Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tanker Sunrise...

It's been a while since I've been out on Wild Blue for a sunrise cruise. This morning, I headed out at Oh-Dark-Thirty, with a full moon out the back of the boat...

I headed out into the Gulf for some sunrise photos. There was a tanker heading in... and the water was rough... 3-5' and confused. I came back in to protected waters to get a shot (hard to shoot when the boat was bouncing every which way)...

It was early, but plenty of activity. I listened to the tanker, the dredge in the ship channel, and a tug pushing a "red flag" barge (flammable cargo - 160,000 pounds of something) negotiate who was going to pass where in the narrow channel.

Interesting that the Gulf was rough, considering how flat the water in the ship channel and Laguna. The small bait shrimpers where dodging out of the way of the tanker and tug coming at them from different directions. But, everyone "played nice"... generally the way with professional captains.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Going Out Like A Lamb...

We had some nice weather while my brother-n-law was here. After we took him to the airport yesterday, it got even better. Seems to happen that way when we have company. Today was just about the perfect day, weather-wise... a great day to be out on Wild Blue. Crispy blue sky, very little wind, glorious sunshine, and temps in the upper 70s. There weren't a lot of boats out and about when we first headed out, but by mid-afternoon the water was plenty occupied. We tossed out the anchor to have lunch and then just bopped around... no destination, no schedule.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Off We Go...

With John's life-long love of aviation, I took him to the Cameron County Airport north of town. There is a big imposing fence all around the FBO, but we made our way in. We were greeted almost immediately by the guy who runs the FBO. When he could see that we were relatively harmless, he left so we could look around.

From there, it was on to Brownsville and another FBO. Right across from that is the Commerative Air Force Museum. Yes, it used to be the Confederate Air Force, but they've undergone a name change thanks to political correctness. As air museums go, they didn't have a lot of aircraft, but they had a very nice display of memorabilia from World War II. John has about 5,000 hours in a B-26, so he was particularly interested in one display regarding that.

Back home, we took a once-around-the-island tour on Wild Blue, then settled in on the deck for a sunset.

The time has been going quickly. We never did get a walk on the beach done, but he did get to see a pretty good slice of how we live here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


My brother-in-law John is visiting for a few days. This is kind of a big deal... we've been inviting him to come down here for years, and this is his first visit. It's been a cold winter back in Iowa, and the break will do him good.

We gave John the city circle tour this morning. Well, more like the island circle tour. We showed him around Long Island and then drove across the causeway to show him South Padre Island. I’ve often said people either get it and they love this area... or they don’t get the lifestyle and don’t care for it. Just guessing, but I think John is leaning towards the latter. No doubt, end of the road places are not for everyone, but we hope he will enjoy his visit.

We stopped for a while to watch some people kite surfing; seems John was not too excited to hear that we signed him up for lessons. I don’t know what the big deal is - the water temp is up to 65º! (Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!)

After lunch out, John and I went out for the afternoon on the boat.

John taught me to drive a stick shift when I first got my learner’s permit. He taught me to fly when I was 16. He probably doesn’t know that he was an important male influence when I was growing up. It felt good today to be able to show him how we live down here and let him take the helm on Wild Blue. I gave him some guidance and he was soon driving the boat like an old pro.

We had a great afternoon on the water; the tour of the Port Isabel shrimp basin, down the Brownsville Ship Channel, including watching dolphins swim by the boat and leap out of the water. Back in time for sunset and drinks on the deck. Nice day.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The days get better than this, but not very often. When we got up this morning, it was nearly calm - pretty unusual around here. The sun was shining and the sky was crispy blue. We ran some errands in the morning and drove over to the island. It looked like someone flipped a switch and all the people disappeared... we saw about a dozen kids walking on the main drag. We drove through the park and by the beach, and it was back to winter Texans. The Gulf was as flat as we’ve ever seen it.

Out on the boat. We ran out into the Gulf, turned off the motor and just let the boat drift. It wasn’t going anywhere... we just bobbed in the slight swell. We were about a mile and a half off the beach and you could hear the throbbing bass from the music on the beach. Coca-Cola Beach, the major party place wasn’t particularly populated... it looks like spring break is pretty much a done deal.

