I Lost My Ass In Lake Charles Louisiana (And Not At The Casino)!

Thanks to my bad memory, I already forgot this part of the journey.  Luckily, I have a wife to remind me through her mean video editing.  I hear Aubrey snickering and replaying certain parts of interviews she did with me on the boat in Lake Charles, LA.  It was a sad time.  My memory came back and I remember the fear I had when we just started out.  I remember leaving Texas and not knowing a thing about true boat navigation, seamanship or how it works on the ocean.  My beautiful wife created a video that was actually spot on, in terms of the sorrow of the first couple days.  I still love her but I am planning my revenge.

Being a boat captain ain’t easy.  At all.  The learning curve is steep and now I realize why I go to bed taxed and exhausted most nights.  I always wanted to live on a boat and I didn’t let my lack of experience stop me.  I tired to learn everything I could on the Internet and by reading books but there is no substitute for real experience.  I will always remember Lake Charles for the experienced I gained.

It’s been a couple of months of cruising for us now and I am still learning.  I know this will be a lifelong process and I look forward to it.  Enjoy the video because we did!

Goodbye Texas (I Didn’t Sink The Boat in Texas)

God blessed Texas with his own hands, brought down angles from the promised land, gave them a where they could dance, if you wanna see heaven brother here’s your chance.  I’ve been sent to spread the message, God blessed Texas.

All that being said, we left for greener pastures.  My lovely bride is finally working the video footage from our voyage to Florida and beyond and this is the first of many new videos that chronicle our epic trip.

I am writing this 7 weeks after it was taken but I remember it like yesterday.  I remember leaving Kemah (TX), where we first lived aboard our boat as a family for a week.  This delay was unexpected but prudent because our boat was delivered, un-repaired and unseaworthy.  Miss Lone Star suffered a hail storm months previous to us leaving Austin and the repair shop had 10 weeks to finish all the required work.  It didn’t happen, unbeknownst to us, but we paid for the work.  We shipped it and dropped it in the water and that’s when the trouble began.

The repair shop made right on their errors and one of the owners came to help me fix all of the problems and 8 trips to West Marine later (and 5 days) we were off.  I can say now that I didn’t know anything.  The dry land me thought 5 days was one hell of a delay.  Not so, it reality.  The dry land me didn’t know anything about seamanship but he was to learn, and learn hard- I did.  Obviously, we are alive and well and I am post-writing this journal from Islamorada, FL.  Alls well that ends well but it hasn’t ended because soon, we are off to Cuba!

We cruised the ICW through Texas to Louisiana and the following segments will detail our voyage.  It was not without troubles, high seas or pirates.  Enjoy!

I Wiped My Butt and Touched It, I Used Toilet Paper and It Didn’t Work; I Got Poop On My Hand and Now the Sink Doesn’t Work..

The kids with their official boat uniforms!

The kids with their official boat uniforms!

Our kids light our lives and make our heart’s happy.

This was Blake’s quote of the day, that just happened now.  The great thing about living on a boat with your family is you get to enjoy every little bit of everything and it is all so real.  I’ve got to love my little man because all he thinks about is fishing.  The wakes up and starts fishing (he’s 3).  He fishes until we tell him to stop and we are driving the boat or doing something else.  He fishes before and after his nap and until the sun goes down, sometimes after.  He takes his pole with him when we ride in the dinghy and he would take it with us when we ride the bus.  He catches 8-25 fish per day and he consumes a majority seafood diet.  We think he was made for the water.

Bianca is another story.  It’s about 45 minutes till sunset and she is singing “la cucaracha” on the dock while she cleans all of her seashells that she located today.  We found a great number in a bird estuary that we reached via our dinghy and some impressive driving by the Captain.  It was only 1.5 feet in most places be somehow we found a way to get into those beaches.  B wandered around and found so many great shells.  She found several sea scallops (with live meat) and a living clam.  We almost had enough for dinner but left them for the birds because we’ve had steak sitting in the cooler for 4 nights and it was high time to eat it after high tide came in.  Anyway, this girl is a mermaid and she believes that they are real.  Christmas still exists on our boat in so many ways. Continue reading

Gulf of Mexico Crossing- Carrabelle to Clearwater, Florida?

