Video Episode 3- The Intercostal (ICW) into New Orleans- Day 4 of our Travels

This next episode was day 4 of our travels and you can already see the relief in my eyes, as the boat captain.  I was a little more confident but still giddy like a kid (or Quagmire from Family Guy- giggidy giggidy).  We came through the dreaded city of Intercostal City, LA and into Houma.  It was nice in its own way but it was hot as the Sahara. We met some cool kids and had fun at the city marina, by our lonesome- but it was time to go.

The Intercostal was unremarkable until Morgan City, LA- where it got beautiful.  We saw bald eagles, bogs, swamps and tall trees.  The ICW came together with a river and it was big.  We mooted on towards New Orleans and I hoped, against hope, that we could get through the locks and make it to our marina by night-fall.  We did and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Up and down by 12-15 feet and through the Mississippi was something I will remember forever.  It had a 20 knot current and was over its banks by 50 feet on that day.  It was massive and scary but we made it down the lock to the marina, where we resided for 4 days.  We explored, rode the trolly cars and went to an alligator farm in Hammond.  It was still hot but we didn’t care and the French Quarter was much more tolerable with Onyx leading us.

This is a true account of our travels.

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!

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.

God Must’ve Wanted to Teach Me About Patience- Boat Repair Gone Wrong..

Miss Lone Star (and her crew) was involved in a big hailstorm in Austin late April 2015.  It sucked, but I already wrote a journal about the issues.  We needed to get her repaired and I checked her in to Platinum Marine in Austin a few days after the boat was surveyed for damage.  Ten weeks until departure to Kemah, TX.

There was a lot of stuff to be done but it all seemed manageable.  I played the part of the normal nosey and inpatient boat owner.  The service manager played himself and his name was Mclane.  I assumed that he was the big boss by the way he sauntered around the office and acted over-confident well beyond his young 30 or so years on this earth.  I would call or visit the boat a few times per week.  I mean, the repair had to be on time and we had already set off a ton of dominoes that would fall on the 15th of July.

Long story short, things didn’t get done on time.  Two days before departure I took a load of our personal things that Aubrey placed in tubs to the repair facility.  I was going to put them into the boat and I wanted to look over the detail job that was supposed to be done that day.  The outside of the boat looked beautiful and I was sure that the interior would look just as good, until I climbed up the ladder.  Holy fu#$%%%% sh##$$!!! was the response I yelled.  Nothing had been done except pulling out the dash, wires and garbage were everywhere.  Almost none of the items on the punch list had been completed.  My nightmare had come true!

I stormed into the repair office and that old Mclane was sitting behind his counter with his feet up on the desk chatting it up with a couple of his repair techs.  I had taken a moment to myself before entering so I could be professional but all bets were off when I saw that level of chillaxing.  He told me “yea, I wish we were a little farther along on the job and a few things turned out to require more effort than we planned,” etc, etc.  He promised that it would be done the next day.  It wasn’t.  The next day was moving day and we had  about transporter all lined up who was on schedule.

Ten weeks of work took place on the last two days and we spent 12 hours in his parking lot with the family until the boat was done at 9PM!  I was irate but I remained calm because I thought nothing will get accomplished from me yelling and complaining.  The finish work was appalling and things as simple as caulking cup holders hadn’t gotten done right or at all.  I didn’t get a walk through of the repairs and it got all loaded on the truck.  They just wanted to get rid of me and send us out-of-town.  I paid over $27k (insurance paid it, but still) and we paid top rate of labor $120 per hour.

One of the owners walked over to me and asked if everything was ok before we left.  I chewed his ear for about an hour and we did a walk through.  It was actually worse than I first saw.  He said he would take care of me and we would stay in touch.  I guess I forgot that the boat would soon be placed into the ocean and I was taking them at their word that the boat would float again.  It was dropped in Kemah, TX the next day and it indeed floated.

