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Nautical Gifts for Valentine’s Day

January 14th, 2015

hobieoutback Nautical Gifts for Valentines Day

2015 Hobie Mirage Outback

All kayaks are created equal, right? Hardly. Peer closer at the Hobie Mirage Outback and the distinction between lesser kayaks becomes obvious. Stand out features include a nearly indestructible rotomolded polyethylene hull, a Mirage Drive for paddle-free touring, ample above and below deck stowage, a Twist and Stow rudder for finger-tip steerage, and multiple molded-in rod holders. Best yet, a beamy hull provides form stability, allowing you to cast—or land the big one—without rocking the boat. Available at KO Sailing in Seabrook.

fishtray 300x204 Nautical Gifts for Valentines DaySpeckled Trout Tray

Show how much you love the fisherman in your life with this decorative tray. Only available at Kristin’s Gifts & Décor.

 

 

 

mustoshirtMusto Evolution Logo Long Sleeve T-Shirt

The Evolution Sunblock Long Sleeve T-Shirt is a technical cotton-feel T-shirt with SPF40 to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. Wear as a base layer or on its own in warmer weather. Available at KO Sailing in Seabrook.

sailingmodels

Sailboat Art & Decor

Nautical gifts for the sailor you love! The wine holder, pictured on the left, makes an interesting accent for your yacht or home. The same goes for the sailboat reproduction, pictured right. Available at Home by Eagles’ Nest in League City.

Stohlquist Fisherman PFDfisherman_pfd

Ready and loaded, this new fish hunting vest is the ideal PFD for the coastal kayaker. Comfort and water safety with all the necessities, the Fisherman provides excellent cockpit management with places for the little things that could end up in your seat, or overboard. Available at KO Sailing in Seabrook.

sunfish_17Sunfish

The Sunfish is the most popular recreational sailboat in history. It is well loved for its classic design, unmatched stability, and sailing ease. Owners appreciate the lightweight hull that two people can easily load on top of a car. The ultra-durable construction ensures years of maintenance free enjoyment. Available at KO Sailing in Seabrook.

Charms

Sterling Silver Charms

Get hooked with handcrafted charms in sterling silver by local artist, Jack Hall. See the complete collection at Kristin’s Gifts & Décor in Seabrook.

A message to the concerned citizens of the Texas Gulf Coast

January 10th, 2015

oystersunrise 300x199 A message to the concerned citizens of the Texas Gulf CoastThis is a critical matter for the entire seafood industry, recreational fishermen, and private land owners.

Recently, a private entity, Sustainable Texas Oyster Resource Management, LLC (S.T.O.R.M.) has alleged that it controls the rights to 23,000 acres of water bottoms along the Texas Coast.  S.T.O.R.M. alleges to have obtained those rights from the Chambers Liberty County Navigation District by way of a lease issued earlier this year. After obtaining its purported lease, S.T.O.R.M. has aggressively tried to assert its alleged rights over those in the seafood industry who have been lawfully operating in these waters for generations.

S.T.O.R.M. has gone so far as to tell oyster leaseholders that it will ban them from harvesting or bedding on their own leases.  S.T.O.R.M. also has expressed plans to prevent the fishing industry from operating on Texas waters without S.T.O.R.M.’s permission.  S.T.O.R.M. has even stated that it will arrest and prosecute anyone caught trespassing or fishing in these 23,000 acres.

To date, the TPWD and the Texas General Land Office has refused to acknowledge S.T.O.R.M.’s position, citing the laws of the State of Texas and the powers and authorities granted to both the TPWD and the GLO to govern such matters.  Having failed to convince anyone that their actions were legally valid in the State of Texas, it is anticipated that S.T.O.R.M. will now go to our law makers to try to change the law.

Such efforts simply cannot be allowed to succeed. These water bottoms and natural resources belong to the State of Texas and its citizens.  No private entity should have the right to strip Texas citizens of such long standing rights.

If S.T.O.R.M is successful the public will no longer have commercial or recreational access to this part of the Texas Coast. This will put in jeopardy the entire seafood industry from fisherman, harvesters, and leaseholders to processors, brokers, and restaurant owners.

This petition is intended to urge our state officials at TPWD and GLO to continue their defense of this position and to take whatever legal steps necessary to ensure that the laws in place remain in place so as to protect resources, the seafood industry and State’s rights.

You can sign the petition online by going to: http://chn.ge/1xHtJA4?share  id=PWuILPURo

How to Select Fresh Oysters (with recipes)

December 30th, 2014

oysterfry How to Select Fresh Oysters (with recipes)

See recipes for fried oysters below.

By Betha Merit

Let’s talk about how to select fresh oysters.  From buying to storing to shucking to recipes.  You might be oyster savvy, so feel free to simply enjoy the recipes in this column.  But many of us choose our oysters from a restaurant menu, and lack experience on how to select and process the sweet smelling, briny little bivalve mollusks.

Buying

When purchasing fresh oysters from a fish market or the regular grocer, freshness is everything.  Every oyster should be shut.  If it is not, then tap it, and it should shut definitively.  If it doesn’t, don’t buy it.  Oysters lose moisture when removed from the sea.  They should feel full and heavy in your hand, which suggests that they are fresh harvested.  If you bang two oysters together, they should sound solid.  Throw out any that sound hollow.

Storage

Remember, oysters are alive and need to breathe.  So never place live oysters in water or seal in a plastic bag if you want them to stay alive.  One storage option for using a cooler is to sandwich layers of live oysters between two beds of ice. They will last for two days. If you are not using them immediately, you may store oysters in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F, preferably in an open container covered by a damp towel or damp newspaper layers.  This method will keep them for five to seven days. Either way, place them deep side down to retain their juices.

