Sunday, December 30, 2007

Marathon--tale of 2 crossings

Cruising in Marathon is dominated by two kinds of crossings.

The first kind is very dangerous. It is the crossing of the Overseas Highway (US 1), a full on 4 lane freeway. The harbor is on the Atlantic side. Mercifully so is the Publix grocery store, the library, 3 liquor stores, Home Depot and West Marine. But on the Gulf side is Stuffed Pig (like Price's Chef), Overseas Lounge (like Knuckle Heads only worse), Aoinettt's (surf and turf), Chevron (propane), and the sushi place (average).The nearest traffic light is 1/2 mile away so running for it is the best option. During the day traffic is heavy as this is the only access to Key West and all of the Keys. In the day light a certain nimbleness and timing is important. At night the targets are fewer, well lighted, but almost certainly intoxicated as are you--a very dicey situation.

Crossing the Gulf Steam to the Bahamas is a subject of constant concern in Marathon. The danger is much less than crossing the Overseas Highway, but the discomfort is infinitely greater. All of the concern is about the 'weather window' what ever that is!! Any north wind is completely out of the question although I doubt that the 0-5 knots N. winds of Christmas Day could hurt anybody. Eventually we hit upon a forecast of 10-15 E to SE dropping to 5-10. We should have left Wed., but were not ready until Thursday 12-28-07. We had a weather keyhole, not a window.

My game plan was three fold: first was a reach SE to cross the reef and access the Gulf Stream, then use the current to sling shot us to the NE, finally there would be a close reach in the eastern straits of Florida using the S. flowing counter current as a 'current wind.' Only the last part worked out.

The first stage was foiled by motor problems. There were 3 emergery trips into the lazerette the address concerns. One was a plugged up strainer. Twice the fuel filter had to be changed. We must have gotten into some bad fuel. Actually I suspect we got some "good" fuel in Florida with biocide added. My long standing practice is to ignore bacteria in the fuel. They build up a thick biofilm on the lining of the fuel tank that is like a rind and never causes a problem--even during the violent shaking of our storm. The small amount of biocide has killed the bacteria and now the biofilm is dissolving. I used 4 of my 5 filters and I suspect that this will be a problem for months to come.

By the time we finally got into the Gulf Stream it was just bashing with the motor into a SE headwind. The compass heading was 115, but the course made good only 75. It was a miserable slog with lumpy seas and spray for at least 18 hours. But by noon Friday 12-29-07 things were looking up enough to bring out a few smiles.

We entered the Banks at Riding Rocks. These are the southern entrance onto the Bahamas Banks and are absolutely deserted. I doubt that the light even works. By this time it was so late that we motored all the way across the Banks. This is not as dangerous as it sounds if you stick to well described routes. We cleared the North West channel light at dawn. After a stiff motor sail into head winds we docked at Chub Key exhausted at 10:45 am

Christmas in Marathon

What did you do for Christmas? Fair enough question for two 'Xmas renegades.'

We spent a quiet afternoon Christmas Eve on the boat. Then a few drinks at the Overseas Lounge and a late dinner at Antoinette's. We did not link up with other cruiser for a pot luck on Christmas day. That is the time honored way of the harbor but just did not happen this time.

Christmas morning on the White Pepper Jan made a wonderful holiday breakfast. I got to eat bacon! Then we exchanged gifts. Santa left the gifts under a small tree on the deck. There should be a pic here somewhere. I got a speedo, Jan got a Nintendo Lite, Phillip got a engraved 'Zubanel' yacht bag thanks to South Texas Canvas (again). He gave us a much needed battery charger--more on that later. Mavic Luby gave Jan lotions from Victoria Secret's. This is a sailor girl's insight as skin care is vital when living on a yacht. We got movies from the kids. Thanks, of course, but I want to tell readers that that I do not have time to read. I may have read 5 pages in this month. Just keeping White Pepper moving forward and in working order is an all encompassing past time. There is no relaxation. Hopefully that will change when we finally arrive at Georgetown.

Then came the real miracle of Christmas. On a 3 burner stove top (oven on the fritz) using propane, Jan served up a Christmas feast of turkey breast, yams, corn on the cob, brussel sprouts (Phillip's idea) and state of the art dressing and cranberry sauce. Dessert was Mary Mitchell's fudge. The wine was Stirling chardonnay. The only thing missing was the extended family. They were missed intensely. Sound asleep an hour after sunset--what a great Chrismas! We hope that yours was equally as satisfying.

We also enjoyed ourselves at the Overseas Bar & Grill as they offered free wireless as long as you were drinking or eating.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hawke Channel

We're back up and running using the wi-fi in house at the Overseas Bar, Grill, and Package Store in Marathon.

I want to catch up and report on the trip from Key West to Marathon. Off of the Atlantic side of the Keys is the second largest coral reef in the world. It parallels the Keys about 10-12 miles offshore. This forms a wonderfully protected channel--the Hawke channel. It is reliably 25-30 feet deep and waves are rarely over one foot. The problem is crab pots. There are thousands.

On 12-22-07 we motor sailed NE out of Key West. At 1400 we headed into the Niles Channel and proceeded slowly to an anchorage NE of Pye Key. The Garmin chart plotter was crucial en keeping us in the 7 ft. water which was indistinguishable from the 4 foot green water. Down went the new Rocna anchor on the new 5/16th chain on the just installed bow roller with the new rope/chain snubber. Remarkably it all worked perfectly. It came up without a hitch in the morning.

Then off to Marathon. We hit the entrance on nose and went thru bascule bridge (see picture on previous post). After running aground twice we picked up a mooring in the huge mooring field of Boot Key Harbor.

Marathon is a blast. We walk to the Publix grocery store and Home Depot. West Marine is a dingy ride away. Our friends Bill and Pam on Wave Dancer and Lynn and Susan on Susan II came in today 12-26-07.

The weather has been wonderful. We could probably cross the Gulf Stream at any time but there is a southerly flow predicted for Friday 12-28-07. If that prediction holds up we will head out for South Riding Rock, Bahamas, cross onto the Great Banks dawn 12-29-07, anchor on the Banks that night, and clear in at Chub Key 12-30-07.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Fun in Marathon Christmas Eve 2007

Comments--how to?

White Pepper is back online in Marathon Harbor on Christmas Eve. The weather is absolutely gorgeous. Fair, warm, dry, gentle breeze--amazing. The taxi driver says it's like this all the time. The only problem is that the we-fi is spotty. I was able to pirate free service from KR1 last night but his signal is too low now. I signed up for a paid for service ($10/day), but they are intermittent at best.

We have received several complaints about posting comments. To post a comment click on the tiny entry at the bottom of the post which says "comments." Apparently, I have to review all of the comments at my e-mail address. I will be more diligent about checking it from now on. I did approve 5 comments for the next to last post. Thanks. Keep trying. One major problem seems to be getting an identity for the comment. If you have a g-mail account or know how to enter a URL--no problem with the comment process. I found that pushing the anonymous button lets the comment go through with little hassle. Please sign the comment then so I know who sent it. Also I will somehow have to migrate the e-mail to soon. The address will die. Also frequent visitors are encouraged to use the "feed" option. To forward the blog click on the envelope icon.

What a small world! Just after running aground in the muck of Boot Key Harbor (Marathon) who should be the first boat by but Chuck Miller. Chuck is a friend and well known yachtsman from Corpus Christi. He pushed us off with with 25 horse dingy. Thanks. Then standing in line at West Marine I met Jess Still. Jess is married to Cindy, one of Jan's friends from Corpus Christi.