Everything else was a different story.  Ascetically, the boat looked bad.  Internally, the GPS didn’t work, windlass was inoperable, ice maker was not working, speakers not working, it was dirty despite me paying $680 to the shop for a 1 hour detail job, etc.  I was beyond frustrated because we planned to set off the next day but that wouldn’t be possible unless I wanted to do it with a boat that wasn’t ship-shape.  I called the owner and I think I was almost in tears.  I had no idea what was going to happen.

The other owner showed up the next day before I awoke and things got better.  Apparently, the former service manager had no actual experience and he went rogue on my boat.  They wanted to make good on it and get it all fixed.  We worked on it all day and he made several trips to West marine to get things he needed to get the work done properly.  Long story short, they performed well and eventually things were fixed, for the most part.  They adjusted our bill for what wasn’t done and they did several really nice things that they probably didn’t have to.  It is rare to find a business that would do the right thing without getting attorneys involved.  I was relieved but we still had to organize the 10 super huge tubs that were left undone from the pack up.

What happens when you combine bleach and ammonia?

We found out as we started to unpack tubs from the inside of the boat.  You guessed it right.  Mclane helped us get everything stowed so we could get the heck off his boat lot back in Austin.  He stacked some chemicals between two tubs and the reaction happened.  Aubrey said it created a noxious poison and I believe her.  It took about a week in Kemah to get thing straight but we finally did.  Thanks, in large part to our next door dock neighbors (Bryan and Jennifer) who had immense knowledge of boats, mechanics and kid watching.  All’s well that ends well.  It worked out well for us in the end and we made some friends who will likely meet up with us in the Caribbean.  I guess everything happens for a reason.  I learned some valuable lessons from this experience:

  • Demand excellence and accountability
  • Get an owner involved early and often
  • Never trust a man named Mclane
  • Don’t let people rush you
  • Don’t pay for work that hasn’t been done
  • Demand a walk through and don’t accept excuses for anything
  • Make sure the boat looks good and don’t pay for spotty looking work
  • Get referrals prior to picking a repair shop and look for alternatives (other cities) for work
  • Yell more often

    miss lone star robb hamic captain travel blog #travel #travelblogger caribbean

    Captain of the Miss Lone Star

A Family That Plays Together Stays Together!

robb hamic caribbean travel blogI am truly thankful that my wife shares in my interests and takes the time to come along on most of my adventures.  It is fun to have her around and it takes the stress away from me spending time away from home to learn and do new things.  The support of your spouse can make or break achieving your dreams.

miss lone star caribbean travel blogI love learning new things and I have spent countless hours away from the home practicing new skills and or teaching.  Aubrey and I were recently married and I never thought about taking her a long when I participated in new things.  I assisted an open water scuba diving class over the weekend as a dive master in training and she and the kids came along during both days.  I’ve never brought my wife along on any of my adventures and I didn’t know how it would go.  I was worried.

I have always been somewhat of a ‘serial hobbiest’ in my life.  I embrace new strange things and I want to learn.  My quest to become a scuba diving instructor certainly seems a lot more sane than having become a tactical knife fighting instructor, in my past.  I have spent months away from home learning, teaching and traveling to teach.  I traveled to many breathtaking locations and I often wondered what it would be like to share it with my wife.  My previous marriage wasn’t happy and honestly, I don’t think we liked each other.  In my quest to find the perfect woman, I sought to find the woman whom I could take anywhere.

Many spouses don’t really care what the other does with their life.  Worst still, some spouses are jealous of the new hobby that is pursued.  I know many people who feel guilty learning new things and spending time away from home.  These are the people who don’t stay for lunch after training or who’s phone is always ringing during training.  I am truly grateful to not be in that category anymore.  I think a happy marriage is built upon mutual love, respect and yearning to be around the other person.

I was still worried that my wife and two small kids would be bored during the long training days or would somehow get in theCaribbean travel blog miss lone star way.  I am pleased to report that neither of those two things happened and that the time was a complete success.  I immediately noticed that the people in the class loved seeing my wife and kids.  How great would it be to have someone who supported you so much in your hobbies?  The kids took the opportunity to meet everyone and interact.  I don’t guess it is normal to have kids around a scuba class.  The dog had a better time than anyone.  Oh yea, did I forget to mention that we took the entire family?