On the way back in, we got a call on the VHF radio from Frank, the captain on Double Sunshine... “Hey, I haven’t seen you out here lately. How have you been?” We visited for a while, then pulled up near Double Sunshine to watch some dolphins. There was a good size pod of them playing and fishing out at the end of the jetties. Joan stepped out to the cockpit to take some photos. A really nice way to top off a beautiful cruise.

Back home late afternoon, some boat cleaning, and sunshine on the deck. Little Izzy enjoyed some outdoor time before settling in for a nap.

Beautiful day; great time on the water. Springtime is my favorite time in the Tropical Tip.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hard Aground...

No, not us.

It started out cool this morning, but turned into a spectacular day. Coming up towards the causeway, we came across a tug pushing two barges who was hard aground... very close to the causeway. In the area of the causeway where it had been hit by a barge in 2001, and knocked down a section. Bad situation.

We would have been like a fly on an elephant - nothing we could to to help. We heard the tug captain call the dredge operation in the ship channel to see if they could spare a couple tugs to help pull him off. They seemed somewhat willing until they heard what he was carrying in the barges... naptha. Naptha is highly flamable, used to make lighter fluid and in many solvents.

We toured along South Padre Island and heard our one local tug contact the stuck tug... asked if there was anything he could do. The stuck tug captain was looking for any help he could get... he didn't know the local tug, Sting, was pretty small compared to the stuck tug. We made our way back to this area to see what they were going to do.

The two tugs pulled for the better part of an hour, and didn't budge the stuck barges. They eventually unhooked the barges and were able to move them to deeper water... after a LOT of pulling. At one point, the small local tug was holding one of those big barges to keep it off the causeway supports. He radioed the other tug that he was using full power just to hold it in place.

On the other side of this activity, we watched a sailboat race... and it was a perfect day for it.

We didn't go far today, but had ring-side seats for plenty of activity.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Broken bones, heart attack, and stepped on a nail...

Sounds like a pretty bad day, huh?

It was time to renew my CPR certification. I called the nearest Red Cross and scheduled for a class today. When I've taken this in the past, it has been with a bunch of other captains; today was quite different... I was the only guy in a class with 9 women.

Not the only difference - the instructor worked our butts off. First, we had to work on each other, alternating between the patient and the responder... on the floor... as dead weight. Then we added the CPR mannequins; everybody got one. That was different from past classes, too. So, you had to work all the time - no observing.

The attitude in the class was different, too. These women had no problem with moving their patient around, splinting each other, bandaging extremities... I didn't see that kind of encouraging hands-on work in previous classes.

And the tests... I had to take 5 written tests and one oral test today. Watch and follow along with a bunch of videos. One or two tests in past classes. The instructor was efficient and enthusiastic. Twice as much time, and more than twice as much learned.

Go ahead... faint... or get a nail through your foot... or break a bone... or let me hook you up to an AED. I'm ready!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Break Has Sprung...

Yesterday while out in the boat, we checked out traffic on the causeway. That's our "barometer" of how packed the island is... if traffic is backed up on the causeway, it will be a zoo trying to get around on the island.

Maybe because of the economy, perhaps because of the warnings about the violence in nearby Mexico, most predictions were for a smaller spring break crowd this year. Judging by the traffic on the causeway, I'm saying that's probably not the case: it was backed up the entire length of the causeway and into Port Isabel. In years past, we've seen the traffic backed up all the way through Port Isabel and several miles out of town! No idea how far back into town it went, 'cause we were on the water and had no intention of driving the truck anywhere.

This morning on the local news, we heard they are now predicting the biggest spring break crowd in 5 years. 100,000+ screaming college (and younger) kids. It makes an impact on an "end of the road" town... one way in, the same way out. The weather has been mostly decent for this week - Texas Week, when most of the colleges in the state are out.

I am hearing that the Mexican resorts like Cancun and Acapulco are way off in spring break visitation this year, so maybe the kids that would have gone there have come here. They leave a mess on the beach and the streets (I don't get that), but the area can really use the economic shot in the arm.