Peace on earth, happy Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The arrival

Now getting to Florida was becoming a problem. It is all very well to talk about beating to weather in heavy air, but with a deeply reefed cruising genoa and a confused sea state you just can not do it. We could only broad reach Sunday with about 40% of the genoa. The irregular sea state and 20 foot waves overwhelmed the auto pilot so we alternated watches every 2 hours hand steering. It was all very tiring. By Monday we were able to raise the second reef and get closer to the wind which was clocking NE. With set and drift the best heading we could make was 125M. We were headed straight for Cuba. By Monday midnight we were closer to Cuba than Florida. My worst fear was being swept into the Gulf Stream and on past the USA.

We tacked back north and retraced 30 n. miles. The move paid off as the wind clocked to east and by Tuesday dawn the norther had blown itself out. We were sailing slowly to the NE.

By Wed. am we were within the radius of our remaining fuel supply. On went the motor, and it did not stop until we were safely tied up at the Galleon Marina in Key West. There was a bit of a hiccup finding the Galleon in the pitch black. The Garmin was wonderful keeping White Pepper in the deep water during all of the confusion.

We had a 'tired and emotional' moment at midnight on Duval Street. I had the first burger in 18 months. It was devine. We collapsed asleep with no worries for the first time in days.

Our friends, Pam and Bill Carrothers, on Wave Dancer, and our new friends, Lynn and Susan on Susan II, gave us welcoming reception with popcorn, cheese & crackers and rum punches.

We started the long, slow process of recovery by exploring the half weird, half familiar surroundings of Key West.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The trip--simply appalling

The first three days of our crossing were alternating beautiful and difficult. The wind was often abeam as the stalled norther of Wednesday brought in a nice southerly flow. But otherwise the wind was east or southeast which meant beating. As I rocked in my bunk below I was more reminded of my offshore races rather than the beginning of a new life of cruising. We were making progress of about 100 n. miles per day which was acceptable. There were 13 hours of darkness to divide 3 ways. Eventually we settled on watches of 6-9, 9-12, 12-3, 3-5, and 5-7 rotating the days.

The wind dropped steadily from very early Sat. morning until becoming nil about noon 12-16-07. There was a lot of moisture in the air and scattered thunder showers moving about. It was not as if we did not know there was a norther coming. We had picked up a weather forecast on Thursday from a work boat that a 25 knot norther was coming Sat. with 15 foot seas. That was not too bad. I did not have enough diesel to motor to Logger Head Key. We were in the exact middle of the Gulf. I was frustrated by the lack of wind. I actually welcomed seeing those white horses trip across the flat water from the northwest. This was about 4:30 pm. The moisture was blown thousands of feet into the air. As it caught the dying rays of sunset the vapor reflected an eerie 'out world' yellow light. "Look, Jan, it's God doing an imitation of Stephen Turner." We were all to suffer for that blasphemy!

We quickly put away the sails and headed off on a bearing of 107 directly to Logger Head Key with 50% of the genoa rolled out and no main. White Pepper and her crew handled the wind shift well. The wind speed was about 35 knots and the auto pilot was holding the stern into the waves without difficulty. I went below for a nap and to get ready for my shift at 9 pm. When on watch the wind died down a bit, and I wondered if this front had enough punch to push us all the way to Florida. Then the real front hit with ferocity that was physical. Phillip, who worked all of his life as a merchant seaman and engineer, thought that some of the initial gusts were 70 knots. Certainly the winds were a steady 55 to 60 knots. The boat was nearly out of control and as the waves built getting more so. We rolled the genoa into about 5% and headed off dead downwind at 150 degrees. The maneuver is called running with speed.

I was steering and my sensations were focused on wrestling the wheel. Jan's sensations were aural. What she heard was screeching and screaming worse than any horror movie. She had never heard sounds like that before. I, however, do not recall any noise what so ever.

For the next 10 hours we concentrated solely on keeping the stern of the boat square to the waves. Phillip and I both handled the wheel. Often it took both of us straining to wrestle the wheel back from those monsters. We had to give each other brief mental breaks as we were hallucinating by 3 am. Jan stood by helping in the cockpit with flashlights and water. Her job was the hardest. She had to look back and watch the waves. They would flash into the small circle of the stern light, rear up, froth, hiss, and usually slip under the stern. About half a dozen, however, made it into the cockpit filling it up with warm water. It did drain quickly thru the scuppers. Jan was amazingly calm and never once uttered a negative or anxious word. By 5 am the wind began to moderate, say about 40 knots. At dawn about 7 am the waves became visible. The scene was unsettling. Everywhere there were rolling cylinders of grey-blue water about 30 feet high. They did not roll uniformly but at slight angle. When two waves would cross there was a spectacular plume and cascade of water. The drill now was simple albeit delicate. A wave would come from astern, lift the boat up 30 feet, and put it down at the bow. All of this was quite gentle unless another wave came across to push the stern around. Then the escalator ride turned into a roller coaster. Or two troughs might combine leaving a big drop. I recall one moment when White Pepper had 40 feet of air under the bow.

By 7 I had become quite frazzled and was sent below for an hour's nap. Jan and Philip had been up all night somehow could keep going. When I came up at 8 am to relieve them they were smiling. The real monsters had gone. We were slicing diagonally across 20 footers, but headed east for Florida. We had been pushed 50 n. miles too far south.

More about the storm in our next post.


To paraphrase the Chinese 'every journey of a 1000 miles starts at the fuel dock.' Tuesday morning Bruce Swart and John Files came down to the dock to help cast off lines. John took us to a ceremonial last breakfast at the Island Cafe. Bruce gave us a nice gear gift that will help getting into the dingy. Thanks.

Then off on a 200 yard trip to the fuel dock. Joe Kessling and Steve Free were there for their send offs. We bought 42.5 gallons of diesel and 5 gallons of gasoline.

Finally we really,really left about 11 am.

Motoring out the jetties White Pepper met a very steep wave that threw us sideways. I told the crew that would be biggest wave we would meet. I was wrong. Early in the afternoon was quite difficult. The wind was 20 knots on the nose and seas 10 to 15 feet. The wind moderated as predicted and by sunset prospects were improving

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Last Post from Corpus Christi

This will be the last post from the desktop at Seamount Cay, Corpus Christi. We are breaking down the computer tonight for storage. The next post will be from the uncertain world of mobile wireless.

The weather situation remains confused. This morning NOAA reported that a slow moving front would stall over the Texas coast Thursday. My plan is to leave ahead of the front. If we wait the situation may not clear for a week or more. As it is we will have sun, warmth, and breeze albeit on the nose. The wave prediction models are not excessive, and I think we can make it with some bashing to weather. Phillip is game. We do need to meet his departing plane in Georgetown 1-7-08.

Today has been loading up the boat. I am amazed at how it absorbs stuff. It just settles a bit lower in the water. Charlie Mitchell of was out again today and finished up the starboard "closet" (see my previous post) . Thanks again Charlie!

I finished up the Magma project today. This started 14 months ago when Jan desired a Magma grill for the boat and wanted it hooked up to the inboard propane. The default for the Magma is to use those little low pressure bottles available everywhere. She gave me the Magma grill as a birthday present in '06. I have just today figured out how to hook it up to the high pressure tank in the locker that we use to fuel the stove. Thank you Lowes and West Marine. I did not ask for this project, but I have pursued it because the taste of fish cooked on the Magma grill is amazing.

