Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Galveston, New Home at Harborwalk Marina

We are finally at our new home at Harborwalk Marina. I failed to get any more pictures crossing Galveston Bay and the remaining miles here. So, the best I can do is a quick tour of the marina. It is actually located on the north side of the bay, about 1/10 of a mile off of the intracoastal waterway at GIWW mile marker 362 WHL (which stands for west of Harvey Lock in New Orleans), and about 12 miles from the beach by car.

We chose this marina for 2 primary reasons - it is very nice and very secure. It is literally in the middle of nowhere, one way in and one way out, through 24-hour gated security. Since we planned to be gone a good bit for Christmas and the first weeks of January, the security was a major factor. It has proven to be a good choice for many reasons. It is very private, very upscale, very quiet, nice for bike rides and walks, close to shopping and restaurants, and the people here are very nice. The entire Harborwalk development is real estate plus the marina. The housing bust and Hurricane Ike has plunged the development as a whole into bankruptcy but the marina portion is very successful and they seem to be working their way through the bankruptcy issues quite well.

When I say "in the middle of nowhere" I mean it. Here's a view from the aft deck of "Help Me Rhonda" looking west, swamp and a few palm trees as far as you can see.
Looking east from "HMR" across the bay toward Galveston.
A view north toward the Yacht Club Restaurant and Clubhouse. Note lots of sailboats here.
The view south toward the real estate section.
As already noted, the facilities are very upscale. Here's a view of the Ship Store and fuel docks.
The pool and playground facilities are in this area with all the palm trees.
Now, I'm really going to rub it in a bit. With the much warmer temps, roses and other flowers are still in bloom here and probably will be throughout the winter since it's much warmer here. Did I say that twice? I'm sorry, that was not very polite was it? Oh well, the much warmer weather here will help me get over it!
For every 2 sets of docks, there is a floating restroom building with restroom and shower facilities for men and women separately, plus a laundry between them. Also a pavilion area for trash, parking bicycles, picnic tables, storing carts, etc.

This picture from the side may help you visualize how all that comes together. Note pavilion on right, restroom/laundry center-right, and "HMR" center-left.
I call this "marina row" which is parking for access to all the docks to the right. Some of the large homes are straight ahead in the distance, all of which are waterfront lots with access to the gulf and marina.
If you are interested in more details of the marina and much more professional pictures, check out www.harborwalk.com

And I'll close with three more reasons for our move here.
We spent Christmas with Adam, Jennifer, and our grandkids in Austin - Connor, Bryce, and "Sweet Thang" Alexis. Is she precious or what? The trip was a convenient 3+ hours. We are heading out soon for a 2-week trip to FL, SC, and AL to get some quality time with our family and friends there. Hope to be back in Muskogee ASAP also - I am really missing winning at dominoes all of the time! Well, most of the time. Thankfully, the much warmer weather here eases that pain also. Just kidding!

Seriously, we are so blessed to have so many dear friends and family spread all over this country, the greatness of which you get a different perspective of when you travel by boat. We hope you have gotten a hint of that and the adventure also as you read the blog. We appreciate your prayers and wish God's blessings upon you as the New Year approaches. We would love to hear from you. Our email is wrmcmanus@gmail.com and our address here is c/o Harborwalk Marina, 1445 Harborwalk Blvd, Hitchcock, TX 77563.

Wayne and Rhonda McManus
"Help Me Rhonda"
1985 41' Roughwater Trawler

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Galveston Trip, Lake Charles to Laguna Harbor

It was quite a chore to get "Opus One" out of Bridge Point Yacht Club. BPYC's harbor is not really designed for boats as large as "Opus One." So, we walked her out of there with lots of lines and a little TLC so we did not damage any boats. We woke one guy up who was sleeping in his sailboat - he was an additional hand once he saw our challenge. There was only a small and narrow channel to get out of the harbor and "Opus One" used it all! By this point, we were on Day 18 of the trip. With all the mechanical issues and cold weather we had, we were ready to get to Galveston. Also, Clint really needed to get home soon to deal with business issues. We had 2 options for the day - go about 50 miles and anchor out for the night or continue on to Bolivar Peninsula and dock at Laguna Harbor, which would put us only 15 miles from our destination, Harborwalk Marina. We made good time early on and decided to go for it.