Choose your fate, fool!

Choose your fate, fool!

It is only 160 miles and it is a straight shot.  Seems logical, but seafaring is rarely easy, logical and it never goes as planned.  Weather was great inside the barrier islands and it didn’t seem like it would be that rough.  We stayed between the markers and had a good course setting.  It was to be a long day but we had done some that were almost as long.  {key the evil and scary music}

Miss Lone Star is a Class A rated ocean gong vessel with a deep V hull and two huge ass engines with velvet drives.  She is a tough old girl and she zipped through the waves as they cut across our bow, just a little less than sideways at a Southeasterly direction.  The problem is: we were also heading SE.  It made for a miserable ride.  I tried slowing down to almost nothing and that sucked.  I put the boat into idle ago check on the crew and I opened the cabin door to observe the original Cuban boat people.  Everybody was laying on the floor, including the dog.  It was really hot and the generator wasn’t running.  I asked Aubrey if she was having a happy day and she gurgled something that sounded mean and scary.

We were traveling at around 1 knot and we were now getting hit with at least 5 foot breakers across our bow.  Life sucked and it wasn’t getting better because I had no idea what the solution was.  I continued on my SE course.  I couldn’t solve the generator problem because I didn’t want to get thrown off the boat.  It was beautiful and sunny, by the way.  It was so pretty that it made me mad.

I went a few miles farther and checked in on the crew.  They were hating me at an increasing rate.

I slowed still and opened the engine hatch to start the generator set manually.  It fired up and I figured all of the problems down below were solved.  I had been battering the hell out of the Gulf for an hour and a half and I figured it would be getting better any minute and it didn’t.  It didn’t get worse, which was good.  Sea sickness has never bothered me.

Aubrey opened the cabin door and I thought she would be bringing me a sandwich or something and she puked all over the deck.  The waves were smacking the boat so hard, I couldn’t even give her a hug.  There was no way I could take my hands off the wheel. I changed course immediately to do in the direction of the waves running a NE course.  We had gone about 50 miles into the Gulf and I had to throw in the towel and change course or face my deadly wife. Continue reading

Apalachicola to Carrabelle Florida (Gulf Crossing Fail)

Carrabelle Florida

Aubrey steals a turtle from a child who had just stole it from a person’s yard. She then tries to hide it on our boat.

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you planned. Today was one of those days. We left at a good time but the fuel took almost an hour to pump into our tanks. The seas were reported at 1-3 outside of the barrier islands in the gulf and we planned to make the crossing of 160 miles.

We made it along the ICW inside the barrier islands and I knew something wasn’t right. The waves were 2-3 with some occasional 4’s coming into the boat. I am still too much of a rookie to recognize a lot of weather patterns but I had a bad feeling so we dicked inside Carrabelle Florida.

We filled up at the C-Quarter Marina and I almost wrecked the boat coming in at low tide. It went out hard and the marina sits in a river that pulls a 5 knot cross current. You have to be fully committed to park your boat and I was. Luckily, we made it in OK and decided to stay after I consulted with the woman who ran the marina. The low-pressure system that had been hammering the Gulf for weeks was still lingering and the winds were kicking up larger seas than forecasted. It was sensible to just chalk up our 25 miles as a day, do some fishing and call it a day.

Carrabelle is a cute little island village. The people congregate around the shady part of this marina to watch the boaters wreck their boats. Seriously, that is what 8-10 men aged 40-80 do everyday. They sit around drinking beer and critique people. They don’t get up to help or do anything but commentate on the calamites as they occur. They occasionally award bonus points or issue loud heckles. They told me that I didn’t do that bad of a job as I went in to buy gas upon arrival. I couldn’t believe my ears because the boat almost got really screwed up and they didn’t even yell out a warning about the cross current. I told the salty old men to fuck off and we settled in for the night. No apologies were ever issued on either side but that’s OK.

Meet the 10 year old Huck Fin crime wave!

Meet the 9 year old Huck Fin crime wave!

