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!

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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!

Portable Coffeemaker For Boats/ Cruisers…

In my house coffee is important.  So much so, it was one of my primary worries when we decided to cruise our boat full-time for a few years.  I was surprised that there is very little concise information on available options.  I decided to write a journal on my decision-making process that led me to purchase a Coleman Quickpot Propane Coffeemaker.

I think that me and the coffeemaker will get along just fine but I plan to fill it full of bullet holes and sink it in the Gulf of Mexico if it doesn’t work out.  I don’t want to think of the things I will do to this coffeemaker if it doesn’t uphold its end of the bargain!travel alert danger visit caribbean blog

There are a lot of choices for portable coffeemaker and this is what I found for boats:

Coleman Propane Coffeemaker

It better make good coffee or it will visit the bottom of the ocean!

Generator for 110 power.  As much as I love coffee, I couldn’t think about this option because it is expensive and noisy at 5A-6A, when I wake up and need that sweet caffeine!

Inverter to 110 plug-in.  I don’t have a large enough battery bank to make this a viable option.  Surprisingly, coffeemaker pull a lot of watts to run for about 15-18 minutes brewing time.  Most makers run from 900-1500 watts and that will kill a batter in no time.

12v plug coffeemaker.  I thought that this might be a good option until I read the reviews on these systems.  It seems that the smaller, 4 pot coffeemaker work well in this situation but I can drink 4 cups of coffee in the first 5 minutes of being awake!  Cuisinart makes a 10 cup model that is nice looking but it got horrible reviews.  I just can’t chance it!

Battery coffeemaker.  This option was a joke and I couldn’t bring myself to research further.

Propane coffeemaker.  This seems to be the best and most viable option for me.  I see that the 4 cup models are most frequently utilized but there are a few 10 cup models.  There are a few different brands but one maker is no longer in business.  I’ve owned a lot of Coleman camping gear in my past and it has never let me down.

Miss Lone Star Travels CaribbeanI like the advertised features of the coffeemaker I purchased.  It states that a small propane tank will last 4.5 hours on a full-burn, which equates to about 10 pots of coffee.  The brew time is a reasonable 18 minutes.  It looks and works like a normal coffeemaker, front load.  It is not a percolator.  I don’t care for percolated coffee unless it is the only option.

This devices weighs in at a shocking 10.4 lbs but I got a nifty nylon carry case and have a spot picked out for it next to our cooler on the deck of the boat.  It is three parts: pot, coffeemaker and case.  Most models come with a glass pot that wouldn’t last a few nights on a boat so I upgraded to a nice thermal metal one.  I hope it keeps the coffee warm long enough to enjoy the last cup.

Miss lone StarWatch out if you are trying to buy one on the Internet because you can get screwed from trusted sites like Amazon!  The list price for the package I got was almost $300 new.  A search of the normal Internet sites yielded a huge range of prices, shipping costs and delivery times.  In the end, I purchased each item individually from Amazon to save money.  It is a shame we have to get crafty to save money these days.  I paid $125 out the door with free shipping.  I will have an extra glass coffee pot that won’t go on the boat but can be donated.  If anyone is interested in just the pot and propane maker, Amazon beat out Target online by $6, $71.99.

I feel pretty good about my choice but the proof will be in the cup.  I’m not planning to use it until we are underway because I don’t think I can handle the rejection if it doesn’t work.  I will keep its box and send it back to Amazon (100% satisfaction guarantee) if it doesn’t work.  That is, if it makes it off the boat alive after a disappointing brew..

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Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Why I’m Taking My PADI IDC in the Florida Keys- Key Largo

It won’t be long and I will be starting my PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) to teach scuba.  I chose Florida Keys Dive Center in Key Largo, Florida.  Tom Witmer is the Course Director who will lead the IDC and he has been a course director for about twenty years.   I’ve wanted to teach scuba since I first took my PADI Open Water certification class in Austin, TX.  It didn’t take me long to become a Divemaster because I trained really hard.  I enjoyed being a Divemaster but it is time to go further in my study of scuba.

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I start the IDC in early August and I look forward to taking my instructor examination (IE) directly after.  The IDC taught by Florida Keys Dive Center is an intensive, boot-camp 10 day course.  I plan to start my Master Scuba Diver Trainer course directly thereafter and we decided to stay in Key Largo until December.

I did a lot of research on different IDC’s offered in Florida and I am happy with my decision.  There are a lot of options out there for people wanting to become instructors.  Many of the different schools have several options for IDC including all-inclusive, housing, meals, different types of advanced training or certifications, a certain number of dives allowed during training, etc.  Several of the schools offer internships that seemed to offer the student a way to pay for the non-PADI fees through a work exchange to pay for the education.  I’ve heard from a lot of instructors who chose this route for their education and others who stayed away from this practice.   Continue reading

User Review: REI Microfiber Towels

We will soon be living aboard our boat for a few years.  We’ve cleared out all of the old cotton towels from our boat, which was daunting.  I was surprised at the space 10 towels used!  Space is so important when you live aboard a boat and we decided to get rid of everything that didn’t make sense.  Our cotton towels got donated.

