The Ultimate Test Drive

The fourth of July has come and gone, I am now 40, and it has been a month since I set out on what was one of the biggest adventures I have ever undertaken. The Texas 200 wasn’t the hardest thing I have ever done, nor was it the most dangerous, but for one week it sure seemed like it. I am, by nature, quiet and introverted. When big things come up I have to chew them in my mind before I can truly talk about them. This part of my personality has always frustrated my lovely wife. She can bring up big things in conversation and it takes me a day or two of processing it in the background before I feel I am ready to talk about it. ┬áThere is nothing like picking up a sensitive discussion two days after the fact to try a woman’s patience.┬áThank the gods she is a patient woman! So that is what I have been doing. Like a computer I have been running all of the data in my head trying to make sense of it all. I have tried to write about both the boat and the trip several times now and they all seem fake. The data is processed and now it’s time to solve the problem so here we go…

The Ultimate Test Drive

Six Days in a Pathfinder

It’s sunset on day four and I just watched my left flip flop sail off into the sunset without me. I had taken them off when I climbed on Flying M to clean up the boat and get my gear ready for the night. While I was cleaning up a power boat raced by way to close and yelling something I couldn’t make out. Unfortunately the wake got my flip flop. As I watched the shoe sail off into the sunset I realized for the first time in a long time I was calm. It seemed to me that all of the stress from my job, family worries, and all the other stressors of life rode that flip flop out to sea.

Quarantine shore

My path to this moment of perfection started out when Peter picked me up at the airport Friday morning. We introduced ourselves and were soon on the way back to his house in the suburbs of Houston to finish the last minute rigging on the Flying M. Peter and I spent the short ride back to his house with the normal getting to know you questions. I was originally nervous about sailing the 200 with a stranger but Peter’s good attitude and friendly demeanor set me right at ease. As we pulled in the driveway I got my first glimpse at a fully built Pathfinder!

flying m

The Flying M

As we hopped out of the truck I couldn’t contain myself and I headed right over to the boat to check it out. It’s funny to say but it was like looking into the future for just a second. All of the parts that I had labored over the last year were there, just in finished form. The Flying M is seven years old and has been sailed hard in several Texas 200’s and all around the coast of Texas and has the scars to prove it. As I looked it over Peter gave me the full tour. Barge impacts, oyster reefs, intentional beaching, a lost centerboard; all these things left there marks but what was before me was a beautiful and remarkably stout sailboat. We spent most of the day alternating between the air conditioning and working on the boat, most of which was familiarizing me with the operation of the sails. The last order of business was to hit the grocery store for provisions for the trip.

We woke up early Saturday to get a jump on the six hour ride from Houston to Port Isabel. We stopped for breakfast at a Texas landmark, Buc-ees, a gas station empire built on one simple thing – clean restrooms. If you have never stopped at one before make a point of it next time you see one. One part gas station, one part tourist trap, and an attendant in each bathroom constantly scrubbing. Buc-ees is more experience than anything else. Laura, Peter’s wife, convinced me to try a Czech pastry called a kolache from the on site deli. Yes, Buc-ees has a really good deli. I grabbed two different ones and munched them on the road. Kolache’s are a small pastry that has something cooked inside. Could be fruit like a danish, could be boudin sausage and cheese like mine. I like them. The day ended at the White Sands hotel, the unofficial, official headquarters of the Texas 200.

Sunday started bright and early with the mandatory captain’s meeting. Roll was taken, rules explained, and most everyone headed up to the finish line to drop off their truck and trailer and catch the provided bus back. Peter and I had the advantage of having a driver, Peter’s wife, shadowing us down the coast. If anything went wrong she would meet us at the nearest port and pull us out. Everyone who took the bus would have to make their way all the way to Magnolia Beach to pick up their truck. The rest of the day was spent launching the Flying M and packing out for the trip. At this point I was super tired of waiting. I was ready to get on the road.

Port Isabel