We met several of the kids who came down to the marina and I can say that they will be in prison soon. Holy cow! We were getting the boat squared away and two little rug rats came up holding a land tortoise that weighed about 40 lbs. Aubrey’s dream is to get one of these things and apparently they live to be 100 or something. Anyway these two little boys aged around 9 came up with red faces saying they’d been pepper sprayed holding a tortious. Weird. Apparently, an older boy maced these little fools and one of the boys maced himself around the crouch area with a can that he tried to pull out for defense. Good thing we weren’t in South Central, it would be Mac 10’s.

Aubrey liberated the turtle from the boys after I got them to admit that they stole it from some man’s driveway. They wouldn’t take us back to the scene of the crime and later recanted the admission saying that they’d been carrying it around and feeding it for weeks at their house. Aubrey found out it was an indigenous species to Carrabelle called the Gopher Tortoise and it is now endangered because people love to make turtle soup.   Those stupid old men told her to throw it back in the water. She politely explained that it was a land dweller, like them and it couldn’t swim. They said that it belonged in the water and was better off there. She adopted it off to another man who said he would feed it and keep it in his back yard. He was an enemy of the other old men and they ridiculed him for taking it. I’m thinking that the turtle had a 50/50 chance of ending up as soup, but we tried to save it. Aubrey tried to hide it on the boat and we got into a fight over it. Adopting it to the old man was plan B for her, but it’s pretty hard to hard to hide a turtle of that size on our boat!

Huck Fin and his crew came back and forth throughout the day, usually wearing different stolen items that he jacked from who knows where. I saw him on different bikes, skateboards and other transportation. He asked for $1 for him and his friend to get some drinks while he was wearing some pink beats he likely stole from a little girl. I told him to drink salt water.

On the plus side, the old men who were out heckling boaters loved our kids.  Bianca went into the store to buy some gum with some boat cleaning money she earned and came back with a $30 fishing pole.  We thought she stole it, naturally.  Or worse yet, charged it to our slip.  Aubrey went to investigate and apparently the old men bought it for her because she was so cute and well spoken.  They warned us to leave before she married off to one of the crappy kids who frequented the marina.

Blake also made it out like a bandit after he lost his trusty fishing pole to a crab.  A nice old man built him one from used parts around the marina and it worked good as new.  He was truly grateful and I was happy that the old men weren’t was scary as they seemed.

We ended the night quietly fishing and a large Ford trucked pulled up. It was loaded down with nine rednecks that were coming down to the otherwise peaceful and nice dock. You guessed it; Hick Fin was in tow, sporting a huge dip in his lip. He informed us that his jaw would eventually fall off when the tobacco did its job. He brought his older kin to meet us and check out our stuff. Seriously.

Nice boat. Nice fishing poles. Nice wife. Nice guns, why do you have so many guns? Aw, shit Sir. Have a nice night. It was real nice to meet ya.  You won’t be seeing us again.

For the record, Onyx didn’t like them and she sat on the dock so they wouldn’t walk by. We told them that she hated kids and warned them that she had a real bad temper.

Ft. Walton Beach to Apalachicola Florida on the ICW

Panama City ICW

Pink Belly Dolphin in Panama City Bay!

We departed from Ft. Walton Beach at around 8:30. It was a little later than we planned, but we have kids. We set off on an easterly course heading through the bay and along the line that is the Intercostal Waterway (ICW). The Florida ICW is much more beautiful than the Louisiana ICW, let me tell you!

We made good time and the waters were calm through Panama City. I was surprised at how many pontoon boats and small lake boats we saw. I would never dream of taking out such an unstable craft into anything that touches the ocean. We ran into another pod of dolphins in the bay and they jumped and played in our wake as I slowed down for their entertainment. Aubrey got lots of pictures. One of the dolphins had a really pink belly. I wonder what causes one dolphin to another to have a pink belly? Maybe it is like the birds that we saw in Louisiana that were pink because of the amount of a certain species of shrimp? It causes them to be pink. Anyway, awesome experience but we had to motor on our way!

I do this several times per day!

I do this several times per day!