For those following closely, we will leave Seamount Cay about noon Monday 12-10-07. Then we will refuel and spend the night at the transient docks in Port Aransas. Slack water is a 9:18 am on 12-11-07 and the adventure begins.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


We are at D minus 2--sort of. The last minute preparations are immense and exhausting. The labor is not that physical. The trial is mostly mental. There are so many piles going in so many directions. We are fearful of loosing something vital in all of the chaos. There are so many little parts that are not replacable-- the chuck on the drill or handle on the windless. It's all quite nerve wracking.

I sold the Saturn yesterday to our friend Tom Waters. Jan plans to sell the Pontiac tomorrow to other friends Barbara and Rick Carr. This will be the first time in our adult lives without ready access to "wheels."

The clothes have to be packed. I was surprised to find that ALL of my casual clothes could fit into one large bag and all of my underwear into a smaller bag. Both are water tight thanks to Charlie Mitchell and South Texas Canvas.

All of our books including Bible, trashy novels, and navigation tables can go into 2 Wal-Mart water tight boxes. Crucial documents and checks can all go into a large Zip Lock bag. Every thing else can go into a box for storage.

Today the absolutely, very last, adjustments were made to the anchor system. The dingy motor went onto the stern rail and the dingy was hoisted onto the foredeck. John Files was a great help with the above. Charlie Mitchell came out and fitted a clever mesh work that turns the pilot berths into closets. He helped Jan get started lashing on the weather lee clothes.

The weather window (so called) remains confused. It seems as if a large Pacific front is due in Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. It is supposed to blow at 20, 45 or 60 knots depending on who you listen to. Ideally we want to jump on the back side of a large front and ride it all the way to Florida. Whether this works out is a daily adjustment.

Chris Earls is a genius

Chris Earls is a genius--at least in stainless steel. As I mentioned in my post titled "Heavy Construction" the starboard bow roller is very eccentric. It has to be because of the excessively wide flukes of the Bruce style anchor. As installed there was no way that it would lead fair to the windlass' gypsy. It would be useless except for brutal hand over hand work. Phillip had the idea of a vertical roller to redirect the lead. I bought a cheap roller at Blue Water and called Chris. He came out promptly and surveyed the problem. After saying things like 'no way' and 'have to live with it' he began muttering to himself. Within 20 minutes he had a clever, elegant, and practical solution. He took the roller to the shop and within 24 hours returned an beautiful and very study welded stainless bracket that fit perfectly. It leads the chain fairly to the chain stopper and gypsy and should work great.

Then for good measure he took the cockpit table bracket that was purchased by Jan from E-bay and altered it to fit our binnacle. The table is very dear to Jan who purchased a "deal" off E-bay and then lovingly vanished it only to find that it did not fit. We will now have wonderful sit down dinners in the cockpit thanks to Chris.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Task List Complete

Six months ago Jan and I began a sheet with tasks to do. The list has grown to three pages. But today the last item was crossed off. It seems to be an impossibility, but there it was. What an immense effort! There are still things to be done, but they mostly administrative--put the TX numbers on the boat, sell the cars, etc.

One thing that is not on the list is packing. The kitchen is piled high with stores--nuts, dried fruits, and cans. The boat is littered with tools and loose parts. There are piles of clothes everywhere. We plan to devote all of Thursdays, Friday, and Saturday to packing. I want White Pepper to look like she is going for a day sail when she leaves the jetties early next week.

Today Phillip installed the "Y" valve that will make us legal in jurisdictions that enforce the holding tank laws. While doing so we found the discharge hose so clogged with scale that it was only a matter of time before it completely closed off. The vacuum breaker or siphon valve was also clogged. Cleaning it all out was a nasty job but prevented a worse mess at sea. Thanks Phillip.

Friday, November 30, 2007

New Water Heater

There are few pleasures as nice as a hot rinse after a long day in the salt and sun just before slipping between clean sheets. That is why Jan and I treasure the hot water heater.

One of the lines on the long list of to-do's was fix leak at the water heater. One good look at the area showed that the spigot was too rusted to ever be fixable. Indeed the whole water heater was so rusty I do not see how it could even hold water. A dig through the pile of the old manuals suggested that it was a Raritan 6 gallon heater with water exchange. I ordered a new one from Blue Water.

First mate Philllip Emanuael has just arrived in the USA and volunteered to help with the chores. What a wonderful coincidence! Phillip was able to do more work in 2 hours than I could have done in 3 days. Also because he know what to get we only spent 20 minutes at Padre Island Supply. I would have worriedly wandered about for hours.

I am just starting to believe that all of the tasks will get done, and we will be ready for an on-time departure after Dec. 7, 2007.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Heavy Construction

Yacht maintenance is a symphony of problem solving. The tasks are endless variations on themes (like scales in music)--screwing, drilling, caulking, etc. The tools are 'simple machines' (like notes)--incline plane, lever, screw, etc. Occasionally mechanical advantage or electrical amplification helps, but always there is twisting, bending, and reaching into confined spaces (just as a composer is confined to 13 notes in an octave). However, the results of these simple tasks repetitively applied can be amazing.

Today I finished the most difficult project I have ever tried on the White Pepper. I finished putting on the bow rollers.

The anchoring problem is certainly the key to success in our planned adventure. I studied Art Heinz' book about anchoring intensely. I chose to go with relatively light tackle and shallow depth, but dual anchors for a 'Bahamian moor'. The problem is at the 'point of the spear'.
She is a racer at heart with a moderate bow but plenty of reserve buoyancy to handle a good chop. These wonderful concepts do not leave much room for two heavy anchors and the tackle it takes to recover them.

One solution would have been to take the boat to Houston. There skilled craftsmen could have fashioned a new bowsprit out of stainless steel rods. There was just not enough time or money left for this option.

Instead I purchased a Royal Lofran manual windless, 2 rodes (100' chain + 150' rope) and chain hawsers from Blue Water Marine. Off the Internet I bought two bow rollers from Windline Marine. One was a BMR-3 for the 45 pound claw (i.e. generic Bruce). I put this one on the starboard side. The other a URL-1 for the 45 pound Rocna (a plow style anchor). It went on port. Also purchased were two anchor tensioners and a very stout chain stopper.

The problem was putting all of this on a sharply tapered bow and in an anchor locker designed for weekend sailing. Alan Dinn helped with constructing a divider to separate the two rodes in the locker. I re enforced the lid to the anchor well and bolted on the windless to it without too much difficulty. The problem was the rollers! They had to go over the 1 1/2" toe rail, not foul the stem or the chauks, and still give enough room to hang the anchors without banging into the hull. The solution seems efficient, albeit not elegant. It has elements of a freshman's high school shop project. Charlie at Flour Bluff Plastics cut me some backing plates out of high density polyurethane (cheap Starboard without the UV protection) and some nifty 1" topping plates made out of Nylatron. Nylatron is plastic steel. I am sure that the bolts will give way before it does. Thanks Charlie!

The BMR-3 for the Bruce has to hang out at an accentuated angle to accommodate its wide flukes. I could only get 3 bolts of 1/2" x 4" to hold it, but it seems rock solid and probably could stand a full on collision with the dock. The URL-1 is held by 5 bolts of 5/16" x 4" and also seems quite solid. The URL-1 has a much fairer lead to the windlass,and it will be the primary anchor roller even though it is lighter.

We will have to launch without checking all of this out. I just hope it all works.

Ramses moves to Austin

We lost a crew member yesterday in Ramses, the cat. Jan took him to Austin to be with our friend, Janet Freeman. It was quite sad. All last night I thought I could hear him crying at the door. But it is a 'far,far better thing that we do' . He would be miserable on the boat and likely shark bait within 36 hours. Good luck and happy hunting (for geckos), Ramses.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BYC Lighthouse Cruise--a shake down

Bay Yacht Club hosted a cruise the Charlie Butt's Light House in Lydia Ann Channel Sat. Nov. 10, 2007. It was a great chance to try out some of the new systems.

