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by John Alesch - Austin, Texas - USA

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five

We woke about 5:30 am, took down our tents and packed them in the boat. The fleet started pulling out around 6:00 am. We got off between 6-6:30 am. The fleet headed off to the northeast across Aransas Bay on a route that would take them close to Padre Island which would provide some shelter from the wind and waves. On the north end of Aransas Bay, to the east of the land cut is where the oyster reefs start. Just after the first line of reefs is Carlos Bay which goes into Mesquite Bay. Mesquite Bay allows the boats to head for either Cedar Bayou to the east or Ayers Dugout to the north. We however, headed more northerly across Aransas Bay to the channel.

The winds were increasing early and so were the waves. Looking back afterwards, we could have followed the rest of the fleet thru Aransas Bay, staying closer to Padre Island, and then turned to head to the land cut before we got into the oyster reefs. Instead we headed straight across. The wind continued to pick up as did the waves. The wind that day, as I later learned, was over 20 knots, gusting to 35 knots. The waves were 6 to 8 feet high out in the channel where we were. The Day Sailer held her course well and did very good in the high winds. We were getting some water in the boat which I would bail out trying to figure out where it was coming from. I was navigating and bailing, Bill was at the helm.

Bill kept saying "more wind, bigger waves", I kept telling him "shut up Bill". Finally figured out the water was coming in through the front of the centerboard trunk. The grommet on the cable is missing and the water would get in the cuddy cabin and drain into the cockpit thru the cabin drain holes. Very little water was coming over the sides. At some point during the crossing of the bay the boat hit 11.2 mph according to the GPS, most of the time our speed ranged from 6 to 8 mph. We encountered few boats while crossing the bay. The only large vessel we had to stay clear of was a commercial fishing boat lying net in or along the edge of the channel.

As we got closer to the land cut we came upon some of the "Geezer" group coming out of Rockport. We also started getting some chatter on the VHF radio from others in the Geezer group. When we got near the land cut, two of them were ahead of us, the rest were still closer into Rockport. There were four boats in this group, although one of them had been with the main group the night before crossing Corpus Christi Bay. The boat that had been with the main group earlier was an eighteen footer that was sailing under jib alone. On the third day at camp they were doing mainsail repairs. We passed them easily and could see another boat in the distance. We continued up the land cut and finally passed the boat that was ahead of us. The Geezer group had planned to camp on Rattlesnake Island. Now all of the Geezers were behind us. As we approached the island we started looking for the area to beach the boat. The sides of the island were rather steep and we couldn't see a good spot to beach. Having never sailed in this area before, we were unsure of where the planned camp was going to be. I made the "poor" decision to round the north point of the island to see if there was a good place to beach on the other side. As we started to tack, we ran aground. There were reefs and shallows on the north end. We got off the area fairly easily, and headed back southwest into the land cut. About this time the boat behind us had caught up and was trying to beach on the north tip of the island. We sailed too far across the cut and ran aground on the other side. As we tried to get out of the mud on that side, we saw a barge approaching from the north. Now, the eighteen-footer, had caught up and was trying to anchor on the north end of the island close to the other boat. We made one more attempt to get over to them, but with a southeasterly wind and a barge coming down the cut, we abandoned the idea of getting over to them.