Onyx is a certified dive dog and loves to be around me in all that I do.  She comes with us on the boat so we figured we would take her to the quarry we were diving in.  She ate up all of the positive attention that she received from everyone and jumped in to sniff me before I descended to the depths below her.  She whined when I was underwater and was so happy to see me when I came to the surface.

The kids made the best out of the time to explore and had a great time on the first day even though it was raining.  My wife was smart to bring their rain jackets and umbrellas.  Did I mention the 2 changes of clothes?  That too.  They have really grown to love the outdoors and we are trying to instil self-reliance.  I think anytime we give them the opportunity to be alone or together entertaining themselves is a good thing.  The kids have really attached themselves to my scuba instructor Steve (Scuba Steve) and his dive master Jason.  We’ve hung out with them several times and I am happy they are great with kids.

Aubrey took the time outdoors to catch a wild Canadian goose and several minnows.  She divised the perfect trap to catch a bass with her hands.  She guided the kids (and dog)  on several excursions including a raft ride across the quarry.  I had to laugh at the similarity to Tom Sawyer.  She became a ‘dive Mom’ by cooking hot chocolate in a big pot on top of our portable cook stove.  She made everyone’s day by adding marshmallows and cookies.  I was genuinely surprised by the her hospitality towards the class.caribbean travel blog miss lone star diving scuba

I know you’ve heard different sayings about families such as, “families that play together stay together,’ and I think it is true.  Having my family present made it a better experience.  I guess this is a good thing since I want to lead dives for many years to come.  I plan to open up a dive shop in the future and I think it will become a family endeavor.  Take your wife, kids and even dog along on your next adventure and see how it works out.  You may be surprised to see that you have a much better time.  It will bring you closer as a couple/ family.

miss lone star robb hamic captain travel blog #travel #travelblogger caribbean

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Goose on the Loose

Critter Capture

Critter Capture

Out at the rock quarry where Robb dove this weekend we were able to lure this big gal into our grasp with some ramen noodles. She was not very happy with us, we discussed making goose poppers, sadly the kids objected and the goose avoided the BBQ.  After a quick goose selfie and getting our pet on, we set her free.

We spent two days out at the Reveille Peak Ranch watching Robb help certify a group of divers for their open water certification. Other big news, Bianca caught her first batch of little mosquito fish and Blake captured a big ol’ number two with just his underpants.

First mate

Let the Ordinary Inspire You

Although your location might change your passion for photography doesn’t have to. I find that at the beginning of a new travel adventure or before an unusual outing, I am bubbling over with anticipation in hopes of creating new and exciting art through my lens. Though often times after I have settled back into my ordinary life, I put my camera down and start to lose track of all of the beautiful details in my own day to-day life.  I started out years ago as a portrait photographer, which for me meant that most of my images were created in a very controlled environment (my studio), now as I transition into travel and landscape, I find myself having to wait for the moment rather than create it.Miss Lone star travels

So today I decided that I would just carry my camera around all day and just wait and see what moved me, after all this is what I do when I’m traveling. This image above was taken of our son Blake sitting on the floor by the front door. The light  coming through the glass, and I asked him to “smile for Mommy” and what he did instead was much better.

Mulberry Tree Miss Lone Star TravelsWe took a thirty minute walk and I snapped about 15 frames.Reaching to the sky miss lone starFor all of the images shown, I used the Canon 100mm f/2.8 MACRO
Dandy lion miss lone star travels

 

Travel Investigation and Other Tips For The Best Experience

Travler SafetyIf you want to travel, you must wear many different “hats.”  Good research is required regardless of where you travel if you hope to have the best time and stay out of trouble.  We all know many people who failed to properly research a trip that ended up with less than an optimal experience.  It is my goal in writing this article, to give people some insight on how to properly investigate your travel plans.My AdviceI am an investigator by nature and I accumulated a lot of experience as a Sheriff’s Detective and private investigator for twenty years.  I think we all have a tendency to view life through our own lens and I look at travel through the lens of an investigator.  Travel is a big investment and it is wise to guide yourself to the best possible experience through a complete investigation of your destination.  I decided to walk my readers through part of my own process, because I feel that I have been very successful in my travels.  I’ve listed a couple of my tips below.