I rigged up a bridle for the dingy out of old Stay-Set X genoa line. I cut it in half and knotted it 2/3rds the way down. It worked very well. It acted as it's own safety line and was easy to adjust underway. The dingy rode well even at hull speed in a good chop.

Sat. am was magnificent--clear, cool, and breezy. I set the new 130% roller-fulled genoa from Trent BcBride at Banks Sails. White Pepper just took off. The sail is beautiful and quite powerful--probably too much for CC Bay. I am sure it will be appreciated in the lighter breezes offshore and in the Chesapeake.

We got to the Light House just as lunch was being served. I threw out the new Rocna anchor and new shiny rode with 100' of chain. As advertised it bit hard within a few feet and stuck fast.

The afternoon was exquisite, the company good, the lighthouse wonderful as usual, but everybody left by 4 pm. Now it was time to change anchorages. I could not get the windless to engage. This was due to a failure to read the instructions--all 6 lines of them. The current was rippling and the sun going down fast. I had to lift the anchor and chain by hand which was no easy feat. It would have been impossible without Jan maneuvering the boat right over the anchor. I was determined not to stay in Lydia Ann all night. We set out for Mud Island with Jim and Jo Ann Robertson on Brigadoon.

Just after the sun set at 5;30 pm, I got the anchor down again and again it bit hard. I am starting to believe all the hype about the Rocna. By this time it was blowing hard, but we never moved an inch. Mud Island is one of the best anchorage in the area, but only available in a SE wind. I learned that I need a mid-ship cleat, maybe on the toe rail, to secure the dink for boarding.

The next morning we explored Mud Island by dingy and beach combed--something I had never been able to do without a dingy. The day was one of those amazing S. Texas winter days--sunny, cool and breezy--like San Diego is all year long. We did not get away until noon and had to creep home in the dark. At first the GPS guided us down the intracoastal waterway with survey like accuracy. Passing under the Kennedy Causeway bridge somehow gave the GPS a headache, and now it showed the ICW running across dry land. Worse still two of the large green day markers were not lit. It was a very tension filled last few miles. I was nauseated by the time we finally tied up at 9 pm. Jan bought a 3 million candle power 'Q-beam' flash light Monday morning. In this part of the world the 'Q-beam' in known as Cajun radar, and I will never sail without it.

We learned a lot and have more to learn, but the next time White Pepper leaves the slip it will be for good.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tighten the toe rail

The only piece of advice the her previous owner, Mr. Horace Sylvester, gave me was to tighten the toe rail year yearly. He was very insistent on this point. I have followed the advice--but usually only before an offshore adventure. Before the Mexico trip in 2001 Desiree Trujillo and I spent a afternoon tightening all 200 of the 1/4-20 bolts that hold the deck to the hull. We found many loose, broken, or even missing bolts. It was a very rewarding day.

Today we covered the same ground. This time nothing was broken or missing. Each bolt usually required only a quarter or half turn. Some bolts near the center (widest) part of the boat needed a full turn or more. I broke two Phillips head #3 screw driver before I backed off to about 20 foot pounds of torque. It was tedious work and required patience of both the bolt turner (me) and the nut holder (Jan).

The chore seems odious but is so necessary. It keeps out the sea by squeezing the 5200 sealant between the deck and the hull. But it also adds potential energy to the boat. A quarter turn on 200 1/4-20 stainless steel bolt is equivalent to screwing in one bolt a full 5 inches. This is a tremendous gain in potential energy that can be translated into kinetic energy for sailing.

Thank you Jan and for everyone with a toe rail: tighten those bolts!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Habanero, our new dingy

Last week was devoted to bringing our new dink, Habanero, on board. Thursday, Nov. 1st, I drove to Houston, picked up Alan Dinn's truck at Harborwalk in Hiscock, (Thanks Alan!), picked up the new 130% genoa from Trent McBride, and finally went to Triad Marine to buy the dingy. It is a 10 foot AB made in Venezuela and we have had our eyes on it since last year. Bob and Kay Jack, ace cruisers, recommended it highly. It is a rigid inflatable with a deep vee to the bow. I seems stable and well built. Also I picked up the life raft at Triad where it had been it's annual check up. The fellows at Triad helped me lash the dingy into the truck. I drove slowly down the coast road finally getting home around 8:30 pm. It was a long, expensive, but very satisfying day.

Friday we went to Ronnie's Marine and bought a Yamaha two stroke 8 horsepower outboard. Saturday and Sunday was spent learning the combination of dink and outboard. The motor had to be broken in and well as the crew. However, after a lesion about opening the vent cap on the gasoline tank everything went very well. By Sunday Jan drove us to Soopy's via the ICW. Janet Freeman was visiting and was quite a trooper about everything.

Theft protection will be a 20 ft. length of 1/4 inch chain. We will lift the dink onto the foredeck with a block and tackle set on the spin pole. There is precisely 10 feet of space for it on the foredeck. The motor will ride on the stern rail where Jan has been varnishing a mount. We plan to test drive the whole system on a BYC cruise to the Port Aransas light house this weekend.

As an entomological note, habanero was a originally spelt Javanero. It is a spicy very small pepper originally from the Amazon basin. Later misspelling to habanero gave a suggestion of Cuban (Havana) origin which is not so. Americans will recognize habanero as the active ingredient in Tabasco sauce. Jan named the boat ,and I think its is a very clever play off of White Pepper. I wanted to name the dink Little Pepper or something equally banal.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Varnishing is an ancient art. There are accounts of pre-Roman expeditions through the Pillars of Hercules (the straits of Gibraltar) north to Umber (in Britain) to trade for amber. Amber is a key ingredient in varnish even today. The very word amber is derived from Umber. The composition of varnish remained unchanged for thousands of years until modern polyurethanes were added. The use, however, would be familiar to ancient Phoenician mariners--protect and beautify the wood.

For years I had used Cetol on the minimal amount of teak on the C&C. Cetol is a synthetic mix that is easy to apply, very durable, and looks good for a while. Eventually it takes on sickly orange color. It is the perfect product for the busy yacht racer.

Jan wanted something better for White Pepper--real varnish. She stripped off the thick, old Cetol and sanded it all down. Then she bleached off the mold with a two part teak cleaner and sanded again. Using plain old Z-spar varnish she has lovingly applied 7 coats to the exterior trim. With taping off the trim and sanding between each coat the project has taken weeks. Part of the delay has been weather as only the prettiest days are suitable for applying the varnish. She told me that Z-spar has a 'soft' finish will take some abuse. Also it is cheap and available in ship stores anywhere we might need a touch-up. New coats have to be applied every 6 months, and the whole thing has to be redone every three years.

Why go to so much work for only 8 pieces of exterior trim? The effect is exquisite. Seeing the natural teak grain glisten under a silky smooth finish just makes me happy to look at it. It just glows in the sunlight.

Hopefully, later I can post about the interior wood. There is much more wood inside. The care of it is oil based and just as important. However, it lacks the ancient mystique of varnish.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Running lights

Hard work today. The running lights on the bow have been a problem since I bought the boat. The failure rate upon turning on the lights was so great that I adopted a regimen of turning on the lights 30 minutes before sunset so that if the lights did not turn on there would be 30 minutes of daylight to try to fix something. They are Aqua Signal 41 series which are well engineered and simple in the extreme. However, they are suspended out over the bow and often under water when beating to weather in moderate to heavy air. Then the wires run through the anchor well which is always wet. Over the years the wiring has evolved into a rat's nest. Recently the port light was broken. I replaced it, but the light would not come on because the wires were so corroded that the no amps could come though.