Cleaning and Shucking

Tools needed for this step include a stiff bristle brush, a sturdy knife, a heavy glove, and a clean towel.  We can’t describe this process thoroughly due to space, so we recommend you do an internet search for how-to sites that includes pictures or videos of oyster shucking, or set up a training time with someone experienced in shucking.

If you went through the above process, you have the perfect fresh oysters, each still in its own juices (called liquor) on the half shell.  Immediately place them on a bed of crushed ice for serving.  Recommended condiments include lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, chili sauce, horseradish, and hot sauce.

You can either use a little fork to pick the oyster out, or you can slurp them out of their shell into your mouth. By slurping you get to drink the liquor.  Cradle the shell in your hand, grasping it with your thumb and first two fingers. And Slurp!

It is notable that for many recipes you can buy shucked oysters in pint or quart containers in liquid.  These last a bit longer, but do check the shelf life.  And, it is a lot easier than buying fresh and shucking yourself.  True oyster “fast food” is a smoked oyster from a tin served on a thin slice of cheddar on a cracker.  Also delicious!

Oyster Recipes

OYSTER STEW

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart shucked oysters, do NOT drain
  • 1/4 cup flour, dissolved in 1/4 cup very hot water
  • 1 quart half-and-half, can use fat-free
  • 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper

Directions

In a soup pot, melt butter. Add the finely chopped onions and celery and minced garlic. Cook for about five minutes until veggies are tender.  Add the oysters and their liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 4-5 minutes, until oysters curl; reduce heat to a simmer. Whisk together 1/4 flour in 1/4 water until very smooth; add this to soup pot, stirring constantly. Add all remaining ingredients to the soup pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10-12 more minutes or until heated through and thickened.  Serves 6.

SOUTHERN FRIED OYSTERS

Ingredients

  • 12 oysters, freshly shucked
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons Hot Sauce
  • 1 cup panko, (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 cups peanut oil, or canola oil
  • kosher salt

Directions

In a small bowl, place the flour. In a second small bowl, whisk the egg and 3 tablespoons of the hot sauce. In a third small bowl, place the panko. Dredge the oysters in the flour shaking off any excess. Dip the flour dredged oysters in the egg mixture. Shake off any excess and roll oysters in the panko being sure to completely coat. Place on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator while oil comes to temperature.

In a heavy skillet, heat oil to 325°. Add the breaded oysters and fry until golden brown about 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and immediately sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve warm chipotle lime dipping sauce.

Chipotle Lime Dipping Sauce

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, best quality
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, from one lime
  • 2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (canned), roughly chopped, plus 1-2 teaspoons sauce (more or less, depending on taste for spicy)
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped

Combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, chipotle chiles with sauce and garlic in a blender or mini food processor and blend until smooth.

Sea Scout Base Galveston

December 30th, 2014

buildingoutside Sea Scout Base Galveston

Base brings a love of sailing to Galveston Island through unique maritime and educational programs

Photography by Al Ruscelli

Sea Scout Base Galveston (SSBG) has hoisted anchor on its high-adventure marine and maritime excursion, and it’s off to a fast start. The 10-acre facility on Offatts Bayou, has already hosted two major national sailing events, the Galveston Regatta, proudly sponsored by Pelican Rest Marina, and the 2014 U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship. Held at SSBG’s Galveston Community Sailing Center (GCSC), the only U.S. Sailing sanctioned community sailing center in Texas, these events reaffirmed the special emphasis SSBG has placed upon teaching youth and people with disabilities the art of sailing.

Sea Scout Base Galveston 5 Sea Scout Base GalvestonAdaptive sailing at the GCSC is just one of SSBG’s offerings. SSBG is the home of BaySmart, a youth program promoting the exploration of marine-related Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based topics and also provides nautical high adventure programs for Scouts in partnership with the Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

The Galveston Community Sailing Center has applied for U.S. Sailing Adaptive Training Center accreditation and will soon become an official Paralympic training site.

With both individual and family memberships available, GCSC makes sailing available to all members of the community including veterans and those with special needs. Staffed by U.S. Sailing-certified instructors, GCSC accommodates sailors of every skill level with weekly sailing classes, Open Sail Saturdays and Schooner Sundays. GCSC also hopes to host more than a dozen high school sailing teams through the Interscholastic Sailing Association.

As the name suggests, Sea Scouting is a key component of the base’s mission. In partnership with the Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, SSBG has developed a unique high-adventure Scouting program including the Cub Scout Splash Adventure, the Sea Scout Academy, and the Sea Scout Adventure, along with Galveston nautical adventures, lifeguard certification, privateer adventures, scuba certification and swim rescue and paddle safety training in 2015.

The BaySmart initiative is based at the Sea Scout Base Galveston facility on Offatts Bayou, and while BaySmart offers educational opportunities for Scouts through its Nova program, it is a separate organization from the Boy Scout of America and is open to anyone interested in studying marine-related Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based topics such as oceanography, meteorology, and more.

Several curricula are available under the BaySmart initiative. STEM 2 Stern, a four-hour field trip aboard the BaySmart Express, is open to all elementary-through-high school students. The Nova program was created to foster Scouts’ exploration of STEM fields and REACH is a U.S. Sailing-certified program to help students discover STEM-related careers. New programs are being created to expand these opportunities.

The educational initiative reaches into public, private and home schools as well. BaySmart will launch its first in-school field trip program in the spring. Working with school administrators, the organization will conduct four-hour excursions aboard the BaySmart Express for up to 84 students at a time supporting existing in-school STEM programs by giving students an insight into nautical STEM topics.