I just took a pause to dinghy over to the next marina to switch out a load of laundry. Man, laundry is an issue on a liveaboard boat! I read that it was but I had no idea. Our marina here has no laundry room. There is none in this town, believe it or not. We haven’t done our clothes and sheets since New Orleans, so it was past time. I had to make a deal with the next marina over to fuel up on Tuesday to get the privilege to use their machines, which consisted of a set of 15-year-old tired things. They were locked behind a screen door and apparently you need to dry twice. Ugh. We have three loads to do and that equals one big pain in the ass. All the while, Aubrey and the kids are swimming in the pool (true story). I am happy to get the opportunity to get clean clothes, just the same. I resorted to my redneck roots and decided to line dry some of the clothes on our yacht. If I weren’t typing this, I’d probably watching NASCAR while I was fishing.

The bay got rough outside Panama City and I had to don the raincoat for the first time. Aubrey and the kids went below and I ran through several miles of rain before it lifted and the ICW narrowed into something different. The water was black and the wake was like coffee. The trees were huge pines and the vegetation was lush. I wish I could properly describe the smell, it was so wonderful. It was sweet with a bit of pine and it was ours for a few more hours. It was if we were the only visitors in twenty years.

I saw anther porpious up ahead and I slowed this time to run up along side of it. It was surfacing and swimming with the boat only 3 feet off the bow. Aubrey was on the bow with the camera, of course. We cruised along and saw another bald eagle and too many other raptors to count. We found an osprey that nested in the crow’s nest of a wrecked and submerged shrimp boat.   The momma osprey was making a lot of squaks for her babies who were off hunting in the shallows. I blew my boat horn and she flew off. Aubrey was ready with her camera and we ended up with some once in a lifetime photos.

IMG_0174We passed a dive boat close to an old railroad bridge. The diver said the visibility was two feet but they were looking for old cypress trees that sunk in the river. I guess that is a very profitable business. We pulled into Apalachicola Florida at around 3PM and found the Water Street Marina easy enough. We parked the boat and met with some people on the dock. Another great cruise! 650 miles down.IMG_0027

Gulf Shores, Alabama to Fort Walton Beach, Florida on the ICW

Guess which state I'm from Y'all!

Guess which state I’m from Y’all!

We checked the weather and it had improved since the night before so we left after breakfast at about 10A.  We departed through the bay and back towards the ICW.  Seas were choppy and about 1-2 feet in the beginning.  They rose in swells and there were times when they rose to 4-5 feet for a few minutes.  The problem was that I was running sideways for the most part, against the waves.  The bay is shallow out of the ICW course so I just had to take it like a man.  Aubrey and the kids went below.  I later learned that they all decided to take a nap for fear of sea sickness.

IMG_0261The boat rose and fell and I was really happy that she has a deep V and is a class A rated ship.  I was happy to have her big engines and I trotted along at an unhappy 15 knots with the bow high.  It was too rough to gain more speed and it doesn’t plane out until about 22 knots.  The waves became more manageable after about an hour and we finally got inland on the ICW, which was like cutting though butter at 25 knots.

IMG_0148Aubrey came up and we enjoyed the inland ICW in Alabama at Orange Beach and subsequent towns.  The pines rose from the water and there was such green in the underlying brush and grass.  We really love this area of the country and I am in awe of its beauty.  We even saw a bald eagle up close.  That was an amazing experience and Aubrey snapped off lots of shots as I doubled the boat back for a photo opportunity with the majestic bird.  She checked the pictures a bit later and found out that the lens fogged up when she brought it from the air-conditioned below deck to topside.  It was unfortunate but it was still a great thing to see up close.

IMG_0931We crossed into Florida at about 1P and the water immediately turned blue-green and it was really something to see against the white sands in the shallows.  Pensacola bay is beautiful.  We spied a Navy vessel at port and we went closer to take a look.  It was a cruise missile ship and it had a very interesting hull.  It was into port and being guarded by a Navy patrol boat.  They told us that there is a 500 yard no go zone around it as we got a bit too close.  Nice guys.  I apologized to force protection and they laughed and said, “don’t let the Coast Guard catch you” as they sped away.  It is really something seeing a ship of that size from a boat.  I’ve never done anything like it in my life.