I resolved to bullet proof the fore peak. I got a junction box and bought the 12 volt to the junction box in the anchor well. Then I divided the 12 volt into 2 parts and sent it up each side of the anchor well through a 14 gauge duplex well secured with clamps just under the toe rail. For extra security I used heat shrink terminals all the way. The heat shrink spade in the lights themselves are each $2. But it is as water proof as I can make it.

The whole project took hours, but I am sure now that when I ask Jan to turn on the running lights they will go on and stay on.

Monday, October 8, 2007

New fan

I installed a new Guest 12 volt oscillating fan in the fore peak. When it's raining, the hatches are closed and stuffy, I am sure I will be grateful. But it was a hassle. It came with two small #6 screws. Jan pointed out that they would not last long with all of the pounding. I got two long #6 bolts and went through the bulkhead. The fan is not going anywhere. The fan draws 1.5 amps, but blows a hurricane.

The second reef line came today. 81 feet of 3/8" Warpspeed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ramses goes swimming

To take the cat or not; that is the question. Without a reasonable place to place Ramses we will try to acclimatize him to the boat. Jan bought an ultra small life jacket at Pet Smart. We put it on several times in the condo (see picture). Common knowledge, but previously unknown to me, is that tying something around a cat's abdomen ruins their equilibrium. The results are indeed comical. Now was the the time to try him on the boat. He was fine on the dock and inside the cabin. Then in the cockpit he made a run for the bow and freedom. That was aborted. Back in the cockpit all seemed well until two dogs started barking across the channel. He bolted for the port rail and a chance to jump to the finger pier. The life jacket was an encumbrance, and Ramses ended up in the drink. To his credit he came up swimming and fast towards the bulkhead. I was able to grab the handle on the back of the life jacket. Maybe Ramses touched the dock, but he seem to levitate six feet to the grass and then into the bushes. He did not come in until midnight. The next morning he spent several minutes examining the scene of the crime before retiring to his usual hang out under the ferns and bushes. Only time will tell if Ramses can adjust to the yacht.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fuel Gauge

Don Gallant finally (after 14 or 15 month) got around to fixing the instrument panel for the Yanmar. Also he fixed the fuel gauge which has not worked in 15 years. I was usually, but not always, able to keep track of the fuel in my head. As I get older I can not do so. Besides where we are going running out of fuel could be a problem. The whole effect is very nice and looks new. The tachometer still does not work, but I have learned to use the sound as my tach.

Jan is doing a nice job on the wood. It is now perfectly clean after strip ease and two part teak cleaner. She is planning to use 6+ coats of Z-spar Captain varnish. White Pepper will look better than when I bought her.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Odds and Ends

I am making slow progress on the 'to-do" list and finding other problems to fix. I was able to get the Garmin 48 to talk to the EPIRB. I felt very satisfied when the EPIRB, a Rapid Fix 406 from ACR, let out a little bleep saying it was receiving GPS sentences. Now if we sink not only will we know exactly where we are sinking but so will the Coast Guard.

I finally got the Bahamas charts into the laptop on Chart Navigator Pro. I do not know why it had to be so hard. It took hours, and I just pecked the damn thing into working. I was disappointed the the charts are not vector and not nearly as detailed as the USA charts, but they should suffice.

I changed out the main halyard this morning and ordered the second reef line.

I am going the Blue Water now to finalize the purchase of the windlass and anchor chains. It will be expensive but necessary. I am going with a Lofrans Royal vertical manual two speed windlass and two combination rodes. Each will be 100' of ACCO 5/16" HT chain spliced into 150' of 5/8" nylon three strand. Of course one could argue for more, but we are only going to be anchoring in 20' of water maxi mun. If I ever that the boat into deeper water, I will have to buy more chain.

Jan is in NYC on vacation today and the weather is beautiful so I think I will take the White Pepper over to Ingleside Cove and try out all my new toys.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Honda Generator

I bought a Honda gasoline generator today. It is model EU2000 for 2000 watts. It is sleek to behold in it's red carrying case. It can lift it with one hand at 85 pounds. After buying a 3 prong to 30 amp converter at Blue Water, I plugged it in to the White Pepper through the usual shore plug. Regretably, it only delivered 8.5 amps at the batteries far under the rated 13 amp. Solar power will be needed. Still it willl be a valuable addition to the energy management plan.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Breakthru in electonics

Great breakthrough today in navigation electronics. I finally got the depth sounder solidly in place. I had to epoxy the transducer to the hull which was fraught with difficulty and then rove the cable and extension back to the Garmin GPS which will double as the depth sounder. After literally days of work it all fit together.

The autopilot, a wonderful 7 year old Simrad Robertson 22, is back up and running thanks to Joe and Roy of Joe's Marine Electronics. It just needed to be initialized; but silly me, I thought it was due to the new stainless steel water tanks. We motored in a 360 degree circle, and presto, it worked. Also Joe and Roy wired up the Garmin 545s GPS to the Simrad so that the autopilot will take us to any waypoint--remarkable. The autopilot is so crucial to our effort that I doubt we could do without it. It is worth at least 3 crew members, and it never eats, drinks, or complains.

The nav station has a new brace to prevent the lid from crashing down onto the laptop. It looks like a kid's shop project, but I can assure you it took many hours of thought and work. Anyway it is sturdy and fool proof.

I still can not get the Garmin to talk to the Acer laptop. The problem is that the Garmin puts out NMEA data down a wiring harness. I have been able to get the data from two wires into a 9 pin serial port which I soldered with great difficulty and clumsiness. Joe tested the 9 pin and says that the NMEA is getting down that far. However, the laptop has only USB ports and a serial port to USB adapter just does not seem to work. Ideas, anyone? I am resigned to using a separate GPS with a USB output.

All in all it was a good day today with many days of seemingly futile effort coming together. I am starting to think that the whole project is doable within the next 90 days.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Batteries

Just finished installing the new batteries. They are three Oddessy brand AGM's labeled 3150 for the number of cold cranking amps. The constant electrical demands of the freezer just ate the old Orbital batteries. They were 35 months into their 36 warranty anyway. Each of the Oddessy batteries weighed 75 pounds and I wondered if I could even lift them into the box. If I could would the box hold the weight? I had rebuilt the box last year with Starboard. Fortunately I reinforced with just this possibility in mind. The floor sagged but held.

For the occasion I replaced the old leads with new 2 gauge ARCO wire and copper lugs--muy primo. Copper is so expensive now that I had sticker shock at Blue Water, but in a pinch when every last amp is needed I hope they are worth it.

My electricity management plan is to only use two at a time keeping the third battery completely off line. We will use battery #1 on odd days and #2 on even days. Then we will rotate among the batteries every month.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Never Buy a Harken Winch

Now that I am only working 2 days/week (Mon. and Tues.) I have time for some long deferred maintenance. First on the list is greasing the winches. Starting with the two Harkens on the starboard coach roof I proceeded counterclockwise. The Harkens are awful to maintain because they have to be completely removed from the fiberglass to completely service. Also some of the paws are exposed to salt water from below. These issues along with lack of "tightness" and just poor construction make me regret ever buying the winches. On the port side the new Andersen stainless steel winch is a dream to service and seems very well constructed. My only concern is that it only has four paws and they are low in the winch and also exposed to salt water. We will see how it holds up. The small Lewmar that fine tunes the main sheet seems to be holding up well. It is a clever, intricate design, and I wonder when I will not long be able to remember how it goes back together.