For maritime students in vocational programs, the BaySmart Express, SSBG’s 110-foot floating classroom, offers internships that include working alongside the vessel crew accumulating sea time toward Merchant Mariner credentials and gaining valuable on-the-job training.  Keep up with BaySmart on Facebook at facebook.com/baysmart.galveston.

Founded on the belief that water is a pathway to independence, SSBG’s programs are designed to introduce a new generation of sailors to maritime activities and build confidence in their abilities both on and off the water. For more information about SSBG and any of its varied programs, please visit www.ssbgalveston.org.

How to be a Good Skipper

December 30th, 2014

goodskipper How to be a Good Skipper

By Jon and Lori Jones

For those of us who routinely take on crew, either for racing or cruising, it is important to have a reputation as a good skipper. People who crew on other people’s boats talk, and if you get a reputation for not being a good skipper, you will soon find yourself honing your solo sailing skills.

On the other hand, if you obtain a reputation as a good skipper, folks will seek you out. But what makes a good skipper? What are crew looking for when they step on your boat? How are they judging you?

Who better to consult on what makes a good skipper than the crew? We maintain a crew list of 30 to 40 folks. Most of them sail on other boats and some of them even own boats of their own. So, we asked our crew what they thought makes a good skipper. Here is what they had to say.

Not surprisingly, being a good sailor was the most cited desirable trait for a skipper. Most of our crew associated sailing proficiency with other desirable characteristics such as being a good teacher, being confident, and being safe – all traits that have their basis in knowing what you’re doing. For instance, Tammy said, “When I’m on a boat…even when I’m scared due my own inexperience, I am truly reassured when I can 100 percent trust the experience of the skipper that he will not put the crew or the boat at risk.” Anton said, “For sure, a good skipper needs knowledge to teach, tell stories, and sing sea-shanties.” Josh, an experienced crewmember “prefers a skipper that is a better sailor than I am, since I look at each outing as a chance to learn.” Hmmm…this might explain why Josh hasn’t sailed with us much lately.

Right after sailing ability, our crew equally cited both “no yelling” and patience as desirable traits, often linking them to remaining calm. As Nancy put it, “I do not like skippers that scream or yell or demean their crew. Remaining calm is a great trait in a skipper.” Ellen said, “I especially like the non-yelling, non-condescending skipper, which probably stems from their patience and skill.” Several of our lady crew spoke in terms of yelling, screaming, being condescending, etc. This appears to be a sore point and a common one at that. The men of the crew (along with the less traumatized ladies) used the term “patience” as a desirable trait in their skippers, which seems to us about the same thing.

On the third tier of desired traits were be a good teacher, be organized, and clearly communicate. I was surprised at how many of our crew want their skippers to be a good teachers. Apparently telling them what to do is not enough. They also want to understand what is going on. Many cited being organized and being able to clearly communicate as important so that crew can be more sure of their role and what is expected of them. As Lauren puts it, “Every good crew member expects to be flexible- to wind, weather, whims of the group, whatever. A basic sail plan with simple crew instructions and an overview of the boat’s features maximize chances that everyone will show up similar expectations and appropriate gear.”

The next most cited group of traits had to do with enjoying the sail. Cited equally often were allowing the crew to participate, creating a relaxing environment, and fostering fun. The only surprise here is how far down on the list these traits were. Having fun is certainly essential for the crew, but it was not cited by most of the crew and others cited it only after pointing our other desired traits. Perhaps having fun went without saying, so they didn’t say it.

Rounding out the list were being safety conscience, being of responsible character, looking like a sailor, having sufficient beer and rum on the boat, and knowing sea-shanties.

Other noteworthy observations: Ben said the most important quality is leadership, but he was the only one to use that word. Erik says he tends to stay clear of skippers who use terms like “avast” and “ye matey.” Cynthia wants skippers to know she isn’t looking for a date. And finally, Katherine responded to my inquiry as to what she is looking for in a skipper with just two words: cold beer.

Taking into account our crew’s input, here is our assessment of what it takes to be a good skipper.

Be technically proficient

Know navigation, good seamanship, and how to sail your boat. Know your boat’s capabilities and limitations. Know what you need to do if you get into trouble, and better yet, know enough to stay out of trouble in the first place. Your crew doesn’t need you to be an expert, but they will expect you to be competent.

Be a good leader

A good leader looks and acts the part. He or she displays confidence and instills confidence in the crew. A good leader knows what she and her crew are capable of. A good leader is a good teacher/coach, and communicates effectively. A good leader explains how things are done with patience and keeps calm in the face of adversity. A good leader does not need to yell, scream, or demean her crew. Your crew looks to you to be the leader.

Be organized

An organized skipper is likely to have an organized boat, which in turn will likely be well-maintained, safe, and will instill confidence in the crew. The organized skipper will have sufficient stores on board for the crew and will make sure the crew knows what they need to know. Standing orders and standard procedures will be consistent and understood by all. The organized skipper helps alleviate anxiety and confusion in the crew without driving them crazy with his borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Foster a relaxed and fun environment

Your crew is not signing up to hunt whales in the Arctic or to exchange broadsides with privateers in the Caribbean. They sail for pleasure. Good skippers ensure the crew enjoy themselves, feel relaxed on the boat, and allow them to participate in handling the boat. So relax and sing a sea-shanty or two. Cold beer can help, too.

Be safe

The good skipper understands the overriding importance of keeping the crew safe. Your crew is expecting you to watch out for them and keep them from endangering themselves through ignorance or inattention.

If you are crew, look for these characteristics before signing on to someone’s boat. Few skippers will have an abundance of all of these characteristics, but most should have at least some of each. If you are a skipper looking to better your reputation, focus on these five characteristics, especially the first one. Once you have a reputation for being a good skipper, obtaining and keeping a good crew will be a snap.

