The Ultimate Test Drive (Part III)

For me  day two was just a continuation of day one. Between the travel, the heat, and the change in food I was up every hour or so with what can best be called “intestinal distress”. As I returned from my final trip to the dunes I could see headlights bobbing back in camp and I knew it was time to get moving. I grabbed my shower kit and headed to some still water for a saltwater bath.

By the time Peter got up I had packed up but was a physical wreck. I think Peter could tell because he made a great big pot of his awesome coffee to get me going. A big mug of coffee and a good ol mountain house breakfast and I was finally ready to head out. It was just after sunrise and the wind was coming up fast. It was going to be another wild ride today.

One of the more annoying things about the 200 is you are always being judged. From how you back your trailer, to the knots you tie everyone is watching and everyone has an opinion. Fortunately for us we were a well oiled crew this morning and we executed a perfect departure under sail from the beach. Peter and I gave each other a smile as the “old salts” nodded in approval. We started back up the channel to in ICW passing and getting passed by the fleet. On day one I really was too overwhelmed by the event to really look but today I started to get a sense of whom we were sailing with. We had closed on Looney Toons, a wildly painted Michalac Toon 19 and, as we passed I realized that it was sailing on just one sail and they had breakfast going on a galley stove. As I watched them slide by I was amazed by the calmness and complete control they had. I dig it. We settled quickly into what was a repeat of day one high winds, following seas, and super hot temperatures. The land slowly closed in around us and we entered one of the most interesting landscapes I have ever seen.

For the next two days we would be cruising through the land cut. It’s a section of the intercoastal waterway that was dredged out of a marshy salt flat to make a 200 yard wide road for commerce. We slid through this alien landscape at a fast 7-8 miles per hour. The wildlife was abundant and all around us. Salt flats with mere inches of water on them ran as far as the eye could see. Fish jumping, dolphins swimming up the channel, and wading birds watching for lunch kept me mesmerized as the day went on. The only nod to civilization was the fishing shacks that dot the waterways in this part of Texas. Navigation on this section of the trip was easy – follow the land cut and look for a sign that says Happ’s Cut.

Happ’s Cut is the second stop for the 200 and famous for one thing, mud; thick, stinky, shoe stealing, disgusting mud. Words cannot describe how bad the mud is. I was nasty by the time I got everything to shore and had no desire to go back out. Peter stayed onshore for a while and then disappeared to the boat with no plans to fight his way back to shore. The payoff for Happs Cut is something that is rare and wonderful, trees and grass!

For the past two days the wind had been brutal in the afternoon so, after a good nights sleep on the grass, we decided to be one of the first ones out so we could be at camp before the wind got too bad.

Our start to day three was a foreshadow of things to come. Once again we executed a perfect departure under sail, and then promptly stuck it in the mud on the opposite bank. I had forgot to put the center board down so now we were pinned to the shore by the wind and looking like right fools.  After thrashing about in the mud and running the motor we headed out into the land cut with our tail between our legs.

Day three was scheduled to be a short day so most of the fleet had decided to stay behind for a leisurely morning and breakfast in the shade. For us it was a repeat of the first two days. Light winds in the morning building to 20+ in the afternoon. Our next camp was south of Corpus Christie just north of Bird Island. On paper the navigation could not have been easier. This was yet another camp just off of the intercoastal waterway so all we had to do was watch the numbers on the channel markers and turn when appropriate. Unfortunately that didn’t work out.

Peter was taking the afternoon shift and I was forward camped out on the beanbag monitoring the radio and watching the map. Now I could give a bunch of excuses for what happened next but I won’t. In the end the map, GPS, and marker buoys didn’t agree and before we realized where camp was we were a good five miles downwind. We had missed camp and there was no going back.

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As we assessed our situation John and family in their wayfarer pulled along side. They were in the same situation as us so we teamed up to find a camp.

This is where the 200 got real for me. There was no more follow the leader. No designated camp. No fifty boats willing to lend a hand if things went wrong. This is what I came for. We poked and explored little spoil islands until we landed on one with an abandoned fishing shack. When I hopped off the bow I proudly exclaimed “I hereby name you Fuckup Island!”.

The rest of the day was wonderful, we got to know John and his kids, drank beer in the shade and planned our crossing of Corpus Christie bay. It was quite a relief for me to be away from the bulk of the fleet. For some reason there is a lot of posturing and “this is how I would do it” going on with the fleet. Anything you do is judged ad nauseum by the “old salts”.  Here it was just the five of us calm and quiet, each crew with their own plans and solely responsible for themselves.

In the wee hours of the morning I woke up with what I thought was a spotlight in my face. “Thank God John and the kids are here, they would never throw a family off the island in the middle of the night” I was thinking to myself. I unzipped the tent ready to make all sorts of excuses as to why I was trespassing on this little bit of land when I realized it wasn’t a spotlight but a full Texas moon. I walked around the island and enjoyed the scene laid out before me. The breeze was warmer, the stars bigger, and the lights of the city were more soothing than almost any time in my life. I took that moment and held it knowing it was a rare thing. I stayed out for an hour or so enjoying life before heading back to bed, and on to the next day.

 

 

 

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