We passed more large ships. Here's "Opus One" side by side with one which gives you a good perspective of what it's like to mix with the "big boys."
Some of the cleanest water we saw on the entire trip was around Port Arthur, TX, shortly after crossing into TX from LA.
Another sign that we were in Texas - longhorns grazing on the banks of the GIWW.
As we got closer to Galveston, it was clear we would not make Laguna Harbor before dark. About 15 miles out we had to cross two areas that slowed us down. They are narrow passages where some of the water out of Galveston Bay crosses to and from the gulf as the tide comes and goes. The water can be difficult for the barges to navigate - some of the cruising guides say the barges may at times have to crab 45 degrees to get across. One of the passages is appropriately named "Rollover Bay" and the barges will not cross with oncoming traffic. There were several barges waiting to cross which delayed us even longer. We finally worked our way through all of that and were getting close below but sundown was clearly winning the race.
As much as I don't like to boat in the dark, we were OK with it that night - we were familiar with this area by car and we had an almost full moon to help out.
Besides, if we had gotten there before sundown, we would not have seen the beauty of more sunsets. Sunrise and sunset are definitely the special times of day for me on the boat - again, true reminders of God's majesty and glory.
We finally made our way into Laguna Harbor and yes, it was dark. This is a subdivision that Rhonda and I visited years ago when the real estate boom was in full swing. The real estate bust and Hurricane Ike pretty much stopped it in its tracks. The entire Bolivar Peninsula was under about 20 feet of water for 2 weeks. There was so much water inland, it took that long for it to work its way back out to sea. 3400 homes were completely wiped out on the peninsula by the hurricane and only about 700 have been rebuilt. Consequently, there has been only minimal amounts of boat traffic in and out of Laguna Harbor and we noted when we made our arrival that the normal 6-foot depth entry was now shoaled in at about 2 to 3 feet. So, we had to get some tidal planning in place for the next day. We had arrived only about one hour after high tide and the next day's high tide would not be until afternoon. Here are some shots at Laguna.
There's a steady stream of barge traffic by the harbor entrance - our shoaled-in exit challenge.
We finally left around noon, deciding to get a "running start" out, shift to neutral and coast through the shallow spots so we did not damage props or transmissions. Clint and Bryant went through but lost their hydraulics again and their rudders got off of center. "Help Me Rhonda" has a deeper draft of about 4 feet and we almost made it before getting stuck in the mud. We had no choice then but to blast our way out of there and as far as we know, we did no damage - it's all mud and everything seemed to run fine afterwards. We delayed for about 30 minutes so Clint could get the rudders in order again. We crossed Galveston Bay which is one of the busiest ports around. There are all possibilities of boats, large/small/tankers/ferries/etc. You can see some of the activity behind us below - two ships behind and a smaller barge next to us.
Ten miles to Harborwalk.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Galveston Trip, GIWW, Morgan City to Lake Charles

The GIWW doesn't change much. It's fairly narrow with barges heading both directions constantly. A conservative daily number is 45+.

There are occasional glimpses of the expansive Gulf of Mexico.