Hanse 415 Review

December 30th, 2014

hanse415 reaching9603v2 Hanse 415 Review

German built Hanse 415 features sleek, streamlined styling

By Jon N. Jones

hanse415 salon looking fwd 108v2 Hanse 415 ReviewLast summer I had a chance to sail a new Hanse 415 on Galveston Bay.  I’d heard of Hanse, a German production sailboat company very popular in Europe, but had not sailed one, so, of course, I jumped at the chance.

My first impression was of a sleek, modern-looking sailing machine with uncluttered deck and European styling.  It looked much bigger than her 39’4” would suggest due to the ample freeboard, plumb bow and flat transom.

According to Hanse, most owners opt for the fully battened mainsail instead of the increasingly popular in-mast furling.  This boat was no exception and it was clear most of the horsepower comes from the main.  The mast is noticeably forward of center and the boom comes all the way back to the transom, allowing for a large (565 sf) and powerful mainsail.  The jib is a single-sheet, self-tacker, unique to Hanse.  The jib sheet connects to a traveler-like arrangement forward of the mast replacing the need for a jib-boom on other self-tacking rigs I’ve encountered.

My first impression of uncluttered decks was confirmed.  Other than a tank fill cap, I found not a single fitting on the deck itself.  The cockpit was similarly uncluttered with all lines being led aft underneath molded runners on deck and then into molded cockpit lockers.  The entire boat is noticeably lacking in trip hazards and toe-stubbers.

hanse415_salon looking aft_145v2The transom itself drops down “tailgate” fashion, which is becoming the norm for swim platforms.  Twin helms are also becoming the norm, but unlike most production boats, Hanse’s rack and pinion steering allows each wheel to be independent.  If one steering mechanism fails, the other can compensate.  There is no emergency tiller on board – the other helm is the emergency tiller.

Down below, the Hanse 415 does not disappoint.  Straight lines and 90 degree angles on the interior cabinetry gives the perception of more space and makes the boat feel more home-y, and less boat-y.  Interior woods come in a variety of types and shades.  The model I saw was outfitted in American cherry.  Interior doors were substantial including hardware more like what you find in a home than on the typical boat.

As nice as it was below, I came out to sail the boat.  On our test sail, we had steady 10-12 knot winds from the SSE and calm seas.  We motored easily past the Kemah boardwalk with the boat’s Volvo-saildrive and two-blade folding propeller.  Steering was easy, two fingers being more than enough to steer the boat under engine.

This Hanse 415 was equipped with an electric main halyard winch, so raising sail consisted of turning into the wind, unzipping the lazy bag and pushing the button.  Falling off a bit, we unfurled the jib and the boat quickly achieved 5.5 knots close hauled.  Falling off the wind, we picked up to just under 7.5 knots with only a slight adjustment of the jib sheet.

Tacking the boat was ridiculously easy.  From the helm, I announced “tacking,” and turned the boat through the wind with just one hand.  The self-tacking jib slid across the deck and settled in on the new tack.  Nothing touched, no sheets to let fly, no need to trim the sheet.  And just like that, we were back up to speed.

The Hanse 415 is a cruising boat, no doubt.  It is roomy and well appointed.  She was quite impressive under sail with a powerful sail plan and performance-minded rudder and keel.  Not only will this boat be very comfortable at the anchorage, she can get there quickly, too.    

Galveston Bay Winter Fishing

December 30th, 2014

mikedepol Galveston Bay Winter Fishing

Mike DePol with the last redfish before the storm!

Fishing the tides key to successful Galveston Bay winter fishing

By Capt. David C. Dillman

Stepping outside with my cup of coffee, I was greeted by a deep chill in the air with the passage of a cold front. I hurried back inside the house to finish dressing, layering my clothing. I grabbed my wind and water resistant jacket, before I left on my way to the boat ramp.

As I launched my boat, my customers emerged from their truck, dressed more like Eskimos than fisherman. We chuckled at each other saying “It’s kind of cold.” I told them, “You think it’s cold now, wait for the ride across the bay!”

The five-mile boat ride was quite brutal. Once we got there, we spent the next few minutes rigging our rods and reels with some soft plastic lures.

saltwaterassasin Galveston Bay Winter Fishing

Bass Assassin 5″ morning glory/limetreuse tail Saltwater Shad

“The Norton Sand Eel or Bass Assassin are my go to lures during the winter rigged on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig.”

The next hour and a half provided little for our effort. With only a couple of speckled trout in the box, my customers gave me that, you got us out here for this? look. I looked at them and promised, “It’s fixing to get right,” as the tide began to move. I suggested that we move about a half mile away to a flat that has produced for me in the past during the winter. As I slowly idled into the area, I gave them a grin as a tint of off colored water appeared, along with a couple of Loons swimming and diving. The next four hours we caught fish. When it was all done our cooler was full of speckled trout and a few redfish. We also caught and released just as many!

Ros Polumbo with a nice drum taken from Greens Lake.

Ros Polumbo with a nice drum taken from Greens Lake.

This scenario can be played out during January/February in West Bay. First, you need to dress for the weather. Layers of clothing provide the best warmth, in my opinion. The best part of layering is if you get too hot, you can always remove some. Furthermore, a good wind and water resistant jacket is a necessity. Stocking hats or even a full face mask are always useful to help keep you warm. Once your body gets cold, it’s hard to get warm again without heading to the dock and calling it a day.

