Jun 1, 2010 | ARCHIVE: STORIES

In the spring and early summer of 1999, Sally and Vaughan Mitchell made the round trip from their homeport of Aransas Pass, Texas, to Destin, Florida, and back on Kate, their 42′ LRC. This is the final installment in the series of this account of their cruise.

In 2002 Cindy and Mike Neumann purchased “Kate” from the Vaughans and she is now cruising the east coast as “Double Adventure”.

Home Alone

The voyage home from New Orleans lacked the anticipation and sense of adventure that can only be experienced once, but it was never dull. We continued to play tag with thunderstorms after the soaking at Harvey Locks, and lost track of the number of times we got rained off the flybridge and were chased down to the lower helm station.

Our only new port was Lafitte Harbor Marina, seven miles down the Barataria Waterway. We had been unable to reach it while eastbound because high winds precluded the opening of a swing bridge along the way. Lafitte is where the beautiful Lafitte skiffs are built, configured mostly as small shrimp boats. Seeing one moving across the water is a compelling sight, much like the performance of a good dancer or skater. A kind of grace and nimbleness, of form perfectly following function, is expressed in these wooden vessels.

The Texas part of the G. I. W. W. runs mainly through bays and estuaries, never far from the Gulf, and sometimes within sight and sound of it. Where it has been dredged through land (“land cuts”) it is straight and hard edged. It’s different in Louisiana. Further inland, much of it seems to be a linkage of existing bayous where we found ourselves, for example, meandering seamlessly from Bayou Boeuf to Bayou Chene to Bayou Black. If a bayou widened just a little it might be called a lake — imagine yourself on Lake Cocodrie! The setting is so natural — little of man’s influence is evident (between oil wells) — and the customary markers at channel’s edge are replaced by flowering shrubs or trees, different species blooming since our spring passage eastbound. Usually out of sight of other boats, we went for miles thinking of ourselves as explorers.

Alligators are substituted for dolphins in Louisiana’s waterways. We did not become very familiar with their culture, and hope not to become better acquainted, but have found them to be shy and skittish. There is no warm fuzzy and smiling face from an alligator encounter, as with dolphins. Anchoring for the night in Bayou Lacassine, we were surprised when one came to greet (confront?) us as we dropped the hook. Maybe it was a territorial thing. Anyhow, I was happy to be on deck at the bow, seven feet above the water, as the windlass paid out our all chain rode. Let the monster chew on that! We shared the anchorage with a sailboat, crewed by a couple about our age who were on their way back to Houston from the Bahamas. Sailboats look so, well, nautical and she added just the right touch silhouetted against a glorious sunset.

Just west of Pt. Arthur an absolutely straight land cut stretches out eleven miles through grass and marsh wetlands. It is followed by an even longer stretch with only the slightest course changes. Many have told us they find this segment boring, but we find it pleasant, and a gentle reminder that we’ve returned to Texas. We know that at the end of the day we can have a good dinner at Stingaree, a waterside restaurant located just east of Galveston at about M339WHL, and are excited about seeing our grandkids — and their parents — the next day in Clear Lake.

After a wonderful two and a half weeks at Lakewood Yacht Club, during which we watched the spectacular fireworks show the night of July 4, we began the final leg home with new crew on board. Josh and Kate, the world’s greatest grandkids, accompanied us to Freeport. At age eleven, Josh knows he can do anything including driving a boat — and he does! I could get used to this in a hurry. Kate celebrated her eighth birthday on board her namesake, and was fascinated by the “wild” cows on Oyster Creek.

Our favorite parts of the Texas coast lie between the Brazos River and Matagorda Bay, and Pt. O’Conner and San Antonio Bay. There is a subtle beauty to it that makes comparisons difficult and which would miss the point anyhow. It has a scrubby ruggedness that looks so much like it belongs in Texas — even defines the Texas landscape. There are windmills and coyotes, and on this, our sixteenth trip through it, we saw it with renewed interest and realized we have a treasure to be proud of. We like the smell of sage and saltwater, the water became prettier, and we got that happy-we’re-coming-home feeling.

We got back to our home port of Aransas Pass on July 13, four months and four days after our departure. It was not a triumphant return: there was not a soul in our section of the marina and we did not see a familiar face until late the following day. Nevertheless, there was something comforting about being tied up in our very own slip, and although we ended our cruise with a sense that we might have gone further and longer, we felt the satisfaction of successfully completing our longest cruise to date and looked forward to seeing old friends. We traveled 1899 miles, were actually underway on 48 days, stopped at 30 different places (many twice), and still had smiles on our faces when we returned.

We enjoyed ourselves. We followed the dictum that “the pleasure of the cruise is inversely proportional to the speed with which it is taken”. We saw an always interesting and usually beautiful part of our country. We met interesting, and usually thoughtful, helpful people. I’ve said before that the world of cruising boaters is a small one and you get the feeling that if you stayed out there just a few more months you would meet them all. Sally thinks we’re like the proverbial fruit cake — the same ones keep getting passed around. It is a great way to travel. We may have been gone four months, but we went to sleep in the same bed every night. We’re pleased with what we have done and congratulate each other. It was a neat cruise.