boat sideways or rotate it with just the thrusters. Very nice.

Leonard took the helm until we were out of the canal and then invited me to take it and see how the boat performs. I ran it forward, back, used the thrusters to turn and rotate, checked out the prop walk in reverse, then ran at different speeds to check out the engine volume in the cabin. I was impressed.

In the ship channel, we ran the boat to max speed (about 18 mph) and then set the RPMs to get to one gallon per hour fuel burn: 6.5 mph, giving a very efficient 6.5 miles per gallon at an easy cruise speed.

Shortly after that, a Coast Guard small boat ran by us, then made a sharp u-turn. Yep, we're about to be boarded. Leonard told me that he had never been stopped by the Coast Guard before. It must be me... I must look suspicious.

They came up alongside us, and asked the usual first question: "Do you have any weapons onboard?"

"No, sir," I said, "Would you like me to put out fenders for you to board?" It wasn't necessary - their helmsman put their bow alongside our cockpit and two men stepped aboard. They did a pretty thorough safety inspection, then we visited for a bit. Leonard got the "good as gold" sheet from them, and the two CG guys stepped back onto their boat.

It was getting increasingly foggy; besides the Coast Guard boat, we were the only ones on the water. It was a pretty sure bet that they were going to drop in for a visit. We chugged back towards home, then sat in his boat and visited for a while. Nice way to spend a drizzly gray day.

One of the particularly interesting bits on that Ranger Tug is the remote to run the thrusters. Leonard put the remote around his neck when he stepped off the boat to tie off to the dock. If I had one of those, I'd be showing off for the neighbors, running the boat from the dock, like it was a radio controlled toy! ;-)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

They did...

The gray skies did clear up for a couple days. The boating was good, we got some work done around the house, and then Mother Nature gave us more gray skies. On the boat in the middle of the night... well, really early on Tuesday, the next norther blew in. By the time I got up, the temp was down to about 50º... about 15º cooler than the night before.

Back in the house, it was warm, comfortable, and quiet... you couldn't hear the wind howling as much as on the boat.

On the weather today, the weather weasel said, "It's going to be an unpleasant day on the water today - windy, cold, and cloudy. Moderate chop on the bay." I guess he's never been on a C-Dory. It was plenty comfortable out there today... well, I was wearing long pants and a sweater... 56º outside, but 72º in the cabin with the heat running.

I used my Droid phone on GPS mode today, to check it out against the two chartplotters in the boat. Without marine charts, it only shows that you are on the water, but it runs accurately with the other two. You can see that the screen on the Droid is about the same size as the screen on the small portable chartplotter.


And, an Izzy photo update. A couple photos of little Izzy on her tower...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gray Skies Are Gonna Clear Up...

Put on a happy face.

It’s been raining for several days. Gray skies. Certainly not what we’re used to around here. But today, the weather weasels have promised us some sunshine.

It didn’t start out that way. It was another gray day when I untied the lines to the boat and shoved off. Joan had gone to the store, with the hope that there wouldn’t be big crowds first thing in the morning.

I turned into the Port Isabel Channel, heading for the main ship channel. Off to the side was a small fishing boat with two guys in it. Understandable since it has been raining for the past couple days - they want to be out, too. As I got closer, they seemed just a bit too friendly... oh, those weren’t waves hello, they are broke down.

I stopped and met my new friends, David and Daniel. Their boat won’t start. The wind is coming up. They don’t have coats. No VHF radio. No cell phone. Guess it’s a good thing I came along. They asked for a tow to the marina about a mile away.

“No problem, guys. I need to open things up in the back of the boat, first. Do you have a line?”
That, they did have - it’s the line to their anchor. Close enough. I came up alongside them, took their line, and attached it to Wild Blue. I let them know that we’d be going slow back to the marina and to give me a shout if they needed anything. I left the cabin door open so I’d be able to hear them, if necessary.

When I got close to the marina, I went back to the cockpit and told them to take up some slack in the line and that I’d put them on the dock there.