The winter area of West Bay that I mentioned earlier is what I call the triangle. Meacom’s Cut to Green’s Cut, then between North and South Deer Islands. During this time of year fish congregate in this area. It has a mixture of sand and shell, with depths ranging from three to six feet. The key to fishing this area is tidal movement. I usually do the best with an incoming tide. This area becomes crystal clear with cooler water temperatures. As the tide begins to move, streaks of off colored water will appear. This provides cover for the fish to ambush whatever unsuspecting bait that is there. You might only see one or two mullet flicker on the water surface. If you see a bird known as a “Loon” in the area, it’s a good bet baitfish are there. Drift fishing is the best way to cover the area and located the fish.

Artificial lures this time of year work the best. Soft plastics or even swim type imitation mullet baits are best. I mostly use soft plastic type baits. The Norton Sand Eel or Bass Assassin are my go to lures during the winter rigged on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig. I find that a reel with a retrieve of 5:1 helps when trying to slow your presentation of the bait. Keeping your lure in the “strike zone” just a little longer is the key to having a successful day. My favorite color is black with a chartreuse tail.

Just because it is cold, does not mean you can’t have a great day on the water. Dressing properly and fishing the tides is the key to a great day on the water. Fishing a couple days after the passage of a cold front can yield you a box full of fish! Don’t forget to like Coastal Charter Club on Facebook.                                    

Fishing Oyster Reefs

December 30th, 2014

rowanredfishart1 Fishing Oyster Reefs

Fishing oyster reefs in Galveston Bay

By Capt. Joe Kent

Anglers fishing the Galveston Bay Complex often take for granted the positive effects of oyster reefs, both live and dead, on their fishing.  That is until the reefs start diminishing and the fishing is affected.

Let’s take a look at what we are discussing and how oyster reefs benefit fishing.

Oyster reefs in Galveston Bay form in the open bay along the periphery of marshes and near passes and cuts and can be either subtidal or intertidal. The reef itself is three dimensional because oyster larvae settle on the top of old shells growing upwards through the water column above the established oysters. The shells create an irregular surface that support a myriad of small marine life.

The oyster reef community is very diverse with a wide variety of shell fish, crustaceans and fin fish forming a balanced aquarium. Predators in this habitat include fish capable of crushing mollusks such as black drum, red fish, sheepshead, and blue crabs and stone crabs, which prey on small oysters with thin shells. At low tide, birds forage on the exposed oyster reef habitat.

When Houston was first settled, an ancient oyster reef (Redfish Bar) separated Upper and Lower Galveston Bay. This reef stretched from Smith Point on the east to Eagle Point on the west and had only one small gap through which shallow draft boats could pass. There were extensive oyster reefs throughout Trinity, East and West Bays as well.

Just about every species of fish caught in Galveston Bay can be found on or around oyster reefs.

redfishspots Fishing Oyster ReefsIn the latter half of the 19th century, oyster shell became a construction material and was commercially harvested. In the first half of the 20th century, oyster shell became an industrial commodity and shell dredging intensified. Millions of cubic yards of oyster shell were removed from the bay, some of it from living reefs. This practice, which greatly reduced the area covered by oyster reef habitat, was prohibited in 1969.

Hurricane Ike had a tremendous impact on oyster reef habitat in Galveston Bay. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department estimates that approximately 60 percent of the oyster reef habitat in Galveston Bay was covered by sediments as the storm surge moved through the bay in September 2008. Scientists do not know how long it will take for the reefs to recover.

With this background on the makeup of oyster reefs and how they are formed, let’s visit about fishing the reefs.

In my childhood years when first learning to fish Galveston Bay, oyster reefs were the prime target.  We did not have electronic equipment to locate the reefs, just a long pole that we bounced off of the bottom. If the pole had a soft landing we kept moving until the pole struck something solid and we had found oyster shells.

Just about every species of fish caught in Galveston Bay can be found on or around oyster reefs.  Fish with scales and tough mouths, such as sheepshead and both black and red drum, feed along the shell while consuming crabs and other crustaceans.

Speckled trout also are common around the shell; however, they do not have the physical traits to actually feed along the shell itself.  Trout do not have scales and their mouths are softer than the main predators feeding in and around the shell.

Trout like to feed just off of the reef during tidal movement which flushes the small marine life from their shelters.

Seasoned shell reef anglers know how to fish the reefs and plan their strategy based on tidal movement.  During slack or weak tides, they will focus on the reef itself as drum sheepshead and reds and other tough skinned, strong mouthed fish will be working the bottom.  When the tide starts moving, then trout on the periphery will be the target.

Trout will be found on the reef  itself; however, they tend to be cautious as the edges of the shell can be razor sharp.

Anglers have been reporting reduced catches in Galveston Bay over the past few years and one of the culprits likely is the reduction in acres of oyster reefs.  Hopefully our restoration program will prove successful and the sooner the better.

28th Annual Lakewood Yacht Club Harvest Moon Regatta

November 1st, 2014

IMG 5423 300x231 28th Annual Lakewood Yacht Club Harvest Moon Regatta

Bacardi Cup:  PHRF Spinnaker winner O.J. Young, center, and Harvest Moon Co-Founder John Broderick, on mic, and the crew on Happy Ending. LYC Commodore Tom Collier is second from left and third from left is Richard Ancy, Regional Manager for Bacardi USA, the race’s founding sponsor.

Lakewood Racer O.J. Young Captures Second Bacardi Cup

Longtime, experienced racer O. J. Young of Lakewood Yacht Club won the Harvest Moon Regatta Bacardi Cup for the second year in a row and was presented the prestigious award during the Oct. 12 Awards Ceremony held at Port Aransas’ City Pavilion.
Racing on his yacht “Happy Ending,”a Hallberg Rassy 42F, the competition in the Bacardi Fleet this year was in high gear as the Gulf of Mexico’s unpredictable winds came at the racers from all directions.