We headed north up the cut to find a campsite on one of the few islands before the start of San Antonio Bay. We found what looked like a place to get ashore. We beached the boat and went ashore to find a campsite. I was ashore a short time and felt I needed to sit down. I closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them it felt like the world was spinning and I was feeling a little sick. I called Bill over and told him I wasn't feeling very well. He helped me back out to the boat where I laid down on the bow. I was suspecting dehydration. I had not had as much water as I should have had that day. With the rough bay crossing, high winds, bailing and temperatures near 100, I wasn't drinking enough water. I laid down on the bow and Bill gave me a couple bottles of water and a bottle of Power-aid to rehydrate myself. In the meantime the rest of the Geezer fleet, four boats, came by and anchored about 100-yards beyond where we were. Bill found a trail on the island and walked down to where they were at. I slept some while he was gone. When he got back, we decided to move the boat down to where they were. Bill told me to stay where I was and he took the bow line and walked the boat down along the shoreline to the new beach. I rested and rehydrated while Bill went over and visited with the other sailors. One couple was doing some fishing. After a couple hours, Bill came back and said they offered to provide dinner if we had something to contribute to the meal. I wasn't really hungry, but I was feeling better, no dizziness. I had an energy bar earlier and was still trying to rehydrate myself. Bill took the last cans of ale we had on board and headed off to barter for some dinner. They had cooked a Mexican dinner and I guess he had his fill.

When he got back, we discussed whether we wanted to set up the tents for the night. We both decided that there were no good camping spots on the beach and so we decided that we would spend the night on the boat. Without tents to pack up in the morning we felt we could get an early start for our last days sail in the morning. Bill decided to take my sleeping spot on the bow. I unstrapped the bed boards I had made from the stern of the boat. The boards when set up provide a sleeping platform between the centerboard trunk and cockpit seats. Between the seats and the boards a suitable area was available for me to sleep on.

It proved to be a cooler night than we had the previous nights. Previous nights we hadn't used any blankets as it was warm. Since we weren't using blankets at previous camp sites, we had buried them inside the cuddy cabin. Between the cool night and our damp clothing (our clothing never seemed to dry out the whole trip) we were a little chilled during the night. The Friday night traffic also seemed to be a little heavier than other nights. It seemed like a barge came by about once an hour. Always shinning their search lights on us and waking us up. Their wakes also tossed the boat around a little bit. Then, about four in the morning I heard what I thought was Bill snoring very loud. When I sat up, Bill was sitting up too and was wondering if I was snoring. I looked at the shore about that time to see a wild pig running down the shoreline. I heard others in the brush. We both agreed that it had been a good decision to stay on the boat that night. I would not have wanted to be a tent with wild hogs running around. They can be nasty.

We got up Saturday morning, put up the bed boards, and put anything we needed out of the way into the cuddy cabin with less care than previous days and got the boat ready for our final day of sailing. This would be the shortest leg of the trip. As we started to push off from shore, we found that the wakes from the barges had pushed us a little further into the mud. We finally got the boat pushed out deep enough to attach the rudder. With the mainsail up, we headed north down the cut toward San Antonio Bay. We passed the Geezers and waved to them. They were just starting to stir. The wind was picking up already. Forecasts were for stronger winds than the day before. As we entered the bay we looked to the southeast, we could see boats coming out from Ayers Dugout (alternate camp). Cedar Bayou (main camp) where part of the fleet had camped was 7 to 10 miles to the southeast from Ayers Dugout. We were sailing northeast up the channel. The first boat to pass us was a Sea Pearl. Most of the others we saw coming out did not pass us except for a Core Sound. We weren't going slowly however. We were doing 6 to 7 mph under a double reefed main as we had most days. The wind was already close to 20 knots. As we headed down the channel, we started looking for our channel markers. Bill spotted a couple markers to our west. I looked at the GPS and charts and told him that they appeared to be in the wrong place. In fact they appeared to be right next to submerged spoil islands. I made the decision to follow the GPS course and my plotted waypoints. Bill said that I was navigator and we should follow what I thought was correct. Bill was a better helmsman than I was and he would hold the course that I directed him on. We sailed on for about a mile and finally picked up the main line of marker buoys that matched the GPS. Ahead of us we spotted a channel dredging operation going on. Later, we found out that a couple boats followed the suspect markers and gone aground. Those markers had been moved out of the channel and needed to be reset.