REI Microfiber Towel- Living Aboard A Boat

It feels as soft as it looks!

We spent a few weeks trying out microfiber towels made by various brands.  We purchased all of them from REI in Austin.  We were completely with the REI brand of microfiber towels and decided to buy a total of 10 for our boat.  We settled on 4 for outside, 2 for inside showers and 4 for drying dishes.

I am amazed at the size of the unfolded towel compared with the compact folded size.  My wife is a big fan of a big cotton towel but I prefer the feel of the microfiber.  It dried a person just as fast as a shammy used to dry a car.  We chose to replace the cotton ones because the microfiber dries so much faster.

Laundry time will be much easier because they take up almost no space.  We figure that we will re-use the towels many times and wash them about once per week.  The size will allow us to wash them in the sink on the boat or at the laundromat.  Many boaters hang towels on the outside of the boat to dry in the sun.  I remember the last trip to the lake.  It was windy and our towels blew into the water.  I retrieved them after a lot of effort but they didn’t dry until the next day with full sun.  Happily, we can wring out the microfiber towels. Continue reading

Miss Lone Star’s Epic Hail Storm

The crew of Miss Lone Star headed off to spend a few nights aboard the boat.  It was a sunny day and only 40% chance of rain.  Wind was 5 knots from the North.  We arrived at a wind-protected cove and enjoyed the day.  We enjoyed a nice dinner of salmon and asparagus.  It rained a little so we went below deck.  The weather passed and it was bright outside so we went out to play.

We made a warm beach fire with some driftwood and we got three lines in the water.  The kids caught some big fish that we put on a stringer to clean later.  I noticed that the first mate was dozing off in her chair basked by the warm yellow light of the fire.  Bianca was snuggled in her lap while Blake was in mine, carefully watching the poles.  Onyx, the dive dog was anxiously walking around.

The dream of staying up all night to catch a dozen fish was shattered when the wind gusted to about 20 knots at our back and blew stinging sand onto our bare skin.  Blake shrieked and mom when to get him a sweatshirt from the boat.  The fire flared with the strong wind.  It started to rain and the wind picked up the sand at a furious pace.  Blake stood up and the chair blew away into the abyss.

I handed mom the boy child like a football as she ran into the water to get him secured on the boat.  Bianca stood up and the wind almost pushed her headfirst into the fire before I shoved her back into the chair.  It was raining really hard at this point and only about 30 seconds had passed since Mom took Blake towards the boat.  I saw pea sized hail as they bounced from the sand from high above.  I realized that it was time to go and I grabbed Bianca and covered her with my body to shield her from the stinging hail.  The sky opened up.

I set one foot in the water and then heard the pounding splashes of the golf ball sized hail hitting the water.  I got her to the boat and Mom came to shuttle her in.  I gasped with pain as a few balls of hail hit me in the head.

“Where’s the dog?”

Dive Dog likes SCUBA not hail!

Dive Dog likes SCUBA not hail!

Onyx is part of the family and I didn’t think they would let me in the boat without her.  I was starting to get beaten badly and I feared that the hail size would continue to increase.  Luckily, the dog appeared at my feet and I scooped her inside the boat to safety.  We rushed inside as we passed the destruction of the storm, which was our beloved boat.

We were all out of breath and the hail beating against the boat made it too loud to talk.  I heard Bianca telling her Mom, “Call 991!”  I’m sure that the storm was pretty traumatic for the kids who were huddled under a blanket safely with their mother.  We felt the boat moving and I remembered that the winds really picked up as we seemed to be in the center of an unhappy storm.

The pounding turned to tapping from rain and I went topside to see if things were OK.  The temperature dropped about 20 degrees and the once sandy hills were now white with hail.  There was about 12 inches of hail on the deck.  The wind caused us to pull anchor and moved us about 200 yards from where we sat before the storm.  I took the time to laugh a little and take some video of the epic thunderstorm that we were in and the lightning that surrounded us.

Then I noticed the boat.  The side, front and back canvasses were all ripped away completely and nowhere to be seen.  The top canvas was hanging loosely and collapsed with under the weight and force of the hail.  Glass instrument gauges were shattered along with pretty much anything plastic on the decks of the boat.  Our beloved BBQ grill had hundreds of dents.  Our electric windlass wasn’t working anymore but I was happy to pull the 50 lb. anchor by hand so we could right the vessel.

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Only 13 weeks before Miss Lone Star heads for the Caribbean!

Ominous fog covered the water and the rain stopped completely.  Aubrey handed me a dry sweatshirt that I was happy to exchange for my sopping wet T-shirt.  I decided that enough was enough and we needed to go back to our dock.  We set off using the flood light to navigate because the navigation lights were all broken.  That’s when I saw the large boat dock that had two large boats and a few jet skis floating past us.  I figured that it would be a poor choice to run into more of these accidents waiting to happen and went back to the cove to rest for the night.