A 150-mile race across the Gulf of Mexico from Galveston to Port Aransas that started at the Pleasure Pier on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 9,  the Harvest Moon Regatta had 166 boats start the race and 144 actually finish.  Of that, 11 boats were from Seabrook, 20 from Kemah, eight from League City, seven from Corpus and eight from additional Texas cities outside of Houston.
“Lakewood Yacht Club had a record number of trophy winners this year – 28, with 14 of those being first place,” said Regatta Chairman Jack Seitzinger.  His Principle Race Officer this year was Andrea Todaro.

When asked what his racing strategy this year was, Young replied that when one has a well prepared boat, good sails and a good crew, that boat should do well in the race.  “Everyone in Seabrook said I had the ‘dream team’ crew with three racers being former America’s Cup winners,” Young remarked.

IMG 5406 300x300 28th Annual Lakewood Yacht Club Harvest Moon Regatta

Commodore’s Trophy: Cruising with Spinnaker winner Jim Demarest and wife Jan, center, right holding child, and crew on Sodalis along with LYC Commodore Tom Collier.

The crew consisted of Young’s son Robbie who re-rigged the boat and design, Doug Cooke, Farley Fontenot, Jim Davis, Joe Taylor, Cal Herman, Robbie Baldridge, and Paolo Shaffer.

Young said the winds this year were light at the beginning but picked up during the middle of the night. He sailed a little above the Rhumb line and by using his spinnaker at the finish, he was able to beat fellow club racer John Barnett on “ViCi” by several minutes.  “The winds this year were ideal for my boat,” he added.

Young has extensive racing experience, having been a professional sailboat racer in the 1960s and 1970s.  He came in second, twice, in the Olympic Trials, won the North American Championship 11 times, and won the ¾ Ton World Championship in 1974.   He has raced with Dennis Conner in numerous ocean races.  Conner, in his book No Excuse to Lose, named Young as one of the top ten racers in the world.

Other major perpetual trophy winners were Cameron Canon, cruising non-spinnaker overall (corrected), Doug Byerly on “Jonre;” Commodore’s Cup, cruising spinnaker overall (corrected), Jim Demarest on “Sodalis;” Founder’s Trophy, overall multihull (corrected), John Williams on “Gimme Samoa;”  Judy’s Mission, ovarian cancer Sail-a-thon; John Walsh on “Candace Ann;” Mayor’s Trophy, first multihull to finish, Bo Kersey on “Abandoned Assets;” and the Bill Hall Memorial Trophy, the first monohull to finish,  “Passion” owned by Steve Hastings.

Bacardi Superior:  Sport boat winner Don Lemke and crew on Aloha with LYC Commodore Tom Collier.

Bacardi Superior:  Sport boat winner Don Lemke and crew on Aloha with LYC Commodore Tom Collier.

New trophies this year were the Bacardi Superior, sport boat winner, Don Lemke on “Aloha” and Bacardi OakHeart, heavy displacement winner, John Mastroianni on “Andiamo.” The Bacardi Watch for the overall monohull (lowest corrected time) went to Doug Byerly on “Jonre.”

The Harvest Moon Regatta is organized by Bay Access, a charitable organization that supports amateur racing. It has been hosted by Lakewood Yacht Club for 28 years. Port Aransas and Mustang Island are co-hosts of the event.

Sponsors that make this first-class event possible include founding and primary sponsor Bacardi USA, the City of Seabrook, Nautic Group, Hays, Little Yacht Sales, West Marine, Sea Lake Yachts, Volvo Penta, OJ’s Marine,  Banks Sails, True North Marine and Windward Sea Ventures.

 

A Little Trouble at Sea

November 1st, 2014

brokerudderboat1 300x285 A Little Trouble at SeaA Harvest Moon Regatta Story

By David Popkin

The smoke from the 3:15 p.m. starting gun in the 2014 Harvest Moon Regatta was still visible, drifting to leeward of the line as Ground Effect, Martin Hamilton’s Condor 40 trimaran crossed the line and  began reeling in the fleet.  The multihull class is traditionally the last class to start and this year was no exception.  Our start was one hour and fifteen minutes after the first of five consecutive monohull class starts, the first at 2 p.m.  There is no challenge in sending the fastest boats out first, since a big part of the race is managing the inherent risks of passing or being passed by other boats.  Being one of the dozen or so fastest boats in the regatta meant we would overtake more than 150 boats in the course of the race, and if all worked as planned, Ground Effect would be one of the first three or four boats to finish the 150 nautical mile race in Port Aransas early Friday morning.

Onboard were six very experienced sailors.  Four were veteran multihull sailors; the owner Martin Hamilton, Joe Peine, Roy Shaw, and Jeff Linn.  Terry Hudson and I both had extensive offshore experience on various monohulls, but limited experience on multihulls.

Tactically, our plan was to work to windward of the rhumb line, that line being the most direct course to the sea buoy in Port Aransas.  The winds were predicted to be relatively light at the start, then building to 18-20 knots true, around 1 a.m. Friday morning.  There was also a predicted shift from SE to S or possibly even SSW by early morning Friday.  Hence our desire to “put some in the bank,” meaning we would keep to windward of the rhumb line and if the wind did indeed shift, we would not then need to be close hauled, or possibly struggling to make our mark without tacking.