For us, it's a really good time to be out on the water (instead of on the roads). ;-)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review...

No, not something I read, but the manuscript I wrote: Cat On A Leash. I asked a local arts & entertainment weekly editor to read it and give me her opinions. Not an easy task for me, since we had never met. I called and introduced myself, assuring her that I wasn't trying to sell her anything or bother her in any way. She agreed to give the book a read and offer her opinion. Today was the day I picked up the manuscript from her. I held my breath, waiting for her views...

She liked it! Well, she used "loved it." She told me she laughed and cried while reading it, and enjoyed the adventure. She offered a couple pointers to "spruce it up" and offered to write a review for it when I can get it published. I'm still trying to find a literary agent.

The only ones who have read the whole book are family members. They already have a connection with the story and the characters. This was the opportunity to get an evaluation from someone who doesn't know us. The positive review is very encouraging.

So, a little "touch up" and I'll be ready to renew my efforts to get this published.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stinkpotters and Ragbaggers...

What a day! A cool morning that turned into one of the famous "C of C" days. Clear blue sky, nice breeze, low humidity, temps in the 70s. The dolphins were playing on both sides of the boat while we slowly chugged down the ship channel. We were enjoying lunch and then some yahtzee at anchor, when we saw a Hobie about to launch off the nearby beach. The wind was only blowing about 12, but it was right on the shore; I said to Joan, "That's going to be a tough tack to get that thing out of this cove."

Turns out I was right. The couple on the Hobie got repeatedly caught in irons and were drifting towards the rocks. I stepped out into the cockpit... they were close enough to be in earshot without hollering... "Do you need me to pull up the anchor and tow you out to more open water?"

"Well, we just can't get turned here."

I said, "Would you like me to pull up and get out of your way so you can tack across here?" I think he was surprised that a powerboat guy knew what his situation was.

"If you don't mind, that would really help," the guy said.

I fired up the Honda, pulled up the anchor with the windlass, and did a big 360º while he tacked across where we were anchored. Truly, he had gotten himself pinned in where he was.

After a flurry of thank-yous and waves, we pulled back to that spot and dropped anchor once again. And Joan beat me that game.

It's spring break, and every excursion boat, tour boat, and bay fishing boat was loaded with kids. Many of them buy a package that includes air, a room, and some activities. All the boat operators are busy right now. The airplanes towing banners have to be careful to dodge the parasail boats. Looking to the north, the causeway (2 1/2 miles between South Padre Island and the mainland) was bumper to bumper with cars. Even with all the activity, this is a great time to be on the water instead of stuck in a car.

When we got home late this afternoon, we got back to our dock a bit before our next door neighbor. He had taken a couple friends out fishing. One of those guys said, "That has to be one of the best looking boats I've ever seen!" (referring to Wild Blue) I complimented his good taste. Wink And then gave him a tour of our boat.

He is an avid fisherman who had never seen or heard of a C-Dory before. Happens frequently. There is certainly a lot of interest in the boat, even here in the Tropical Tip where pilothouse boats are generally 65' shrimpboats. A few days ago, I got a call on the radio... the guy was calling for "That white boat with the blue trim and the big Honda on the back that just came through the swingbridge." It turned out to be a guy in a canoe that I had just passed. He wanted to know about our boat. He's down here on vacation from the Dallas area.

People go out of their way to ask about these boats. Talking with other C-Dory owners, I know they experience the same thing. Quite the marketing opportunity, huh?

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Brent and Dixie, our cruising friends from Discovery, came to visit. We had a great time while they were here; had time to catch up and talk about future plans. Dixie is allergic to cats, so the house was vacuumed from top to bottom and I did my best to keep Izzy at distance from Dixie. As you can see in the photo, Izzy is a social girl, so that wasn't always possible...

Their visit was short, but big on enjoyment. I had the opportunity to give them a tour of the Port of Brownsville on Wild Blue...

There is petroleum, grain, steel, and all the usual things you expect to see moving in and out of a commercial port, but the two big industries there are the construction of oil platforms (above) and the de-construction of ships... there are 4 enterprises in the port that do ship scrapping.