I went below and the kids were already asleep in their warm bed with the dog.  Aubrey was looking over the hail marks on her body, cuts and scrapes.  She laughed at me as I turned to the side, exposing the outline of my cranium.  It looked like I got the worst end of a tire iron a few too many times.  My back was worse but I still slept well knowing that my family was safe.

We have good insurance and the damages will be repaired.  Everyone is fine and we made it back to the dock safe, save some sunburns we accumulated the day after the storm.  Everyone except me wanted to stay another night on the boat.  I had Rudy’s BBQ in mind.  We watched the season premier of Naked and Afraid from the safety of our bedroom with no bad weather to report.

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Captain of the Miss Lone Star

#1 Caribbean Travel Blog For Family Travel

Caribbean Travel Blog

Caribbean Travel Blog

It is important for travelers to have good resources when visiting the Caribbean.  We write one of the top Caribbean travel blogs for family travel while we are actively cruising to all of the countries that touch its seas.  I became frustrated because there was little information on the internet for families traveling with kids in the Caribbean.  We live aboard our boat and will visit each country, documenting places it visit, top attractions, safety concerns, accommodations, travel guides and the top things to do in each island nation.  Our blog is Miss Lone Star’s Travels (named after our boat).

Caribbean Travel Blog Scubapro mk25/ a700 review

The Caribbean still has deserted beaches for you to explore!

Get The Most Out Of Your Caribbean Travel

I have always been a lover of the Caribbean and wanted to retire there someday.  In the process, I married and had two kids who wanted to come along on the journey.  We realize that many are just planning a visit and don’t wish to retire.  We have spent numerous trips to the Caribbean doing research on the best places to visit and the top things to do.  We noticed that there were no first-hand accounts of family travel in any Caribbean Travel Blog written by real people with kids.  We decided to create a true resource for people who had up-to-date information so people could get the most out of their expensive vacation plans.

Caribbean Family Travel Is Different

Visiting new countries with kids can be challenging.  Depending upon the kid’s age, available activities can be limited.  Adults need resources to find fun things to do without spending a fortune.  I’ve traveled with kids for many years and I like to mix scheduled activities combined with a lot of free time for the kids to run around.  Younger children may need to stay close to the hotel room around nap time.  Family travelers have to consider different dining choices because it is never a good idea to take the little ones to swanky restaurants.  I’ve never met a parent who likes to spend $30 for chicken fingers!  Are your kids good swimmers?

Safety Is Always a Concern When Traveling With Kids!

Do you remember going anywhere you wanted before having kids?  It seemed so effortless and carefree.  Parents must make new allowances for family travel while still getting the most out of the visit.  In unknown territory, many families stick close to the available attractions without venturing too far for safety reasons.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a real-time understanding of safety concerns relative to the specific country you visit?  The Caribbean Travel Blog is co-authored by Robb Hamic, an international personal protection expert.  My family’s safety is the #1 concern!  I will give your family all of the information you need to stay safe while visiting unforgettable places!

Adults Want To Have Fun While On A Caribbean Vacation With Kids!

Where’s the babysitter?  I know that I’ve yearned for some good alone time with my wife in the Caribbean!  We live on a 37 foot boat with two small kids and a dog.  We have learned some really great tricks to get the most out of our alone time while we visit Caribbean islands with the kids.  Our travel blog is filled with insightful information and strategies to feel like you didn’t stay at an amusement park for the whole trip.  I wish I learned many of these tips a long time ago, believe me.

Caribbean Travel Blog

The Caribbean Travel Blog shows you how to keep romance alive during your vacation!

How To Visit Unique And Less Traveled Caribbean Destinations

I can only stand in lines or be on guided tours for so long before I want to find interesting and less visited places to share with the family.  The Caribbean has 30 million visitors per year and many of them will be visiting during the same time due to kid’s schedules and the hurricane season.  Peak tourist season in the Caribbean runs from January through early June.  Hurricane season lasts from June through December.  Bad weather can ruin a visit and it is important to visit at the right time.  Excessive tourists can also ruin a visit or make it less pleasurable, in my opinion.  Once you’ve landed, how do you find new and interesting things to do that aren’t guided tours?  What can you expect?  We tell you how, what, when, where and why.  Save time and browse our Caribbean Travel Blog.  If you don’t find the answer to your question, please e-mail us and we will do our best to answer your question or point you in the right direction.

Have Fun With Your Hobbies or Interests While Visiting the Caribbean!

What are your hobbies?  Are you and amateur photographer?  If so, bring your camera because your Caribbean paradise awaits!  Do you scuba dive?  The Caribbean has some of the best scuba diving sites in the world!  Do you like to experience new cooking?  Caribbean fare is some of the most tasty we’ve found and you can easily steal some good recipes to cook back home!  Whatever you enjoy doing, the Caribbean offers many fantastic experiences for you and the family!

Caribbean Travel Blog

Take the kids (and dog) to the Caribbean!

We hope you found this Caribbean Travel Blog interesting and informative.  We update it a few times daily and we invite your questions!  E-mail us for in-depth and local information.

Robb and Aubrey Hamic

misslonestaradventure@gmail.com