Based upon our assumed speed, we set up a furthest offshore waypoint on our chartplotters, which by coincidence, was directly offshore from the Matagorda Ship Channel, approximately 50 nautical miles from Port Aransas. We were hoping to reach it as the winds freshened and possibly shifted.  From that waypoint, we would crack off and have a comfortable and speedy reach straight to the sea buoy and then on to the finish line inside the Port Aransas channel.

harvestmoonrudder 300x224 A Little Trouble at SeaRight on schedule, we reached our tactical waypoint around 2:45 a.m.  The boat was really in a groove, handling the jumbled 4-6 ft seas with ease and making near 10 knots in building pressure.  We eased our sheets, cracking off and immediately picked up 2 knots of boat speed.  It was an amazing ride!  At around 3:30 a.m. there was a loud noise at the transom.  Suddenly, the boat lost all momentum and rounded up into the wind and seas, sails flogging.  Terry Hudson was at the helm and yelled that there was no response.  We were all dumbstruck.  Roy made his way back to the rudder cage and felt below the waterline.  “It’s gone! Sheared completely off!  Let’s get the sails down, we’re done.”

With the sails put away, we began slowly drifting northward at just over one knot.  The disappointment was palpable.  We were in no immediate danger, but clearly would need assistance. We tried hailing the HMR fleet and got no response. That was due, I can only assume, to our distance offshore and being in front of most of the fleet.  Finally, the US Coast Guard responded.  We gave them our position and the condition of boat and crew and asked them to try and reach BoatUS to arrange a tow to the nearest port.  Our communication with the Coast Guard was ongoing for nearly two hours before they decided it would be in everyone’s best interests to send a vessel out to tow us into Port O’Connor.  They had made contact with the BoatUS main office on the East Coast, but efforts to reach an associate on the Texas coast were unsuccessful.

Around 6:30 a.m. Friday morning, the Coast Guard vessel arrived and came close enough alongside so we could discuss towing procedures.  Once their main line was passed to our boat, it was made fast with a bridle and the last wild ride began.  Despite cleats ripped from the deck, bowsprits broken, and toe rails splintered, all from the tow line, we were delivered safely to the bulkhead in front of the US Coast Guard Station, in Port O’Connor by 9:30. Subdued but in good spirits, in the end, no one got hurt, and with time and money, the boat could be made whole again.  Despite his declaration minutes after the rudder failure that this was his last offshore race, Martin was already talking about next year’s race and what it would take to build a new improved rudder.  To paraphrase Lance Armstrong, it’s not about the boat.  Those of us who do this do it because we welcome the challenges, the possibility of facing unknown events or improbable outcomes, be it failures or triumphs.  To be sure, we all take risks in our everyday lives, but that world is ultimately predictable and pretty tame.  The ocean is our last, greatest and most beguiling wilderness.  We have no more control over its whims today than Columbus did in 1492.  And that’s exactly why we choose to go.

Ask the Rigger

November 1st, 2014

camera downloads pictures 885 300x189 Ask the RiggerI own an older boat and I’m thinking of replacing some of the running rigging. What are your thoughts on the best type of line to use?

It all depends on what kind of sailing you are doing. You need to ask yourself, “Am I cruising around the bay, club racing and long-range cruising, or just racing full time?”

If you are cruising around the bay, you can get away with the lesser performance lines and go for price and durability. If you are club racing or long range cruising, you should go to a blended core to a full performance line for things like the main and genoa halyards. With control lines, you can get away with the lesser performance lines. If you are pushing the boat around the race course, the less stretch, the faster.

You should be using full performance lines with a low stretch core; the less stretch in lines transfer to the mast and boat turning energy into speed.

What’s the difference between mast rake and mast bend?

Mast rake is the angle of the mast fore and aft on the boat. It controls the center of effort of the boat, helping it point higher. Too much forward rake, the boat will turn down causing a negative steering moment. With too much aft rake, you will have to fight the rudder causing drag, which slows the boat down.

In a perfect world, you should have a couple of pounds of weather helm and rudder angle should not exceed three to seven degrees, unless steering wind shifts. You should tell your rigger during a mast tuning how the boat is performing. Mast bend is set to help your mainsail.

As a sail gets older you can increase the bend to get more performance out of the sail. When you order a new sail, the sail maker may ask to have you decrease the bend since the sail is new. The other thing bend does for you, is it flattens the mainsail in windy conditions helping you keep control and not getting over powered. Tell your rigger what you feel are the wind conditions you find yourself in the most. They will set the bend to fit the way you sail.

I’m looking for some new spinnaker sheets for my J-105, what brand do you recommend and why?

The J-105, just like most asymmetrical boats, uses a high heat covered line with a performance core. We taper the sheets, which reduces weight and leaves the core exposed. All line companies have equivalent line types. Color and feel is the only difference between most lines.

My anchor is always slipping, how much chain do I need and who makes the best anchor on the market today?

The anchor is probably the most argued boating topic ever. I feel that every type anchor has its purpose. We used to cruise with a CQR and a Danforth. The CQR was our workhorse. After getting a lot of education we switched to Mantis anchors. They use technology and NASA engineers to design their product. They added a roll bar that I know I could have used it in the past for more reasons than it was designed for.

When it comes to chain, we always carried 100’ on one anchor and 25 to 40’ on the secondary. That is all the boat could fit. Both anchors had 150’ of three-strand line; the more chain, in my opinion, the better. For storms we carried a bridal and another 300’ of three-strand that we could add in line to the scope. That worked for us.  You will have to find what works for your boat.
 
How can I keep my roller furling from overriding, it works for a while and then it gets hard to pull in.

You should control your furling line when you unfurl your sail. If you just untie it and unfurl, more than likely, it will get some loose rolls and possibly override. The other thing to look out for is the lead block into the drum needs to be at 90 degrees in the center of the drum guide. The last thing, is to make sure when the unit is furled, it has two wraps on the jib sheets and you should have at least five wraps on the drum.

Do you recommend buying a used roller furler?

We are against buying old furling units. Technology is so much better today than 10 to 20 years ago. Always remember there is a reason the furling unit was replaced in the first place. The foil connectors and bearings wear down over time. We end up having more time fixing the used unit than what a new one would have cost with installation.

