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by Rick Pratt – Port Aransas, Texas – USA

My wife Cameron and I were lucky enough to be selected to restore and then live at the Aransas Pass light Station. During our 19 years there we had many adventures. Every day brought new experiences and the learning curve was steady.

When you live on an island, population two (if you don't count the dogs) there are many things to do, and no one else to do them.

This little episode was one of many memorable times we spent there. This one left some indelible memories.

Aransas Pass Light Station also called Lydia Ann Lighthouse



"Never trust the government weather radio"

Hurricane Brett was a big mean storm and it looked like it was coming to town.

We spent the requisite thirty hours straight getting the light station ready for its visit, and were still behind early on the day of its arrival.

The weather radio, run by NOAH, told us the big boy was due to come ashore somewhere about one o'clock the next morning, and we based our efforts on that, with the goal of being ready to go twelve hours before.

There is so much to do when you live at a light house on a tiny island population two and a hurricane is coming, that if you look at the whole job all at once, you'd swear it was impossible and just leave. We set a deadline for departure and got to work.

We had reached the point where we had about two hours left to the finish line with about three hours work left to do, so we felt pretty good about it all.

NOAH weather radio, with its strange electronic voice, told us the storm was still not expected until after midnight. Then the upper band of the hurricane hit us.

The winds, which had been building for the last few hours, suddenly increased to fifty with gusts near sixty, and the rain started coming down in buckets, sideways. We had both boats loaded with all of our most precious items. The things you figure you can't live without. The idea was to get them both to town, tying up one and hauling the other along with us so we could get back to the station in case the storm destroyed the dock and boat.

But the rain was so hard the engine on the small boat refused to start. There was just too much water in the air for internal combustion to happen.

We had to change plans. We shifted all the gear and tied the now crippled boat off across the creek with enough scope for it to swing with the shift and ride the predicted huge tides.

The winds were so high and the rain so hard that this simple task, normally ten minutes' work took nearly an hour. The noise of the wind was so great, we couldn't shout above it and had to use hand signals to communicate. Soaked and exhausted, we cast off the big boat and headed to sea.

The surface of the channel was invisible, hidden by spindrift, a six foot high wall of spray created when the tops of the very big waves were blown off by the wind. We were traveling through a cloud of water head high. Breathing was difficult for us and the engine.

The winds were pushing us toward shore with such force that even with forty degrees port helm and full throttle we were still being set to starboard in the gusts. The engine began to fail, choking with a rattling death cough, then catching its breath again and coming back to life. We avoided looking at each other. Maybe it would go away if we didn't acknowledge it was happening. With each stagger, I looked shoreward to figure where we would fetch up if we lost the engine, and make plans for getting back to the light house on foot. We knew every inch of this shoreline well under normal circumstances, but it was a strange and forbidding place now.

At last we entered the ship channel. If the power went away now, there would be no getting back to the light or to town.

That quarter mile took forever to cover, but we made the harbor jetty, and surfed in through a confused mass of spray and foam.

We reached the dock and were tying up just as the slip roof started to blow away.

The wind noise was now nearly deafening, but it was silent compared to the wild crashing of that tin roof flapping like a flag above us. It is a strange feeling to see something not behaving like it should, and we stared at the now flexible roof in fascination.

We got the boat tied off accompanied by the heaving of the roof and an amazing chorus of groans coming from the dock timbers and at last, with all our most precious belongings loaded in the truck, left town.

The town had been evacuated the night before and the ferry had closed early, so the island road was the only way out, if it wasn't flooded.

As we reached the city limits everything stopped. The wind, the rain. everything, like a switch had been thrown.

A commercial FM radio station informed us that the eye of the storm was now making landfall at Ricardo, 60 miles south of us. Had we listened to them instead of the Government Weather Radio, we would have never left the light house.

But then, we would never have known what it's like to go pleasure boating in a hurricane.

Rick Pratt
Director, Port Aransas Museum
and Farley boat Works

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