We maneuvered around the dredgers and continued down along the line of channel markers until we reached the place where we needed to turn toward Seadrift and the end of our trip. There was another set of markers at the turn that would put us in a new channel heading north. We followed the turn channel and finally jibed to bring us on our new channel heading. Bill looked for the green markers and to get to the port side of them as we had the whole trip. We quickly realized though that the markers in this channel were on opposite sides of where they had been in the channels we had been following. Now, the green markers were to port and the red were to starboard. We set our coarse straight down the center. A Core Sound was closing on us from behind. We saw another familiar boat to us anchored in the shallows just off the channel to our starboard. We waved at them and wondered why they had stopped to anchor. We thought that maybe they were reducing sail. After the finish, we found out that they had capsized and were recovering items that had gone over the side before they got the boat righted. They asked why we didn't stop to assist. We told them we weren't aware there was a problem at the time.

We proceeded up the channel knowing the end of the journey was near and that we were going to complete it. As we got within site of the town of Seadrift, we got a call on the radio from one of the boats ahead of us asking where the marina was at. We scanned the horizon looking for the sail of the boat talking to us and upon seeing them we tried to send them in the right direction. He found it. We finally made our last turn and headed for the marina. Four or five boats were in already, more than had passed us. We thought we had left early in the morning, other than the boats that had passed us; there were obviously some that had left their campsites much earlier than we did. As we approached the shore we saw what from a distance looked like a good beaching spot. As we were coming in someone yelled "rocks". We slowed our speed some and didn't hit too hard. No damage, they weren't big rocks fortunately. We anchored the boat out about 30 feet from shore. We then waded to shore were the local yacht club was there to greet us and provide us with refreshments.

Bill and I were expecting two more of our cousins, Clair from Plano, Texas and her brother Noel from Austin, to meet us when we came in. I had told Clair that we would be in around noon. It was 10 am when we got in. I got on my cell phone and gave her a call to see if they were still coming. She said they made a wrong turn trying to get to Seadrift and were running late. I told her the fleet had already begun to arrive. In the next hour the rest of the fleet had come in. Our cousins arrived just after the last of the boats.

I got a ride from one of the yacht club people to where the Jeep and trailer were parked for the week. It was about two miles from the boat. In the meantime Bill started to try to move the boat to a place where we could get it on the trailer. It was difficult to get the boat to the regular ramp. We attempted to put the trailer in the water along the shoreline, but couldn't get the trailer deep enough to get the boat on. While I tried to move the trailer over to the ramp, Bill tried to move the boat to the area of the ramp. One problem was that it required moving the boat around the brake water for the ramp and harbor area. When Bill had moved the boat around the brake water, Clair and Noel arrived and began to help him get it to the ramp. After a while we finally got the boat on the trailer. We were one of the first boats to arrive at Seadrift and one of the last to get it on the trailer. After the boat was on the trailer, Clair took Bill to the motel for a shower. Noel started to help me to unpack the boat, de-rig, and get the mast down. While we were working on the boat, Clair returned. I asked Clair and Noel to use a hose at the marina to hose me down with freshwater and get the salt off me. The water spray felt very good. Washing off some salt felt great. We then finished getting things on the boat done. After the boat was secured, I drove over to the motel as well for my shower. Clair and Noel were a great help for two weary sailors.

The shrimp boil for the end of the sail had been rescheduled from 3pm to 6pm. After my shower Bill and I headed back over to the park next to the marina for the shrimp boil. We met Clair and Noel over there. Many of the sailors were there already eating shrimp. We were provided a big plate of shrimp, corn, potatoes and something to drink. The food tasted great. More than I could eat. After eating, we talked for a little while, then headed back to the motel for a good nights' sleep.

Sunday morning, Bill and I met with Clair and Noel for breakfast before we headed back to Dripping Springs where I live. Bill's flight home to Green Bay wasn't until Monday morning. Sunday afternoon we were back at my house. We dropped the trailer off and got Bill a room at the motel. We went out to dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate finishing our voyage. The next day Bill headed home. Time to plan for next year.