I was giddy with excitement when I signed us up for the Mardi Gras cruise to Galveston Yacht Basin with the TMCA. We would be taking Seraphina on her first voyage beyond our day sail grounds. We decided that this being our first long(ish) trip, Connor was going to stay with his grandparents. There were just too many unknowns for us to feel comfortable bringing him along. We would be navigating the shoals around Redfish Island, dodging abandoned oil and gas wells, and crossing the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway (GIWW) and the Texas City Channel with heavy commercial traffic. We would be spending 2 nights away from our home marina for the first time, docked at a new marina and exercising Seraphina’s living accommodations. I couldn’t help but think that this was the first true taste of the cruising life. The plan was to sail the West Pass route with the TMCA fleet. A week before the trip, I plugged in the GPS coordinates into Navionics and created our route. The route seemed fairly straight forward, the only real area to be concerned with was navigating the small channel on the south end of Redfish Island to avoid the shoals, and of course crossing the 3 ship channels without being pulverized by a massive ship barreling down the channel. no worries, I would be in a flotilla with other experienced sailors, right?
Well, we ended up running a bit late Friday morning. We met Jon at the boat around 9:15AM. Jon and I started prepping the boat while Kristin volunteered for provisioning duty and headed to the grocery store to pick up our nourishment and, of course, ingredients for the mandatory dockside cocktails we were going to enjoy after arriving in Galveston. With Seraphina stocked and ready for the trip, we took up our dock lines and motored out of the slip.
We got to Marker 2 around 10:15. There were no other sailboats around. We saw a few boats heading south about a mile away from us. We had missed our flotilla! I told the crew “well, I guess we are on our own!” We raised the sails and made a course for our first way point. Seraphina accelerated to 5 knots and we started to relax for the journey. Unfortunately, the bliss lasted all of 5 minutes. With the wind out of the South, we were close hauled and not able hold our bearing on the next way point. We could tack our way south, but with the various obstacles along the route, I decided it would be better to avoid that all together. Plan B. We dropped the sails, fired up the diesel and motored on South. Half way to our Redfish Island rendezvous, I noticed the boats ahead of us changing course and heading Southeast. I figured they were heading to the Houston Ship Channel. Nobody was taking the West Pass route! Ok, another decision to make…Should we follow the other boats or stick to the plan for West Pass? I chose to stick to the planned route. We pressed on to Redfish Island. Navigating the pass turned out to be quite uneventful. We had at least 8ft of water on the depth sounder the whole way through the channel.
Redfish Island is basically a small strip of exposed mud, rock and oyster shells. We saw evidence of people camping out on the island with partially burned split logs still arranged in a makeshift fire pit. The west side of the island is a decent anchorage protected from the ship wake from the ship channel. TMCA plans a raft-up trip there every year. Since it isn’t too far from home, it seems like a good place to practice setting the anchor and living “on-the-hook”. These will be vital skills for our eventual cruise in the Caribbean.
Our next adventure was rounding the Texas City Dike and crossing the ship channel there. A little further south, and we would cross the GIWW. Turns out there was no ship traffic, so we motored across without incident. We motored past SS Selma, the remnants of a large concrete ship built in 1919. Of course, I didn’t take any photos of SS Selma (still learning this whole blogging thing). Here is a link to more information on the SS Selma. We rounded Sea Wolf Park, dodging the ferries motoring between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula.
We finally arrived at Galveston Yacht Basin 4 hours after departing our home marina. Unfortunately, we had signed up late and the marina put us in front of the dry dock storage. Let’s just say this is not a pleasant area of the marina to spend a weekend. The bait shop is next door and there is constant activity putting boats in the water and pulling them out for storage. It is right off of the channel, so the ship wake from the cruise ships and commercial traffic constantly pound the boat. The responsible TMCA’ers who signed up on time, on the other hand, were on the far docks protected by a seawall. Lesson learned…
All in all, it was a fairly uneventful trip to Galveston. I thought…this ain’t so bad!