We motored along in smooth waters through the ICW to Fort Walton Beach, where we sit now.  We docked at the Yacht basin and it isn’t a particularly nice dock but the gas was cheap (for Florida $3.75) and we didn’t hardly leave the boat because we were so tired.  We BBQ’s some steaks, baked potatoes and some squash-like substance that we bought at a roadside stand in Louisiana.  It was all very delicious.  I was happy to get into the AC tonight as it was the first time I felt it since early this morning.  My tan is really kicking at this point and my normally white (1000 spf) wife is getting coco brown.  The kids are doing great and they are sleeping now after a movie and full bellies.  I surely would wish I had their life if I were a kid again!

Tomorrow’s weather looks reasonably good with scattered thunderstorms and wind of 3-5 knots.  We will continue on to Apalachicola, FL in the morning (hopefully early)!

New Orleans to Gulf Shores, Alabama on the ICW

Gulf Shores Alabama

We really loved Gulf Shores Alabama and would recommend it to anyone who wants some sun and sand!

We loved New Orleans but it was time to move on along to non-gator waters.  We got out at about 11:20 and set out East on the ICW.  We had to wait for a risky railroad bridge to open up but thankfully the train backed up and they raised it.  The cruse was refreshingly calm and beautiful.  We ran through some low-lying areas that were really green but the water was also still green.  We were set on seeing some blue water in far off places.

The ICW goes through parts of the Gulf and several bays as it continues East.  We were as much as a mile and a half from the coast at times but thankfully the seas were calm.  The boat ran really smoothly and there were no problems.  It was a great day to be on the water.

We zipped past Biloxi and Mobile Bay and came into Dolphin Island.  The seas got a little rough and rose to 2-3 feet.  The ICW goes across at an angle and I looked at my charts to see that the waters could be deep enough coming into our marina.  It went well until we closed on the entrance at an angle and I found that the charts list the depths at high tide.  I found myself in 3 foot water and out boat carries a 3 foot draft.  You can kind of hear different depths of water and I figured that we were about to get into some trouble.  Luckily soft sand lines the area and it got no shallower than 36 inches so we coasted through it fine.  The approach to the marina (the right way) only had a depth of 3.5 feet so that would explain the lack of boats inside.

IMG_0143Gulf Shores Yacht Club was a nice place but again, vacant of other boats despite the 100 or so spots available.  Gas was expensive at $4.06 per gallon and the slip price was $70 for Miss Lone Star.  Aubrey wasted no time once we docked to look into the wildlife situation.  I was determined to gas up and get things squared away but I could hear some good ol’ boy daring her to catch a pelican on the dock.  “Oh no,” I thought!  She netted a few fish but the birds eluded her for the time being.  I got some ice and we parked the boat in our slip.  The kids were anxious to get to the white sand beach but we still had a lot of things to do so the opted for the bay beach that was next to the marina and we called it good.  Aubrey caught a few hermit crabs and found a crab trap that had a lone oyster, so that was good.

We didn’t feel like cooking and Tacky Jack’s restaurant was next door.  Onyx led the way and we got in with no wait because the hostess loved our dog and loved Veterans.  A woman talked to me a bit as she left and the hostess said “that’s the woman who just bought your family dinner.”  I couldn’t believe it!  That was such a warm and kind gesture that is so unexpected it made me cry.  We spoke to lots of warm and friendly people as we enjoyed the amazing views from the second story deck.  The food was out of this world and we ate so much fish we could barely walk back to the boat.

The waves were brought that night and came across the bow.  I slept better but Aubrey had a hard time with her slumber.  I got up at 2:30A to readjust the lines because the tide came in and loosened up everything.  I took Onyx for a walk and went back to sleep until 7A.  We ate breakfast and got things scared away before walking to the beach.IMG_0043

The beach was grand but the water was not blue.  The water was cold and the people were warm and friendly.  Some kids were walking up the beach selling bracelets they made in benefit of the US Marines who died in Chattanooga, TN.  We struck up a conversation with them and their mom, Valerie.  Our talk spanned over two hours and before I knew it Aubrey had an invitation for us to dine with several families who were visiting from Tennessee.  They were awesome and the kids played all afternoon with their children.  We walked back to their beach house and they were kind enough to drive us back to our boat so we could shower before dinner.  We hoped that we would meet friendly people but never expected anything like we received.  We showered and Mickey picked us up so we could feast on a huge home cooked dinner and dessert.  It was a perfect night and I think we made life-long friends in the process.  We came back to the boat and slept like sleepy sailors.