All too soon, it was time to say good-bye. They have been spending the winter in Rockport, but will soon be on their way back to Utah. Safe travels, friends.


I shipped the last of the packages off yesterday from the eBay auctions. It turned out successful from my point of view. I re-listed the few items that didn't sell, with new (lower) starting prices. Hoping for my new favorite word: SOLD! ;-)

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I was out on the boat yesterday and was treated to a very impressive "dolphin show." They were very active, jumping out of the water and playing in groups of 4 or 5.

The only camera I had with me was my little point and shoot. Not a lot of zoom, a bit of shutter lag, but it is small and convenient. I think the dolphins know... they would pop out of the water on one side of the boat, but my little camera couldn't keep up with their movement. When I would get ready in preparation for the next jump, they'd appear at the other side of the boat. Then poke their heads out and laugh at me. I know they're just under the water, talking and scheming... "OK, he has his camera ready - everybody stay down here. There, I heard him turn the camera off - let's all jump just outside his window! Hahahahahahahahahaha!"

I've seen the smiles on their faces; I know they have a sense of humor. ;-)

Monday, March 8, 2010


Today, Wild Blue got to rest while I went out on another OPB (Other People's Boats). My friend, Herb, scored a good find on a Ranger 21 tug. Yes, the Ranger tugs in Port Isabel now outnumber the C-Dorys, 2:1.

Herb called and asked if I wanted to check out his new boat... "I'm on my way!" We visited for a bit, then headed out to his dock...

Herb's lovely wife, Wilma, waved good-bye to us, and we were off. It was a gray day, but the smiles were plenty bright...

We took the tug into the Laguna Madre, and Herb let me take the helm to get a feel for the boat. I did some tight maneuvers to get a feel for her manners at the dock. With the inboard diesel, prop shaft and rudder, there's a bit of prop walk, as you'd expect. She reverses better to port than starboard, but it's good to know how much. There was about a 1 foot chop in the bay, and the boat rode nice.

Herb needs to get a chip for this area for the GPS, but we checked out the radar, depth sounder, and VHF. It's a nicely equipped boat.

We put the 21 through its paces for about 3 hours... across the Laguna and into the jetties, around the dredge equipment and into some bigger waves. The little tug handled it all fine.

We made our way back to Herb's dock, then visited for a while - a great way to pass the day!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

SSE and gusty...

Yesterday was a beautiful day: sunny, temp in the 70s, breezy, but not too much so. And I got to spend most of the day at our annual owners association meeting. We re-elected the same folks and spent way too much time discussing how to spend money the association doesn't have on a project that most of the people aren't in favor of. In other words: a wasted of a really good day.

Today was overcast and strong gusty winds. It looks cold out, but the temp is again in the 70s. I got out on the boat for a few hours this morning... didn't seen another recreational boat out there. The strong winds had the bay and ship channel churned up, but "with the windshield wipers keepin' time," it was a very pleasant ride.

I heard an incoming shrimper contact the dredge that's working in the ship channel. The dredge operator told him which side to pass on. Shortly after that, one of the Homeland Security boats (also Customs and Border Protection) roared by us. Yep, I'm guessing that shrimper is going to get a visit.

As I started back in the ship channel, I did see two kayakers on the water. Well, not exactly ON the water... they were dragging their kayaks along the shore. One way to get out of the lumpy waves.

Can't say I blame him one bit.

Wild Blue needed a very thorough cleaning when I got home - there was salt spray all the way to the top of the radar dome. Sure beats sitting through an owners meeting. ;-)

Friday, March 5, 2010


No, not me. The dolphins. I've been out most days this week, and today was an exceptional dolphin show. My first shot was from a distance, and unfortunately not in focus because the pocket point and shoot I was using couldn't keep up with the movement.

When I got closer, I could see that the dolphins were ... um .... being amorous. As in: if you had kids with you, you might have to have a "birds, bees, and dolphins" talk. Dolphins, like humans, engage in this for the recreational aspects, not just the creational (if that's a word). So, no dolphin porn here, but some shots of them frolicking near the boat...

It was a gray ol' day today, but watching these dolphins sure brightened the day. Little Izzy slept through most of it...

