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Old 04-12-2009, 12:52   #1
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Cruising the Texas Coast

I am fairly new to cruising, and want to plan a few weekend trips in the Galveston Bay/ Texas coast area to boost up my sailing confidence and hopefully achieve my goal of sailing to Florida in the summer. I am currently docked in the Clear Lake area and sail a catalina 25. I have spent the night at Redfish Island already, but want a little more extended trip.

I was thinking about heading towards Galveston Island and either stay at the marina on the strand (or anchor nearby), or go under the causeway bridge and anchor in front of Moody Gardens. Then I would head back to Kemah the next day.
Does anyone have any information on these trips: what I should avoid, and the routes I should take to get there?

After this trip I was planning on making a trip on the gulf from Kemah to Freeport, TX or to Copus Christi. I was thinking the best way would be to leave the clear lake area in the morning so I could be in the gulf by late afternoon and sail through the night so I could get to my destination by daytime the following day.
Does anyone have any info on this trip? (I know the harvest moon regatta has its regatta to Port Aransas every year, but they require a 28ft boat to participate).

I appreciate any information.
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Old 04-12-2009, 13:13   #2
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I've spend a lot of time offshore along the Texas coast and I will tell you things can get really nasty this time of year. Watch the weather. I would suggest you stick to the ICW and only travel by day. Most times you should be able to sail. In addition, that area of the Gulf and that close in, you will have a lot of oilfield traffic to deal with. Get yourself a good radar detector 'cause 25 feet doesn't make a very big signal.
Good luck and stay safe.
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Old 26-12-2009, 03:03   #3
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There are sailboat races out of Galveston bay to veracruz, Mexico every year. If your boat has sound rigging, and is not a swing keel, you might want to hook up with those folks. I once sailed from Port Lavaca, to Sabine Pass (LA/TX border), which took two and a half days at sea. Capn Tony is right about the traffic and oil rigs, we had to keep a watch on deck at all times, but it really wasn't that big of a deal. Much more enjoyable than dodging ships in the ICW for me. I say do it, but do it with someone with a bit of experience, watch your weather. You will be ok.... I found the ocean to be more comfortable sailing than the bays and channels. One more thing..... I was sailing under a nearly full moon. Made things much easier to see at night. Damn it was beautiful out there my first time alone in the cockpit at sea.
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Old 26-12-2009, 03:06   #4
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Oh crap didnt notice the dates. Tony is right about choosing the time of year you go out in the Gulf. Early summer is a good time to be going, things are usually quite tame, and you can always duck into a jetty if you get a days notice on the weather.
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Old 28-12-2009, 23:51   #5
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Thanks for all the advice. I just got back from a trip to Offats Bayou in Galveston Island today. We spent sunday night at a marina and headed back monday. It was really a great trip. I'm planning on heading towards freeport for my next trip. I know it is about 30 or so miles from the east end of galveston, plus the 20 miles to get from clearlake to the gulf.
I was planning on two options:
To start from clearlake in the morning and sail straight to freeport nonstop, which would have me sailing in the gulf at about 3:00 in the afternoon, and then sailing straight through the night to arrive at freeport with daylight the next day.
The other option is to anchor at galveson for a night, and then get up early the next morning to hopefully make it to freeport with daylight.
Which one is recommended?
Is sailing at night in the gulf too much for me yet?
Thanks
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Old 29-12-2009, 00:09   #6
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You sound like you can handle anything mate! With this weather, this time of year, I strongly advise you to listen to your local weather experts. I have no knowledge of what the Gulf does in late December. Please get a hold of your local yachties, and ask them what advice is good. Seems like you are kicking some arse thus far.
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Old 29-12-2009, 00:25   #7
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Seriously, you should ask the locals around you. I am up in northen Utah at the moment and ha^e little to offer as far as practical wisdom for you. The locals will tell ya.
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Old 29-12-2009, 17:25   #8
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The Gulf at night is no place for a boat without radar, unless you cruise the shipping lanes. Not all of the rigs are on charts, and many are not properly lit.

