Saturday, May 27, 2017

Port O'Connor to Corpus Christi

We are under way across Corpus Christi Bay. Winds are 20-25 knots, more or less on the nose, and two foot whitecaps on the bay are making tons of spray across the foredeck and pilothouse. We had originally planned to do this yesterday, but winds were even higher then and we decided to delay a day. Ironically, we've been docked during the calmest days and under way on some of the windiest.

This giant crab sculpture is an oft-photographed feature of Rockport. There was a bare spot in the ground where we stood.

You may remember from last post that we turned off the ICW early to get in the lee of the Matagorda Peninsula, and  when we were ready to leave on Friday morning winds were still too high to want to head back to the ICW. We planned a short day, to the anchorage closest to Port O'Connor, in order to have a more reasonable day on Saturday along a long stretch with no anchorages or marinas. We would have preferred to dock Friday in Port O'Connor itself, but none of the marinas there had enough depth for us.

I planned a route that would take us again along the lee of the peninsula, at least up to the area near the inlet and ship channel. There my charts showed no way to continue, and we'd have to go northwest in following seas to the ICW, then bash our way south down the ship channel to again be in the lee of Matagorda Island. The detour around the shoal was five or six nautical miles, and uncomfortable ones at that.

Sunset over Matagorda Bay from our anchorage last Thursday.

In part this was due to a "spoil pile" -- an area where dredge material is dumped when the dredges come through to maintain the deepwater ship channel. My chart showed a semicircular spoil area right at the corner of the peninsula, where it met the ship channel. No soundings are shown in spoil areas, so it's impossible to know if the water is 20' deep or 2' deep.

As we were heading along the shoreline and preparing to make our turn northwestward around the shoals, we spotted a shrimper heading toward the inlet. He cut right across that spoil pile, and we recorded his track on the ARPA radar display. I tried to raise him on the radio with no success. Shrimpers draw less than Vector, sometimes as little as three feet. But we reasoned that there should be enough water for us if we followed his track.

The blue line was our planned route. Dashed line shows actual. Spoil area is the gray bump, and our anchorage is center, bottom.

That proved correct, and, in fact, we never saw less than 20' along our track through the marked spoil area, which is flanked by charted two-foot shoals. We crossed the ship channel and dropped anchor in the lee of Matagorda Island (map), having just cut a full hour and lots of bouncing around off our cruise.

We had a pleasant night at anchor, and Saturday morning we found ourselves surrounded by small fishing boats, way more than is usual for a weekend morning. Louise noticed through the glasses that most of the occupants were wearing matching beige T-shirts, and we figured we had stumbled into a fishing tournament. Eventually we heard the towboat drivers talking about it, and learned it was the Warrior's Weekend event in Port O'Connor.

Approaching Port O'Connor. OMG, that's a lot of little boats.

In fact, we were seeing just a small number of the hundreds of boats participating; as one of the tows approached Port O'Connor on the ICW we heard the Coast Guard hail them to give them an escort through the melee. We thus had some inkling of what was in store for us. We weighed anchor forthwith, in case there might be a delay.

The radar shows no clear path.

Approaching the official starting point on the ICW we were confronted with dozens of boats completely blocking the ICW; I even took a photo of our radar display which looked a lot like it does in a mooring field. I had made a sécurité call on the radio before we turned on to the ICW, and the Coast Guard met us with their small boat and escorted us through, parting the sea of boats ahead of us. At one point they slowed right in front of us and I had to call on the radio to say we were below steerage speed; that got their attention and we had no further issues.

The USCG escorts us through, with lights and siren.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, a more or less straight shot in "the ditch" until we reached Aransas Bay. The county marina in Rockport was nearly as close as the closest anchorage, and that's where we headed to spend the night (map). At a flat $30, power included, it's a real bargain. We walked across the street to the excellent Latitude 28°02' for dinner.

Vector at the county docks in Rockport.

Sunday we made our way to Mustang Island and the town of Port Aransas, via the ICW alternate route, the Lydia Ann channel. After crossing the ship channel and inlet, we continued past the main Port Aransas Harbor for another few miles and turned down the long channel to the Island Moorings Marina (map). Quieter and cheaper than the municipal marina, and only a little farther from town. We took three nights and put a scooter down for the duration.

These parked offshore drill rigs are a regular feature of the Port A skyline.