My favorites, however, are the wonderful large Barients that trim the foresails. They must be 40 years old by now. I bought them used in 1992 for $7,000. There are 14 paws and the gears are locked together in three stacks. The bull gear is eccentric and is engaged with a lever which is tricky to service. I am in awe of the designer and wonder who he is . Even the powers of the Internet may not be able to answer that question. The bull gear has a triple stack of paws (four each) rotating in opposite directions. It is fascinating to manipulate. The most amazing thing about them is that the paws are all inside the gears and buried deep inside the winch. They never see a drop of salt water and I am sure will last longer than the boat ever will. It is such a shame that they are no longer manufactured.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wed. Nite 7-18-07

What was billed as the last Wed. night race did not turn out so. I will have several more at least until 8-1-07. Crew was Ellen and Jack, Steve and Jackie, Trent, Rick and his son Derek. The wind was brisk and felt great. We were the only finisher as Lone Star turned back. Once again I dispare of the future for Wed. Nite racing. It seems to be in a terminal decline.

The lashings at the halyard let loose so I had to be hoisted to the masthead after the race. No fun. I guess I will have to spring for some shackles this week.

Oil Change

Today was the first day of my retirement without any medical duties. It was great.

I changed the oil on the White Pepper. I got all 5 quarts of oil to come out through the dip stick hole and 5 new quarts of Mobil 1 back in. I changed the filter, greased the steering cables, added anti-freeze as coolant, and cleaned up the lazarette. There must have been 110 pounds of old line down there. It went to the storage unit. I may need the line as "webbing" in case of a hurricane. Bob came down to change out the baby stay which has sprung several wires.

This is just the start of a very long process of clean up and preparedness for out cruise.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Last Wednesday Night for White Pepper

In all likelihood Wed. 7-18-07 will be the last Wed. night race for yacht White Pepper for some time. I plan to move the boat to her new home in the canals of Padre Island. There is so much work to be done that I wonder if 5 months is not enough to prepare for our cruise. I estimate that I have done 800+ Wed. night races since 1976 and probably 450+ on the C&C. So everybody show up. After that Wed. we will race on Steve's new Ranger 26.

Also the Navy Day Race will likely be the last competitive all sails race of the year. Please everyone e-mail me if you can or can't make it.

Bastile Day

We cruised to Bahia Mar for the Bastille Day celebration. There was good sailing and the wind blew hard in the anchorage so mosquitoes were not a problem. Larry Joe Taylor played great. All of the usual suspects were at the party including a surprise visit from Thomas Greisen. Thomas was my sail maker 20 years ago when I was trying to turn the Puff into a grand prix racer. Thomas went on the make sails for Larry Ellison's 150 foot sloop--far cry from a Ranger 28.

Ellen and Jack stayed on the boat Sat. night which was great since I needed Jack's help Sunday morning. The new freezer/fridge has burned up all of the batteries. We made a flying run to Walmart Ingleside Sunday am to buy a cheap marine battery just to start the motor. Soon I will have to buy large, expensive batteries to stand up to the steady current draw of the freezer. It only drew 5 amps which is a miracle considering the oppressive heat of July, but 5 amps times 24 hours will empty almost any battery on the market. I am considering buying 2 Odessy brand AGM's--the largest they have.

White Pepper sails to Las Vegas

White Pepper sailed to the port of Las Vegas to help marry off loyal foredecker Clay Watson and master quarter stay mate Chrystal Glisson. The 7-7-07 wedding was wonderful, and the illusion presented by the Venetian hotel of St. Mark's square at sunset was amazing. Also at the wedding was Mark McNamara. Along with Jan and I that makes 4 of the 6 crew members who made the wonderful trip to Isle Mujeres. Also present was Bruce and Tamy Swart. Bruce is an honorary Isle Mujeres crew since he picked us up at the Reyanosa airport. Best wishes to Clay and Crystal and I hope they keep sailing.

White Pepper saw many amazing things in Las Vegas--the ship sinking outside of Treasure Island casino, lions at the MGM Grand, tigers at the Mirage, water fountains at the Bellagio, a really scary front row ride on the roller coaster outside and around the New York, New York casino, and more concentrated luxury than imaginable at the Forum Shop of Caesar's Palace.
But the most amazing sight was the Cirque du Soleil's Beatles' Love. This has to be the future of theater in the 21st century. Even with such a thin libretto as the songs of the Beatle's psychedelics period (i.e. St Pepper and the White album) Cirque do Soleil put on a spelling binding show. I wonder what they could do with Mozart's Don Giovani?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Offshore Race 2007

Father's Day weekend were the dates for the 2007 version of the offshore races that I started in 1998. The race Saturday was full justification for that effort. The start was offshore of the jetties and well done by Greg Thurman, our race committee. The course was 33 n. miles with a 13 mile weather leg. The conditions were moderate to light with sunny warm weather and sparkling seas.
The crew was Jan, Steve, Danny, Ruddy, Art, John Files, Neil Gallagher (a new friend from the Bay Yacht Club). Thw wind lightened as we moved further offshore. The performance upwind was awful esp. on starboard tack. Eventually John figured out that the 150% carbon fiber genoa was choked on the inboard track. When we barber-hauled it out board things went pretty well, but by then it was way too late. The spinnaker reach was trying as usual. Without the ability to peel to the larger chute the run in was too light. Chris Corley and Dave cooked up great fajitas on the tractor disk grillers. I had a beer at Shorty's and then off to bed.
Art and Neil could not make the Sun. race which was fine since the RC sent us straight home without an offshore leg. Blue Max fouled us at the start, but I did not protest. He had so many children on board for Father's Day I did not want him to have to do a 360 in the heavy winds. We just got out legged down the channel. The wind was heavy from the SSW which was unusual. The forward forces were made even more difficult by a 'current wind' in the channel. Despite speeds in the hight eights and low nines White Pepper has clearly lost a step with all of the changes and neglect to racing over the past few years. Jan steered very nicely for an hour on a close reach. For the first time ever I did not go to the trophy presentation. I had to take crew to retrieve cars in Port Aransas, and I was miffed at the short race course for Sunday. I think that future offshore races should use a 'rabbit' start which will eliminate the greatest obstacle to offshore racing, the race committee. However, next year I will not even be in Corpus Christi so I will not worry about it now.
There will not be a Wed. night race 6-20-07 as Jan and I will be moving to the island. The next good race should be the Rockport YC race on July 21, 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wed 5-16-07

Crew: Jan, Steve, Clay, Chris, Mark, and Janie our new friend from Idaho.
Course: 10p-19p-TH
Wind: light from the NE and slowly clocked to the E.
Results: great start and we slowly out legged Joe Knolle's new Beanetau, Patience. Everyone seemed to have a great time.

Mother's Day Sail

Bravely Jan announced that she did not want any gifts or anything special for Mother's Day. She would prefer to put that money towards some needed cruising gear. Even more bravely I did as she instructed. Any prudent husband usually ignores such requests.

We went to Clay and Krystal's couples shower. It was great fun and we did not get away until after 4 pm. We came home, threw some food in a bag, and headed for the boat. The wind was light. There was a large high pressure system drifting overhead. It ruined the Velocity Games but made a great weekend. We motored all the way over to Shamrock Cove and dropped anchor about half mile offshore outside just in time for a great sunset. The evening breeze was delightful and surprisingly cool for May. By morning the wind had swung around to the west and pushed us up close to the beach. Shamrock Island is a bird sanctuary. It is wonderful to see how busy birds can be went they are just being birds and not worried about predators.

