Sailing in The Laguna Madre


Sailing in The Laguna Madre

August 4

Well I survived to get on the road with the new boat. Last minute preparations on the trailer were maddinging, as was rigging the family van with a wire harness to plug the trailer lights in. Those newer vehicles have too many darn wires. Working out in the 100+ degrees at 1:00 PM tring to get it all together is heroic... but it got done, and about 2:30 PM we were on the road. Self, wife, son and David Hetrick, without whom this would not have been done. David is much more than a help.

We arrived in Port Isabel about 4:00 PM and found heavy road traffic probably due to the big international fishing tournabment. We stopped at a roadside store for a bottle of christening fluid... in this case Heinekan. A friend who owns a Hunter 30 (Dr. Pinkerman) came by and used the camera for us. Thanks to him we have some good pictures of launching and the first half of the day's sailing.

When the boat was halfway off the trailer Joseph got the honor of swinging the bottle on the bow eye and christening the boat... and naming it "Ocean Breeze" (his choice).

It launched well, and we got down to the first rigging. After lacing the Dolphin Sr. sail to a yard and boom (made of closet pole) we fiddled with it for a while and got it to set right on the mast (an old dingy mast, some 14 ft long that I built some 25 years ago). The leeboards were not weighted and needed to be weighted. I had provided with a hole in the leading edge to pull them down and between the forward line and the aft line, hold them in good position.

It sailed well, first with just Joseph and me, then after several tacks, and much bending from the mast, the mast broke, some 2 ft above the deck (mast was stepped "on the keel and was free standing, above the deck level.)

We had overpowered this 2 inch diameter mast with too much sail on a moderately windy day. Got the sail, yard,boom and upper part of the mast aboard and drifted back to the launching ramp/dock, then lifted the rig out and replaced it with a much shorter rig - also borrowed from one of the 8 ft dingys - complete with sprit rigged sail. The boat still sailed, and we went out for another round with David, Joseph and I.

Good sailing, not as exciting as the sail that was almost 3 times the area, but still respectable. Next trip out form the dock found Mona (wife), Joseph and I sailing. After we got free of the more confined area Joseph (8.75 yrs old) took over, and did a fairly good job as helmsman.

We got back to the dock/ramp and did a good job (very good job for me - who is a menace backing a trailer) backing down, and getting "Ocean Breeze" back on for the trip home.

A pizza supper rounded out the day, and set us up for the 1.5 hour trip home.

August 10

Wow, it does not get much better than this. 8.75 yr old son, Joseph, and a family friend took the new boat... with newer mast... out for a sail Saturday night. Launched and got going by 10:10 PM and tacked out of the yacht harbor at Port Isabel. Sailed out into the Lower Laguna Madre, waves low, wind about 15 mph, tempreture in mid 80's (deg. F.) The local yacht club (I am not a member, but have member friends) was having a moonlight sail.

My friend with the Humter 30 was aground. Tide was way low (Moon almost full) and he ran aground several more times before he got in. For some time we sailed circles around him (with a 13 ft boat!) and while sailing took an 8 ft pole and sounded around, finding deep water for him. Cell phones worked for boat-to-boat communication. He got in, and we got in. Hauled out about 1:00 AM and got home just now... about 3:20 AM.

Today the tow vehicle was my pickup... which of course did not have a wire harness for the trailer. This time it was 105.7 deg F. while I was lying under the back of the bed, on a piece of cardboard box, trying to get it all to work. I tried a different type of plug, that was supposed to work with 4 wire systems... well it got 3 of the 4. The evening sailing was a good payoff for the work under the truck.

August 18

Joseph and I went out sailing on the Lower Laguna Madre a few days before the Tropical Storm named Erica threatned us here in S. Texas. David Hetrick, the friend who helped me make the boat was also among the crew. ... had a great time.

Dave oversees the launch

We got out on the water about 10 AM, sailed north to a little island and had a look at its beach. Approach to the island was through 6 inches of water and turtle grass, which we glided over. Made peanutbutter and Jelly sandwiches in the boat, on site, then headed off back toward the Queen Isabella causeway... miles away.

We tacked a few times and got over to the west side of S. Padre Island, finally finding a place to tie up and get supper at a bayside (expensive) restaurant.

After supper, and as the sun set, we headed out to cross Laguna Madre back to Port Isabel. Lumpy stormy clouds were scudding in from the Gulf of Mexico (This was Wednesday evening, the tropical storm arrived before dawn on Saturday.) It was a great sleigh ride surging along, and we made
harbor without incident. Well, short tacking up the channel in the harbor was energetic. We got tied up just after 10 PM.

I had my Garmin eTrex GPS along, and it said we got peak speed of 5.1 mph ! quite good for a heavy 13 ft boat, though most of the time we were doing 3.2 to 4.1 mph.

As you might note in the pictures at the url below I made another (and more robust mast) for the Dolphin Sr. sail that we adopted to this boat. The closet poles that are used for the yard and boom on the rig bent but held. Do note the "sophisticated" <grin> sheeting arrangement using an old aluminum mountain climbing caribeener as a block.

for more pictures, see

Gerard Mittelstaedt
McAllen, Texas