Cruising the ICW- Kemah, Texas to Intercostal City, Louisiana

Louisiana ICW

The ICW can be long and strait or short and curvy!

Cruising the Inter Costal Waterway in Texas and Louisiana is a lot different than I imagined. We departed from Kemah, TX at 10:30 AM after refueling. We cut across Galveston Bay and stayed in the ship channel for a lot of the passage. It was a lot shallower than I imagined, only 8-10 ft.   We made it to the opening of the ICW and turned east.

We were met by a couple of pods of dolphins and the broke at the bow of the boat. Aubrey squealed like a kid when she saw them. The pod swam right by the boat and we could see them up close. The played in our wake and we ran across another pod as we continued east.

We made our way past a few tugs pushing barges, no big deal. I opened up the throttle and moved right along. Hours passed and I noticed that the gas gauge was dropping. We past Sabine Lake, TX on the ICW and I made a mistake by using my GPS to look for fuel services. It directed us back three miles and around the bend.   I knew that something was off when I saw a dead end canal under a bridge with a bunch of seedy types all over. Aubrey went below and asked if I wanted her to get my gun? I said no and turned the boat around. Apparently the business closed in 1975 but Garmin failed to update it.

The ICW has more twists and turns and diversions than you would imagine. I was happy to have my new GPS to help me along. I made it around 150 miles from Kemah and my gauges were reading low. I decided to make a left turn to Lake Charles so we could get fuel. This diversion set us up a river, literally. We took a wrong turn at a cut off and ended up shoaled in a marsh. It said it was a marsh but it looked like a lake across from a country club. I had slowed to almost nothing and saw the depth gauge show low water and we bumped on the shoal. I wasn’t cussing yet.

We tried to push ourselves off with some poles to no avail. I wasn’t planning on jumping into 3 foot of water in a marsh with the gators and the bull sharks so I dropped the dinghy from the rear of the boat. It didn’t release so I tied a line and threw it to my lovely first mate at the bow. I tried to pull it off a few times with my 9.9 hp Honda to no avail. I noticed that the bow would swing so I pulled sideways and the boat came free along with myself as I tried a little too hard, over-rotating the dinghy. I decided to fall off before it flipped. No worries, I was up again before I could be gator bait. We tied the dinghy and made it just in time before the fuel stop closed at 6. It was a long day!

We found this great place in Lake Charles, LA, in a place called Contraband Bayou. Bowtie Marina was the place we called home for a night. The owner is a really nice guy and he offered for us to stay after we filled up. He had a really nice little Marina and we were the only ones staying the night. We tied up to one side on a really nice dock and he had 30 amp service and water. I counted 10 slips and they were all beautiful. It was quiet and peaceful. Doug rented a few of his acres to the Coast Guard that built a site to house a few boat crews that were coming and going throughout the night. I never felt safer in a marina, let me tell you.

Bowtie Marina Lake Charles LA

We loved our stay at Bowtie Marina and I will got out of my way to stay there again!

D94A7399

The next day we left at 10:40 after much-needed coffee and a boat scrub down. I had more time to fiddle with my new GPS and it worked much better. We went through 2 locks and I had to call to open 2 pontoon bridges. It was much less eventful and a fun day. It did wear on though. 90 degree and sunny weather. The strait away’s were strait and long today and we saw some wildlife. All in all it was a good cruise.

We made it to a place called Intercostal City, but it’s not a city at all. No restaurant, bank or stop light and I’m not sure anyone lives here. We tied off on a public launch dock that is nice enough and we will fuel up at Shell Morgan tomorrow before heading to Houma. We walked over to a small store across the way and Aubrey went upstairs to get some ice cream for the kids. I waited under the store on a bench and talked to two fellas. Nice guys.  We spent a few hours with the AC below deck and Aubrey cooked another fantastic dinner. We went out for our nightly walk/scooter ride and the kids had a blast.  We had fun for about 1 hour and it became the witching hour for the mosquitos so we ran for it and here I sit typing this post. Goodnight all!