After a few chores I weighed the anchor and we headed home. Even is such light conditions getting the anchor on board and stowed was a big chore. Job One before the big cruise will be installing a proper anchoring system. I am going to go against all advice and use a manual windlass. Electric windlass are hugh power drains and a good way to start a fire when 100 amps surges thru salty wires and connections. Besides I do not see how an electrical motor can survive the repeated salt water dunkings. In a heavy seaway White Pepper will take every wave over the bow. I will get criticisms, but then I will be the one on the bow cranking every morning.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Race Committee

5-09-07 White Pepper was race committee for the Wed. night race. Danny, Steve, Jackie, Chris came down to help. Thanks. Paloma and Jackie raised the flags. The course was 6p-TH. There were only 10 boats on a lovely May evening. I wonder if MORF is finally dying? Of course, that has been predicted for years, but maybe it's true this time.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A windy Wed. nite

After the disasters of last weekend I half did not expect anyone to show up for Wednesday night May 2, 2007. The wind was easily 22+and the sky overcast. However, turnout was great. We had Jan, Kelli, Rudi again, Clay came for the first time in months, Mark McNamara showed up, Steve, and Robert--back from a successful triathlon campaign. David from Krogen jumped on at the last second.

It was Danny's birthday and he came with Skeeter.

With all that foredeck talent and rail meat I elected for an all sails start. The course was 3p-19p-TH. Things went very well. Steve pointed out that the boat was much faster on starboard tack. I wonder if the mast is not centered or if that cooling shoe is really dragging the boat down that much on port tack. We got the tie-dye spinnaker up in brisk air and had a great ride home. We did not quite hit 9.0 , but came close. Race results are still not available.

After a quick birthday celebration for Danny it home to bed early. That is a optimum outcome of Wed. nite.

The 2007 Port Aransas Race: a difficulty

The White Pepper was ready for her first serious race in nearly 10 months, unfortunately her skipper was not equally ready. We had a great crew: Kellie, Chris, Jan, Rudi, Danny Lyberger, Skeeter, Steve, Janet Freeman from Austin, John Hornung, Danny Adams--my best med school buddy, Krystal Lite from Dallas, and at the last minute up walks Trent McBride. Actually we were over the crew limits.

The wind was 20+ knots from the east. I called for the "beast"--the carbon fiber 150% and a reefed main. After a perfect start we had every boat in the fleet for about 30 minutes. Then great problems! I fouled a boat and had to do a 360 turn. Later I over stood the weather mark because I could not believe how high the beast could point the boat. By the time we got into the Corpus Christi ship channel it was hopeless. Also the wind was dead down the channel. We could have tacked the 150% sixty times and gone from dead last to last. Considering the fragility of carbon fiber I estimate each tack would take $50. to $100 out of the sail. I fired up the engine and motored the rest of the way to Port A.

I guess we won the party, but there was little competition. We had to leave Shortie's after John Horning upset one of the patrons. Hotel White Pepper slept about seven of the crew. Jan said the snoring was bad.

The Ladies Race was an equal disaster. We were late for the start and took forever to set the chute. Inexperience really showed. The race home was very fast. We were in the high 7's in the channel and then in the 8's in the bay as the wind came around to the beam. At the jibe mark I did not have the nerve to organize a screaming dangerous heavy air gybe as it was blowing about 25 by this time and we were again dead last. We finished under plain sail. The CC Boat Show was finishing up and two helicopters were flying around at very low altitude filming advertisements. I am sure the White Pepper will show up on cable TV as background soon.
Again we had a good party, but I did not even bother to check the race results.

The Port Aransas Race is a shadow of what it was 20 years ago, but still I would have wanted to do better. The way forward is practice and drill. Some of the newer crew said they would be game to go out on weekends. Hopefully, we can organize something.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

As Nice As It Gets

Wed. night 4-25-07 was a nice a day as is possible in Corpus Christi. A fast moving norther had blown away the humidity and what was left behind was a cool, dry northerly flow in crisp sun shine. The crew was Jan, Danny, Chris, Ruddy, John Files, and a new friend of Jan's Kathy. The course was 2p-10p-1s-TH. We flew the 150 beast to practice for the Port Aransas Race but left the spinnaker in the bag because of the light crew. After the race we cruised the Boat Show from the water. It was a spectacular display of gleaming fiberglass. I am looking forward to seeing it from the shoreside Friday.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Getting Ready for Port Aransas Race 2007

We have have had two nice, very quiet Wed. night races which tested the refrigerator more than the boat and crew. Chris has come twice and shows much promise. Danny and Skeeter with Mrs. Skeeter came 4-17-07. That day we had to motor in.

Next Saturday is the Port Aransas Race. Once in my life I felt that was the most important day of the year, and my whole world revolved around it. I did win my class once. It was one of the best days of my life. That was over 20 years ago, and now a respectable finish with no damage, injury, or outrageous expense would be wonderful.

Today Jan and I planned to sail, but the weather was awful. We cleaned, replaced dock lines, and replaced a damaged electrical cord. Actually, it was the cord from the Seabrook yard; my original one having vanished months ago.

The race is Sat. 4-28-07. Skippers meeting at 9 am with a start about 10:30. We have a slip reserved in Port A. Reservations are available on the hotel White Pepper. The ladies race will have the same start sequence Sunday.

To prepare for the race Danny has to do the bottom. Jan and I will get the race sails on the boat Wed. or Thurs. Everyone should make their own travel arrangements for Sat. pm and Sun. am. We will party at Shorty's Sat. night and breakfast at the Island Cafe Sunday.

Also the Corpus Christi in the Water Boat Show is this weekend. I plan to view it Friday afternoon with my office staff. This show will be the culmination of Peter Davidson's vision for the CC Marina. I hope that it goes off well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

First Wed. Night

Wed. 4-11-07 was the first time White Pepper was back on the race course since last Oct. and it felt great. Crew was Jan, Steve, Danny and Skeeter, John Files, and a newcomer, Chris Lykes.

Wind was light and variable. Course was 2-10-2-10-TH. Joe Knolle had a clean bottom and slipped way ahead. Brad Stokes dropped out. We finished far back, but we had cold beer from the new fridge all the way.

Chris seems very enthusiastic and hopefully we be a regular.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Long Entry

The day the boat was finally arrived on Friday March 30, 2007. Joe and Rita Kessling graciously drove Jan, John Hornung, and I to Seabrook. She was lying in the slip looking intact and even clean. I spent an hour checking out the rigging and deck work. The lights all seemed to work except for the bow lights. The two bulbs had been cooked by the welding done to the bow pulpit. Kevin Wilson of Stix and Riggin' came down and we went over the work again. He made several good suggestions, chief of which was that the rod rigging should be bar tight, "one with the boat." This was contrary to the owner's manual and advice from Mark Foster, but I will stick with Kevin from now on. There was a new centerboard cable and pulley with housing on the deck. The box that feeds the cable into the centerboard truck is new stainless steel. At first there was alarm that it might be leaking but soon we realized it was left over rainwater. All of the heads on the rods have been re-cold headed at $32.00 apiece and a toggle added to the back stay at the mast head. A new VHF antenna was placed at the masthead, but more importantly a new thicker VHF cable was lead down the mast. This will be needed when we add AISC to the navigation package. AISC is a poor man's radar based on VHF signals. Finally when all of the talking was done, Keven gave me the bill. I was very pleased to pay $5500.00 after estimating the cost to be more like $7000.00. From now on I will recommend all of my yacht buddies to deal with Stix and Riggin'.

