Offshore trip to the Flower Gardens

After a great weekend with TMCA at Moody Gardens, we set off for the Galveston Jetties. The plan was to complete the trip we had tried two years before, namely to sail out to Stetson Bank in the Flower Gardens. Once there, the plan was to practice tying off to a mooring buoy (which will be a necessary skill in the Caribbean!) and maybe do a little fishing. Then, we would head to Port Arthur and from there back home.

Before leaving, we made use of the Moody Gardens business center to get the NOAA weather forecast for the 20-60 mile range and farther out, which was for 2-4ft seas, with winds 10kt to 15kt for the whole time we were planning to be out. So armed with the GPS co-ordinates for the Stetson Bank mooring buoys, off we went.

As promised, the weather was great in the 20-60 mile range, despite the radio reports of the flash-flooding happening back on shore. Once we left the jetties, we were sailing along comfortably at 5.5kts. The only downside was that the skies were very cloudy, so our solar panels weren’t recharging the batteries. We kept an eye on the voltage so we could turn the motor back on when necessary to help the batteries recharge.

On a couple of recent day trips, we had noticed that, when on port tack, a little water was appearing on the floor in the forward cabin and the salon. We hadn’t been able to discover where this was coming from and it didn’t seem to be much. However, we were on port tack for a prolonged length of time on this trip and a considerable amount of water was appearing. Annoying, but not enough to worry about at this point.

We enjoyed a great day and night of sailing, with 3 hr shifts each. The clouds even cleared enough to see the stars that we miss out on when close to the shore. It was beautiful. We had 12kt-15kt winds, so we had our full 120% genoa and the full main out.

At around 10am, we heard a coastguard alert that there was a line of thunderstorms headed in our direction. They were right! At about 10:01am, before we had a chance to react to the alert, we were hit by a 40kt wind, rain, thunder and lightning! Thank goodness for tethers! We had the top guardrail in the water as Sol Purpose broached.

Sol Purpose

Squall!

Moray immediately started instructing me on exactly what needed to be done, as this was the first time I have experienced this. We got the genoa and main furled in about 3 minutes and got the boat under control, much to the relief of captain and crew, and probably the tanker that was about 1 mile away when this started. Go figure – the only boat we saw on the whole way out and it was then! We tried putting a little amount of stormsail and the tiniest bit of main so that we could turn around, but Sol Purpose and the weather had other ideas. So we rode with the storm for a couple of hours, until the winds died enough for us to turn around.

Once again, we were so close to Stetson Bank we could cry, but with the genoa having most of the sunbrella flapping, and the amount of water that was now inside the boat, we decided the best thing was to head for home and inspect to see what damage, if any, we had incurred, and to figure out the water ingress problem.

Of course, the jouney home was under clear, sunny skies with no wind at all, so we had to motor all the way. We put out a trolling line, but only managed to catch several pounds of seaweed. I must find a recipe for lava bread! Seems a shame to waste such a healthy resource!

At 4:30am on Wednesday, we turned into the Boardwalk, tired, but dry and ready to be home. The heavens, it seems, had once last laugh. They opened and the thunder and lightning started. By the time we docked at 5am, we were once again wet through!

By the time we woke up on Wednesday afternoon, the sun was out and things didn’t look so bad. Moray had a bright idea about the leak, tested it and appears to be right. The sink in the forward head has a bowl underneath that was held on, originally by a metal bolt. The bolt has over its 20 year life, rusted away, so it wasn’t holding any water, instead letting it leak into the boat. A quick replacement and we think that problem has been fixed. The next sailing trip should confirm that.

After 5 loads of laundry to clean all the water-soaked clothes and towels, and a clean-up of the damp floor, Sol Purpose is once again shipshape and ready to go.

So we may not have achieved our original goal, but we have had a great experience. We fixed some issues with the boat, we learned what she can do and most important, we learned that we can handle unexpected, even dangerous, situations. The Flower Gardens are still there, so we can try again another time!

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2 thoughts on “Offshore trip to the Flower Gardens

  1. john and Wendy

    Wow…what an adventure. Better you than us! Thanks for keeping us updated. We were really wondering if you were ok. Glad you made it safely back to Kemah!

    Reply
  2. Ludvig F. Aarstad

    Fantastic reading this :D. Sounds like you are having a blast sailing around, and I must say I envy you both :).

    Reply

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