The sea gulls follow closely behind the boats looking for food stirred up by the boats.
A few cable ferries.
Interesting loads being shipped. This one is serious spools of cable but most are hauling refined fuel.
We went through 2 locks. They are not about height differences in the water but are in place to keep the fresh and salt water separated. They have timber walls and recreational vessels like ours are usually allowed to "free float" through rather than mooring to the walls.
We refueled at Shell Morgan Landing and docked on one of the walls. We were told the boat in the corner with the burgundy hull behind us would leave early the next morning around 6 AM, well before sunrise and before we would be gone. As you can see, there was no way with so little room available. I was up early and asked the captain if he needed us to move. "Not necessary, I can get this boat in and out of any spot." He fired the engines up, shoved the boat next to him a few feet away, and hit the gap between us with a few inches to spare. He was good.
I thought this was very cool - a platform boat with very tall spuds. These are floated to work sites, they drop the spuds, and the platform raises itself up the spuds and above the water. The platform is actually living quarters for workers at the work site!
Interesting to see fall colors this late in the season.
Rhonda always loves pics of cows along the banks.
As you approach Lake Charles, you have to go through the Calcasieu Lock, which separates the fresh water of the Calcasieu River from the salt water of the GIWW. Lake Charles is a huge shipping town and we had 4 commercial boats waiting ahead of us for the lock. Before you get to the lock, you also have to pass through a pontoon bridge. The lockmaster agreed to let us follow this tow ahead of us past the pontoon bridge and wait between the bridge and the lock - he would "try to work us in." The barge had lots of trouble lining up for the lock with strong northerly winds. He finally had to pull back out and line up again. It worked out great for us. They let us lock on through and get out of all the commercial traffic's way.
As noted, Lake Charles is a huge refinery town. The ships like below bring in the crude from overseas and it's hauled out as refined fuel in smaller tankers.
We docked at Bridge Point Yacht Club but I won't show you another picture of "HMR" docked at another location! (See last post).

Galveston Trip, Morgan City

With about 2/3 of the trip behind us, we were excited to be in Morgan City and about to join the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW). Morgan City is a serious commercial petroleum and fishing town.
The city docks are nothing fancy but are very convenient and within walking distance to the city. They have a seawall to protect the city from high water. On one side are the docks and on the other side is "Front Street" in town.

Regretfully, Linda had to leave us at this point and return to their home in Sulphur Springs. Before we had ever planned this trip, she made plans with her sister for a trip to Belize. Before she left, we got a shot of all of us aboard "HMR" with our Great Loop Cruisers Association flag.
So, how did we do that? Well, Clint and Linda had their 2 sons, Leldon and Bryant, drive to Three Forks, and get our car. They drove to Galveston and dropped off our car there, then drove to Morgan City. Linda rode back to Sulphur Springs with Leldon and Bryant finished the boat trip with Clint. Pretty slick plan, huh? Here's a family shot of the Bulkleys.
Rhonda got a little upset with me for not taking more pictures of the city. "There's more to these trips than pictures of the boat docked at different locations." She's right, but it was too late by then. It was truly a beautiful coastal city. We had three good meals there also - the first night there was at Rita Mae's, probably the best of the trip. Cuban food the next day for lunch and finished up with seafood/Italian at JoJo's. We bought all of our coastal charts there and planned the last leg of the trip, got laundry done, and rested up some. Westbound on the GIWW tomorrow. We'll exit Morgan City through the raised railroad bridge below. Great picture of the boat docked at another location, huh? LOL, except Rhonda!

Galveston Trip, The Atchafalaya River to Morgan City

This was an ambitious day, 119 miles to Morgan City and Rhonda said it couldn't be done. With about 3 and 1/2 miles per hour of current, we proved her wrong and were docked at Morgan City with daylight to spare. Once you've seen the first few miles of the Atchafalaya, you've seen them all. But we were not complaining - nice and peaceful after coming off of the Mississippi. This is pretty much the general view all the way down the river.

However, there are some interesting sites to see. They got very creative with running gas lines overhead and across the river.

The underside view of bridges vehicular drivers on the road never see.
Rhonda wanted me to log this one - the tow's name is "Rhonda E"
For some reason, I could not get warm this day. Poor Clint and Linda were having to deal with it outside.

There was a solid line of trucks all the way across I-10. By the time I got up to get the picture, I only got most of them. As truckers, Clint and Linda were impressed - business must be pretty good!