Now we made a run to Spec's for supplies, checked in Joe and Rita at the Hampton Inn, and headed to Pappadeaux's for dinner. Dinner got a little silly with John Hornung, who is rail thin and and almost anorectic in his dietary habits, lecturing Joe about needing to lose 130 pounds. Joe took it in good spirits. John, Jan, and I spent the night on the boat. It really rained and stormed hard all night. But it felt wonderful to heard the rain beating on the foredeck after all these months.

The next morning we checked out the interior work done by Seabrook Yacht Service. There was a new plastic holding tank, and two stainless steel water tanks that seemed water tight. I do not remember when the old tanks were ever tight. So Jan and I will have to get a feel for how long 64 gallons can last. Finally there is a freezer/refrigerator--the reason for it all. After months of research and planning I had a vision of what I wanted the fridge to look like and to do. I had left a few drawings, sketches really, and waved my hands around in front of O.J. Young, the assistant manager, who did not seem to be listening. Imagine my astonishment and relief when everything worked and looked just as I had wanted. The compressor was neatly tucked into the compartment between the fridge and the batteries. There was a slick new thru hull to pump out the heat, the compressor hummed so quietly you could barely hear it, and the box was blowing cold air. It did take all night to chill down with the shore power running. After that the power consumption, with the lids closed of course, was only 2.3 amps. This is less than the running lights. The freezer compartment is designed to chill to 20 degrees F. then the pass thru blower keeps the refrigerator at 40 degrees F. There is six inches of foam around the freezer and four inches around the refrigerator. The lids are large vacuum hatches with magnetic seals that came from The new formica top and fiddles were a perfect match to the original factory work. I almost ran to pay the bill. O.J. was not in the office. The secretary gave me the bill. She said, "You know we could have charged you $12,000.00 for that box, but Mark (the owner) said it wouldn't be right." The total bill was $11,000.00 with only $6000.00 assigned to the refrigerator. All that along with the $4,000 deposit and $1200 for parts was about $5,000.00 less than I had planned to pay. Needless to say I was only too pleased to write out a check and add "paid in full." David was the carpenter, and I can not say too much about his work. It was magnificent.

Joe and Rita ran us around to do chores--pick up the life raft from Triad and buy provisions at Walmart. John insisted that I buy a pint of ice cream as the true test of the freezer. I am happy to say it froze so solid we had to use a knife to eat it. Then Joe and Rita said good bye and headed back to Corpus Christi. Many thanks.

The weather forecast was for bad weather on Saturday--it was--to be followed by marvelous weather on Sunday--it wasn't. We hung out Saturday preparing the boat--bending on sails, fixing the running lights, stowing gear, cleaning, and getting diesel. I bought 32 gallons of untaxed diesel for $83.00--my first sticker shock at the marine pump ever. We had a modest dinner at the Sundance Grill in the marina and went to bed early.

We cast off before dawn in a still fog. Thanks goodness for GPS. I still had the way points in the Garmin from many previous trips back and forth. Regardless it took some care to get into open water when we could not see from one day marker to the next. The trip down the Houston Ship channel was uneventful in the early dawn. I have made the trip several times at night. It has a certain stark beauty at night with very bright red and green lights stretching out to each horizon. However, it is a bit like hanging out on the deck of a working aircraft carrier and is no place for the unwary. Usually passing Galveston is filled with nostalgia and reverie, but this morning I could not enjoy it. A stiff breezing was building from the SW directly on the line to Port Aransas. Foregoing an option to take to ditch south for reasons that I still do not understand, we pressed on down the Bolivar Roads, thru the jetties, an on out into the Gulf of Mexico about 11:15 am 4-1-07.

I put in a reef and strapped the jib in tight. John was steering. The auto pilot was not working. Jan was the one to understand that the reason was the new stainless steel water tanks were distorting the magnetic fields so that the flux gate compass could not work. The fix will be easy, but for this trip it will be hand steering all the way. Everything seemed well for a while. The wind was easily over 20 knots from the SW driving us hard to the S or SSW. Then things started to deteriorate. A large swell set in from the SE and a short chop from the SW with the wind. The breeze dropped as predicted leaving the White Pepper underpowered. The only headsail on the boat was the 93% roller furling blade and it wasn't enough to get thru the seas which by now had started to resemble a washing machine. Jan was the first one to get seasick, and I was soon ill as well. John Hornung never turned a hair. John steered well, but since he was not briefed on the complexity of the running rigging I had to do all of the work of running the boat while nauseated. We tacked back in shore about 15:oo. At first we seemed to be lifted, but as the wind lessened the heading slid to NW or back to Galveston. I fired up the engine and headed straight SW. The extra forward speed helped the nausea. By nightfall the worst of the seasickness was over. However, no dinner was served or requested.

We motored all night in a beautiful calm with the full moon lightly overcast. The course was along the edge of the ship fairway so there were few rigs and they all well lit. This will be the first trip back and forth to Galveston that I have not seen an unlit rig. Steering by hand in a dark seas with no wind is quite difficult. We had watches of 2 hours on and 4 off. Everyone said they had difficultly keeping the heading within 30 degrees. The dawn was late (7:21 CDT), cool, and overcast. Jan served up a great breakfast of healthy eggbeater tacitoes in whole wheat tortillas. A light breeze came up from the E. allowing us to motor sail in flat seas quite fast.
Finally we motored thru the jetties at 11:35 or just over 24 hours after leaving the Galveston jetties. It was a fast safe trip although not very pleasant at first.

We had a leisurely calm sail to Corpus Christi being able to finally sample some of the supplies from Spec's. At the dock I was able to show off my new fridge to anybody that would come aboard.

All in all I am thrilled with the work and the price. I hope it will be a good first step into our new lifestyle.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Seabrook says the yacht will be ready Friday March 30, 2007. We made calls to the many people who enthusiastically volunteered to help bring the boat back in triumph. No one could go. Finally John Hornung said he would like to help, and Joe Kessling volunteered to drive up the Houston. It just shows how promises are so cheap when there is something else to do on the weekend.

Actually I was very much looking forward to sailing short handed with Jan, but I am also glad to have another good hand in John Hornung.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Centerboard Box

Hope springs eternal! I called OJ Young at the boat yard today. He said the last piece of work was in the machine shop. It was the metal box that leads the centerboard cable into the hull. He said I was lucky to have it done now. The old box crumbled as they were removing it. Soon the box would have leaked and sent the yacht to the bottom of the slip or into the sea.

Hopefully we can pick her up next week

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mourning Doves

I just finished my essay about the mourning doves that used the bow fitting of White Pepper as a nest. Regrettably Blogger does not accept Word documents. Please e-mail me if you want a copy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Little Progress

There is little to add to the previous post. I have called repeatedly to Seabrook about the progress of the work and get little of no response. "We're working on it" is about the best comment I hear. So it seems that Feb. 17th is out. I will have to work Feb. 24th, so the earliest I can pick up White Pepper is March 4th, 2007.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Update on yard work

January 20, 2007

Currently White Pepper is in the Seabrook Shipyard. She has been there since early October and work is very slow. So far the new stainless steel water tanks have been installed. The freezer/refrigerator was been built but not installed. There has been work done on the mast. The rigging will be completely cold headed ie the foot plates will all be cold headed, new sheaves installed, a new antenna and wind arrow installed. Stix and Riggin' is replacing the tack horn on the boom and the goose neck. The pulley assembly on the deck for the centerboard cable is being replaced. This was the piece of equipment that ruined Jan's back because it was so corroded.

Hopefully, everything will be pulled together by mid February.