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Travel is often dictated by a person’s desire to visit a particular location.  Sometimes people have business that takes them to a  destination and they hope to make the best out of the trip by seeing the sights.  I think that it is natural to want to get the most out of time spent in a place by seeing all that it has to offer.  People are often motivated by visiting landmarks or historical sites, while others are driven by their hobbies even before they leave.  I always wanted to take great photography as I spent time in a foreign land.  Social media has driven a new kind of sharing when it comes to documenting your travels.

I spent about a month visiting Israel in 2010 and I think I got the most out of my visit.  I was staying in Netanya, Israel and studying with the Grand Master of Krav Maga, which is a big passion of mine.  I knew that my course time would be about two weeks but I figured that I should see as much of this beautiful nation as I could before going home.  I booked the airfare and arrived in Tel Aviv with my bags.  After clearing customs, I rented my own car.  I always rent a car when I plan to be in a foreign place for any amount of time because it give me the flexibility to do what I want and not wait for a tour or another person to get up and go.  I also have a strange habit of not using a map for no good reason other than the fact that I am a guy.  Netanya was about an hour’s drive from the airport and I love the roads in Israel.  They are better than most American cities and the signs are printed in English, Hebrew and Arabic.  It makes getting around the country very easy.

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Take the kids or leave them Texas State Museum

Adventure Whale Miss Lone Star TravelIt was never a question whether or not to take our two young children, three and five years old to the Texas State Museum (until after we went). It was a visit that must be checked off of the bucket list before leaving Texas. Hands on Learning We packed up our brood after church and made the 30-minute drive to the Texas State Museum. When we arrived the building was humming with people, which was a huge surprise since it was a glacial 34 degrees in Austin. As we made our way through the crowd to the ticket counter we realized, this wasn’t just any Sunday afternoon at the Texas State Museum, this was Texas Independence Day.Bullock Texas State Museum

On March 1st the admission to the museum was free and there were a half-dozen tables set up for children to decorate flags and adorn their shirts with Texas stars. After a short time enjoying the festivities we made our way through the museum. There were hundreds of amazing artifacts from the confederate “Taylor” battle flag to Texan Edgar Michell’s A7-L space suit. Although a great majority of the artifacts were poorly displayed if taking into consideration the attention of young people.

New and exciting on display was the French La Belle ship discovered in 1997 on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Currently on loan from the Musée National de la Marine and being reconstructed to show a glimpse of its former glory. This exhibit although not finished was our favorite. It was mind-blowing that the 54-foot La Belle with just a 14-foot beam made the journey from France to Texas with so many voyagers. One of Theaters located in the Bullock Texas State Museum showed a very interesting short film about the voyage fr m the perspective of a ten-year old boy.

The film was the highlight of the trip. I would say that the museum is more geared toward a crowd that already has a vast knowledge of Texas State History and is coming to put an artifact with an already known story. Our children had a hard time staying interested and frankly so did I. I wouldn’t recommend this for children under twelve. But Here are a few things you can do to keep your child engaged if you do decide to take a less than exiting trip, to a must see museum.Service Dog Texas State Museum

3 great things to do before taking your children to a Museum

  1. Look up a few of the exhibits on display before hand, and start reading or telling stories before bedtime to prime their imaginations for what they are about to discover. Having prior knowledge makes us all feel a little more invested in our adventure.
  2. Create your own scavenger hunt. My children cannot quite read yet but they are great at matching. Print a few images off of the museums website and let your children hunt down the artifact.
  3. Take a journal and write your own story. Find something that interest your child such as the NASA space suit for my children and have them make up their own story. I carry a journal to jot down what they say. This makes a great keepsake and helps them take a closer look at what they see.Texas State history Museum

Some of the best travel advice I can give is to treat your hometown like you are a visiting tourist. You may be surprised at all the neat places you didn’t know existed right under your nose.