By Bill Moffitt - Atlanta, Georgia - USA

Here is a tip for you. Don’t leave a large bag of trail-mix open on the seat. At least not if you are sailing the Texas 200!

My son Paul and I were on the third of our five days participation in the Texas 200, the inaugural event organized by Chuck Leinweber of Duckworks Magazine. The planned agenda had between 25 and 30 boats of all sizes and types leaving Port Mansfield Texas and sailing for 5 days to reach Magnolia Beach, just a few miles from Port La Vaca.  The four planned stops ranged from a semi-quagmire mud beach in the landcut off the ICW to a pristine dock right in front of the Padre Island Yacht Club. Winds were predicted not less that 10 and as high as 30 mph + in the afternoons. Predictions were accurate!


Embers Watch at the semi-quagmire mud beach in the landcut off the ICW.

click images to enlarge

Our boat, a Jim Michalak design dubbed Mikesboat and christened Embers Watch by me and some Woodford Reserve Bourbon, is 17’ long, 5 1/2’ wide, 6” draft, and with the heart of a much bigger boat. She was the prototype build and on her maiden voyage, a not to be recommended 200 mile first trip. It was a chance I just had to take.

You see, I had started building Embers Watch in December  of last year specifically for this trip. As it was winter, I could only do things like make the rudder, lee board, and bulkheads. I figured there was plenty of time to complete her and test sail before June. I started hull assembly in February. But I am forced to build outdoors and in the open, so the loss of 5 or 6 entire weekends and many other days to rain put me behind. On the night before we were to sail, I was still running rigging and attaching cleats!

Taking shape in my outdoor boat shop.

Paul was in London, England, 20 hours flying time away and arrived at the start around 11PM that night.  He got to see Embers Watch and get a bit of sleep before we took off next morning.  We had a few minor problems, like a couple of nylon wire ties I used to bend on the sails breaking upon first hoisting the main sail, some brass screws I used (didn’t have stainless the right size at the time) bending, but nothing major broke or was wrong with the design.

Allow me a moment….    I will take credit for making Embers Watch and that the pieces I made did not break.  But Jim Michalak gets the credit for a very successful design; all I did was follow the plans. Jim is a very reserved, unassuming fellow who can be very brief and to the point in e-mails, but never fails to give you the information you need. He even redesigned the sail plan for Mikesboat to make her a balanced lug  with a small mizzen.  This proved to be an ideal rig as the mizzen gives controlled anchorage and reefing as well as a surprising boost in speed, while the well mannered main gave a cruising speed well above what I expected. We got a lot of compliments from faster boats on our progress. And they weren’t just being nice!  So, Thanks Jim; you have produced another great design, one of your very best in my opinion. And I have built five of yours so far.

Here I am replacing some bent brass screws at the PIYC.

I could not have wished for a better outcome. We made the entire trip, camped comfortably each night onboard, learned many lessons, and got to meet internet names face to face. Camaraderie was the highlight of the whole experience. And one lesson we learned concerns that open Trail-Mix. We had made a poor decision with navigation and ended up beating dead to windward in 2 1/2’ to 3 1/2’ choppy seas with winds 25 gusting over 30. This was the only time on the trip that we took on any water at all, and that was the usual bow splash blown back into the boat by the winds.

We had reefed down after I noticed how much my mast was bending. It looked akin to a wind surfer’s and I later asked Chuck if his similar rig did that. He said it did and I asked him what he did about it. “ I try not to look up!” was his answer.
So we were slogging into the wind trying to make progress towards Army Hole, but the reef was very sloppily tied in and would not set well, and our VMG was poor.   So we shook out the reef in those waves, using the mizzen to steady us, and when we were done Paul asked where the trail mix was.  Well of course it was off the seat and into the inch or so of salt water on the sole. All the M&Ms had dissolved and we had chocolate soup with floating nuts and things sloshing around down there! What a mess, and what a waste!

Embers Watch pulled up at Magnolia Beach

Of course, in all the hurry to finish the boat, I had forgotten to put a sponge or bailing bucket on board.  Paul had made a stop-gap bailer from a gator-aid bottle with the bottom cut out, and that is what we used. Actually, by the time we got to Army Hole, we had bailed enough that the soup was gone.  But I did find peanuts up until I got back home, cleared out the boat, and finally got the last one.  Maybe…

Bill and Paul Moffitt
S/V Embers Watch     
PS Thanks for the loan of the outboard Larry; I’m hooked!

Links below are to web albums and video links.
Also to the Texas 200 site:

Paul seems to be enjoying his turn at the helm.

Videos shot onboard Embers Watch

My Web Album of stills from the Tex200

Video from a Sea Pearl 21 and Embers Watch not loosing ground though heavily loaded. 4 onboard and still with camping gear loaded. Messabout on Saturday.

Texas 200 Main Page

Texas 200 - 2008 edition - Website of Larry Whited (Larry loaned me the outboard we used for the Texas200)