The Gulf of Mexico can be an ugly piece of water - no long swells like in the ocean. If the wind is anything but out of the south to southeast, stay inside. If the wind is over 15, stay inside.
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Old 29-12-2009, 17:46   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bstreep View Post
The Gulf at night is no place for a boat without radar, unless you cruise the shipping lanes. Not all of the rigs are on charts, and many are not properly lit.

The Gulf of Mexico can be an ugly piece of water - no long swells like in the ocean. If the wind is anything but out of the south to southeast, stay inside. If the wind is over 15, stay inside.
What do you mean by an "ugly piece of water"? Is it choppy and rough? Too many oil rigs to dodge? I've only sailed a brief way out into the Gulf at Galveston and a bit in Galveston Bay. The Bay was pretty rough in 20-25 kt winds I recall.
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Old 29-12-2009, 19:03   #10
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Check the sea buoys (google it). You'll see that the Gulf will have 5 or 6 foot swells, with a 6 or 7 second wave period. Then go to the Atlantic, and you'll see 6 foot swells with a 14 to 18 second period. That difference is HUGE. Shallow water plus not a lot of fetch equals very choppy seas.
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Old 29-12-2009, 20:27   #11
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I second the previous posters that the Gulf can be a nasty bitch this time of year. November and December can be very foggy too. Offats Bayou is a good anchorage. I would go up toward the SE end close to 61st St. There is a store there where you can dock and buy ice and groceries. Watch your depths and stay in the channel entering the bayou. Do not be tempted to cut the corners - the water gets shallow in a hurry.
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Old 29-12-2009, 22:01   #12
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I hope it's not awful form for a newbie here to make this simple point: I have sailed round trips from Laporte (HYC) and Clear Lake to Galveston, Freeport, Corpus, and Sabine. I have raced many times offshore in the gulf, returning to Galveston. I have sailed delivered boats trans-gulf from Mexico. I have never once had a radar or a GPS on the boat. I definitely do pay attention. Luckily, I've never run into an oil rig, a ship, or another sailboat. It can be done.

I did have a hand-held RDF, and always a hand-bearing compass, and the charts for the trip. Until recent years, such adventures were always done that way, by just about every non-commercial craft out there. I love modern electronics, but I cringe when folks new to the sport are instructed to rely on such methods and devices, and warned that it is unsafe to do it otherwise. I would turn this thought around and say it is unsafe to be incapable of navigation when the electronics go out, because they will.

just my thoughts,
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Old 29-12-2009, 23:01   #13
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I too have done a fair bit of the texas coast without radar, it can be done but realize there is risk. The oil rigs are not always lit, they also have mooring buoys (big metal balls also unlit) scattered around the area. And when I say oil rig I mean a bunch of pipes jutting up from the sea floor, it may or may not have a platform. The water is shallow, you have the gulf stream, and varying winds. Right now the wind is out of the East (Gulf stream is coming up from the south west) so that is why we call it nasty. It reminds me of a washing machine.
Having said that, there is no reason, with a good weather window, you couldn't make a nice jaunt down to freeport. Just please just stay well offshore. Lots and lots of junk near land (you'd be amazed!). I have had some wonderful trips in the gulf, lots of sea life, beautiful sunsets and sunrises. When the weather is good you could even call it "pond sailing". I guess what I am trying to say is: when its good its really good, and when its bad its really bad
Many people find security near land, the Texas coast is not one of those places, security is offshore.
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Old 30-12-2009, 09:03   #14
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Erika's comments are spot on, imho. You should not tackle ocean sailing for any distance with the idea of trying to find a way to make it across while it looks like an inland lake.
Jim
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Old 30-12-2009, 18:04   #15
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Texsail, that is just where we went in offats bayou. On the way there we ran aground by just barely cutting a corner in the channel as you said. We spent the night tied up at the resataurant bourdeax on the bayou, right next to the marina on 61st and heard road. The only problem was that we didn't watch the tide, and in the morning the tide had done out leaving only 2 feet under my 4ft draft boat. We had to call towboat us, as we couldn't wait for the tide to come back up, since we needed to make the trip back home with daylight. The ride home was a bumby one, but the trip went well overall.
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