“No, no, no! Not this place. Just around the corner. At the bait shop.”

“There is no bait shop around the corner. Do you mean the fish cleaning station?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s it!”

I eased us away from the marina dock and took them down the channel and around the corner. If I do say so myself, I did a good job of putting them right at the dock by the fish cleaning station.

“No, no, no! Not this place - the bait shop.”

I decided to ABSOLUTELY clarify where they wanted to go. “You said, the marina. Then the fish cleaning station. EXACTLY where do you need to go?” I was able to figure out that they needed to go to a place a ways down the channel. “Do you mean Park Center?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s it!”

“OK, but I’m going to charge you by the stop.” They looked worried. I took them down the side channel and turned just before the dock at Park Center. When I could see that they were going to drift to the dock, I undid their line and tossed it to them. “You own me!”

I got several “Thanks, man!” from them... payment enough. Now, I could head back out.

The sky didn’t look like it had any intention of clearing. Heading back towards the ship channel, I hadn’t seen any dolphins, but several pelicans made a close run.

I chugged down the ship channel, heading east. I saw a dolphin or two, but they weren’t close or very active. I made my way into the jetties area and the sky began to show some breaks. And then - dolphins! And then even more blue sky. Yep, it’s a sign.

A shrimpboat on its way in came down the ship channel, with a couple dolphins bow surfing.
As the sun came out, the dolphin show began in earnest. There were dolphins all around the boat... fins to the left, fins to the right.

They were jumping out of the water, slapping their tails, and just generally having a great time. I guess they were as happy as I was to see the sun.

I had the dolphins to myself for nearly an hour. The “show” was an absolute delight. Then I got a call from one of the excursion boats, asking if we had any dolphins there. “Oh, yeah!” I was joined by their boat a short time later, and the show continued. Then a guy with two teenagers in a small fishing boat roared right into the middle of the dolphin activity and stopped. The kids had their cameras out, but the dolphins disappeared... ya think it had something to do with the yahoo running right up on them?

I put Wild Blue into gear and headed for home. Once home, Joan made lunch while I downloaded the 60 or 70 dolphin images I had taken; then the two of us went out in the boat. In the sunshine... for the rest of the afternoon. Nice way to spend the day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Ground Hog Day!

I love Ground Hog Day!

All the little children singing Ground Hog carols, people decorating their homes and boats with Ground Hog lights, and my favorite part: the exchanging of Ground Hog presents! Of course, the retailers have to try to commercialize the whole thing, with their big Pre-Ground Hog Day sales... seems like it goes on forever. Which reminds me, I still have that goofy Ground Hog sweater my aunt gave me several years ago... I better pull it out; you get so few opportunities to wear it out in public.

But before we know it, the whole thing will be over. Oh, and if that hairy little bastard sees his shadow, there will be the bar-b-queing of the Ground Hog, another family tradition. Who wants the drumstick?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Black Sheep of the Family...

Only one more shopping day until Ground Hog’s Day!

We got a call from my cousin Dennis today. He runs a carnival; he wanted to visit Port Isabel and have lunch - it’s always a treat to see him. During the course of lunch, I asked him if I could get a job with the carnival this summer... he turned me down, saying that I wouldn’t be able to “handle the work” and he didn’t like hiring family. I even offered to learn to swear more and pull out one of my front teeth. Still no.

When I was a kid, I would occasionally work in one of the booths for his Mother... hey, I could make change when I was 10 years old and run a snow cone or cotton candy machine. And now, I am apparently so hard-core unemployable that I can’t get a job with the carnival??? Sad.

After we parted company with Dennis and his wife, we came home... and Joan and I parted company: she went to the Post Office and the store, I went to visit my dolphin friends on Wild Blue.

No photos of Joan’s adventure at Walgreens, but here is a look at some of what I saw today. It was a cloudy day, but the temp was in the 60s and not much wind... actually, a very pretty afternoon on the water.