And from Wednesday morning, the closest thing to a sunrise to be had. There was a line of clouds at the horizon, so you really didn't see much of the sun until it rose above that.

And an update on the eBay saga: people are bidding on some of the stuff. Well, I was hoping that's how it would work, but one never knows. And over half of the auctions have people "watching" them; I'm considering that a good sign. I'm not ready to give up my day job, especially since I don't have a day job, but this has been an interesting experience.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I guess I'm a bit of a dinosaur. Over the years, I've bought a few things on eBay, but never tried to sell anything. Yesterday, I drug out that box of stuff labled "stuff for eBay" and figured out how to post it all. We've been moving that box from up north to storage to our little house... an odd collection of "treasures" that we know quite what to do with. So, there it is for the whole world to look at and bid on... or not. I looked at similar items (who knew there were hundreds and hundreds of Harley-Davidson belt buckles trying to find new homes??) before posting mine, but didn't see a lot of bidding happening. Maybe it all happens in the last few seconds?

It all took more time than I first imagined. Since I no longer have a studio, I took the items out on the deck for the natural light. Then it takes time to work up each image. Then you have to come up with some copy to try to get a buyer interested. I was surprised by the number of offerings that came across as terse... maybe I just don't have experience with dealing with online auctions. We were always NICE to our customers. Then you have to figure out postage. Will people really pay $4 postage on an item that sells for $3.99?

No, I'm not looking to make a living selling stuff on eBay, but one can only say, "Yeah, I'll get around to that," so many times before that box of stuff becomes an issue. So, anyone wanna buy some belt buckles, or Harley Owners Group pins and patches, or a bunch of other stuff? I sure hope so. ;-)

Now, I have to wait a week. Oh, and answer questions. Like "What size is the buckle?" or "Was it made in the US?" I could respond with, "It's a freakin' buckle - it's big enough to fit on a belt. Who knows where this thing was made? I'm just selling it, I didn't make it." But, instead I wrote, "It's 3 3/4 x 2 3/4 and was made in Denver, CO, in the good ol' USA, © 1983. Thanks for looking and happy bidding."

Little Izzy enjoyed spending time out on the deck with me while I was shooting the photos. It was a cool, windy day, but sunny. Now that I have all this done, I'm going to head out on the boat. I'll take my computer and wireless broadband... just in case.

Happy bidding!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Chamber of Commerce Day...

Yep, clear blue skies, light breeze, and temps in the upper 70s - what a beautiful day. The kinda day for a beach walk...

We're at that "in between" time... there are a few schools up north on spring break, but very few this early. The Winter Texans haven't headed north yet (and who could blame 'em?). So, there are a lot more seasoned citizens on the beach than college age kids. That proportion will reverse in another week.

While walking by one group of kids, I noticed 4 of them on the beach watching another 6 of their group in the water. I said to them, "Well, it appears that you are the smart ones in the group... or your friends are REALLY tough - that water is COLD!"

They chuckled and agreed that they are the smart ones. I asked where they were from and they said, "Iowa."

"That's my home state," I said, "Sioux City."

"No way! That's where we go to school!"

"Morningside College?" I asked. When they confirmed that, I told them it was my alma mater. We discussed the school a bit before I continued my walk. Small world. Nice that they are getting some warm weather, considering the winter they've had.

When I got home, I made lunch for Izzy and me (different foods, thanks for asking), and headed out on the boat. The water was nice, but not a dolphin to be seen. I ran out into the Gulf, but it was lumpy out there, so back into the ship channel.

Here's a sign that spring break is nearly here...

That's a banner in the upper left, being pulled by a small airplane. There will be plenty more of those in another week or two, also.

The jetties area is being dredged. No dolphins, but plenty of tugs and a large dredger...

Back home, I took Izzy for a couple walks... this is the kinda day you just don't want to be inside.

She was mesmerized by a group of pelicans that landed in the water next to our boat. I was rinsing down the boat, they assumed there would be some fish parts being tossed their way. They were wrong. I kept Izzy close by in case they decided a small cat might be as tasty as a big fish.

Some time lounging in the sun and burgers on the grill. I could use another 30 or 40 days in a row just like this one.