We've been through Port A more than once on Odyssey, which disturbingly made the ferry tilt when we drove aboard. We never stayed close enough to town to enjoy it, and I was very much looking forward to it. In hindsight, three nights was overkill, especially with the gulf so rough as to make going to the beaches unattractive.

A pair of Port A ferries cross astern of us. We remember crossing on Odyssey.

We did enjoy a couple of the restaurants and riding around the island, though, and the marina had a nice pool. We also enjoyed meeting our dock neighbors, Melissa and David, who hail from Austin but keep their lovely Hatteras in Rockport. They had come down for the weekend.

Tuesday we dropped lines and headed back out the very skinny marina entrance (we had just 7' at high tide) to the ship channel, which brought us all the way to Corpus Christi. The deepwater channel extends from the inlet at Port Aransas all the way to Corpus Christi and under the Harbor Bridge into the port itself, the eighth largest in the US.

Dolphins playing in this very fun, very splashy bow wave of a smaller gas tanker.

While Vector can run outside the ship channel in parts of Corpus Christi Bay, we were restricted to it for the first half of the trip, and it's the most direct route for the second half. We passed two large ships during our cruise, and both were making bow waves that were loads of fun for the local dolphins. I managed a short video clip of the dolphins playing in the bow wave of the enormous crude oil tanker Eagle Texas.

Dolphins running ahead of Eagle Texas. That bulbous bow is taller than Vector.

Just before the harbor bridge, which marks the boundary of the security zone, we turned south behind the city breakwater to the municipal marina, where we tied up on a dock off the Peoples Street T-head (map). Corpus has done a wonderful job with their waterfront, one of the few cities with a municipal marina right downtown, walking distance to almost everything. It very much reminded us of the similar arrangement in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Approaching the harbor bridge, with the aircraft carrier museum USS Lexington to the right. Downtown Corpus is just off frame to the left.

We again signed up for three nights, and put both scooters on the ground in anticipation of doing some provisioning and perhaps some exploring further afield. Even going to the marina office, on the next T-head over, was best done on the scooter rather than on foot. Our old friend Landry's is prominent here, with a Joe's Crab Shack on one T-head and Landry's on another. We eschewed them in favor of more local choices, including Harrison's Landing right across from the boat.

In addition to the marina itself, the city waterfront includes lots of park space, and eight miradores along the seawall. Right at the foot of our pier was the Selena memorial, made to harmonize with the other miradores, which attracted lots of camera-wielding tourists. The art museum, a visitor center and an arena are near the harbor end of the seawall; ZZ Top played the arena while we were in town.

One evening we treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the Republic of Texas restaurant, atop the nearby Omni hotel. From here one is afforded an excellent view of the bay, the harbor, and the marina. Vector is right near the middle of the photo. The food was quite good, if a bit overpriced. We also availed ourselves of the spa in the hotel for massages, and Louise got her hair cut at the salon.

The marina as seen from atop the Omni.

While the waterfront reminded us very much of St. Pete, sadly, the city itself is not nearly as vibrant. Amid the high-zoot skyscrapers, mostly belonging to banks, are myriad empty lots. That said, we did find some nice restaurants downtown, including sushi and some excellent pizza.

Our very first evening, after walking to dinner and back, a huge storm blew in from the north, moving south at 50mph. We were sitting on our aft deck, which was facing north, watching it arrive, and wondering what all the patrons on the deck at Harrison's Landing were going to do when it did. It hit with a vengeance, sending us scrambling inside and forcing a torrent of rainwater through all the myriad seams in our aft doors. It ripped the roller-furling headsail off a boat across from us and shredded a bimini on our dock. Vector sustained no damage save for the wet door. The restaurant emptied out in the span of three minutes.

Sunset over Corpus Christi, from the flybridge.

This morning we decked the scooters before the wind really started picking up, and headed for the pumpout. By the time we arrived it was a challenge to get the boat up to the dock with the wind on the beam, but we managed. We won't see another pumpout from here to the end of the ICW.

We've now made our turn onto the ICW channel and have passed the small community of North Padre Island. To our port is now all Padre Island National Seashore. The bridge out to the beaches was at a slow crawl for the holiday weekend as we passed underneath. Tonight we'll be anchored someplace just off the ICW channel. I'm not certain if we will have any coverage tonight, or tomorrow for that matter, until we get close to Port Isabel and South Padre Island.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!