Also, when fixing old units you don’t get a warranty, so even if you patch it, you will have to pay to repair it every time you have a problem. Most new units have a two to seven year warranty and rigging companies should back their work.

Alex Crowell is the owner of Bahama Rigging in Kemah, a full service shop for all sailboat rigging needs.

Wade Fishing the Bays

November 1st, 2014

daniel popovich trout 300x225 Wade Fishing the Bays

Wading and big trout go hand-in-hand. Daniel Popovich with an impressive speck.

By Capt. Joe Kent

When the water is comfortable to wade fish in a bathing suit or shorts it’s not the best time for fishing action while wading.

The late fall and early winter are prime times for wade fishing.  When the water temperature drops below 70 degrees, it is a bit uncomfortable for wading in typical summertime attire; however, the fish love the cooler waters and tend to roam the shallows more.

While wade fishing, especially in the surf, will produce fish year round, it is not until the water cools that the action pops open in the bays.  The annual flounder run will attract hordes of waders as it is usually late October or early November when the flat fish start stacking up along the pathways to their winter home, the Gulf of Mexico.

Colder water is one of the signs flounder look for before deciding to exit the bays and readings in the 60’s will do the trick.
Trout and reds will spend more of the day in shallower waters during that time and wade fishing is the best way to sneak up on them.

Now, if you are new to this style of fishing I hope to cover some of the basics to help you get started and for you to have more productive fishing trips.

We need to begin with the basic wading gear.  A pair of insulated waders is a must and the prices run the gamut depending on what quality you desire and your budget.  A full service sporting goods store can show you the wide range of options.

Wading shoes, whether part of the waders or separate pieces are important.  You will need shoes that can handle the sharp, cutting edges of shell while withstanding soft mud.  Wade fishermen tend to cover a lot of territory and different underwater terrains are encountered.

One of the worst things to experience is to lose a shoe in deep mud.

Stingrays are one of the big enemies of waders and protective covers are vital to prevent a barb from piercing your foot or leg.  Again, your sporting goods store can show you options for this.

Additionally, a long stringer, one that places your catch a number of feet behind you is a must or one of the more popular donut style container nets can be used.  In either case your catch should be far enough behind you to allow a shark to attack it without mistaking your leg for a fish.

wadefishery 300x186 Wade Fishing the BaysA good wading belt with pliers and a bait compartment is needed.

Now, for the fishing equipment itself, most wade fishermen use artificial baits as they eliminate the need to drag along a live bait bucket.  This allows the angler to cover more territory and faster.

The rod and reel is a personal choice; however, the length of the rod is normally longer than those used by boaters.  Long, accurate casts are a must for success while roaming the shorelines.

Your choice of artificial bait depends on the species of fish you are targeting.  Personally, I prefer soft plastics as they are easy to use and I have had success with them.

For flounder my favorite three soft plastics are Flounder Pounders, Chicken Boys and Gulps.

For trout and reds, Bass Assassin Sea Shads in various colors, Norton Sand Eels, Saltwater Assassins in Chicken on a Chain and Down South soft plastics are good choices.  One color that seems to add to the odds is chartreuse in combination with other colors.

Now, let’s talk about where to wade.  The biggest limitation is whether you have a boat to access wading areas or depend on entering from land.  Boaters have many more options as the Galveston Bay Complex is limited in areas where the public can cross land to enter the water.

Briefly, for those without boats, the Seawolf Park area offers access to water along with Eight-Mile Road on the west end of Galveston Island.  All along the road from the Texas City Dike to the Moses Lake Flood Gate offers good wade fishing at times as does the April Fool Point Area in San Leon.

The Seabrook Flats are well-known for winter wade fishing and have easy access at several points along the shore.

Now for the most important aspect of wade fishing!  Do not go it alone.  Have a fishing buddy join you as there are too many incidences of a wader falling into a deep hole, and with the heavy equipment on, could not swim and drowned.  A companion fishing close by could have saved the day. To be on the safe side, two or more anglers should wade fish together.

History Of The ‘Corky’

November 1st, 2014

corky 300x300 History Of The ‘Corky’

Paul Brown’s Original Suspending
Twitchbait in Copper Top

This Texas legend-of-a-lure is a favorite for fishermen targeting large speckled trout. The “Corky” as it is most popularly known, was first built in the Houston area garage of Paul Brown in 1974 and sold at nearby tackle shops.

It didn’t take long for Texans to figure out that this was a serious big trout lure. The slow sink rate and soft body elicited strikes from sow winter trout when other lures were ignored. An easily bent internal wire allowed anglers to adapt the Corky to their fishing style.

By the 1980s, what started out as a small mom and pop operation had quickly developed a cult following, and for good reason.
In 1996, Houstonian Jim Wallace caught a Texas state record 13.11-pound speckled trout while fishing a corky in Baffin Bay.
In January of 2010, Brown turned over production of the Corky to MirrOlure®. Today, these lures are sold as the “Paul Brown Original Series” and are fished by anglers from Texas to North Carolina and beyond.

Christmas Gifts for your Seafaring Family & Friends!

November 1st, 2014

vickersbags 300x179 Christmas Gifts for your Seafaring Family & Friends!

Ella Vickers Recycled Sailcloth Bags from Glass Mermaids in League City.

mermaidbaby 300x179 Christmas Gifts for your Seafaring Family & Friends!

Mermaid babies by Lladro, exclusively at Glass Mermaids in League City.

Nautical tree decorations from Island Furniture in Seabrook.

Nautical tree decorations from Island Furniture in Seabrook.

Vintage brass diver’s helmet from I Spy in Kemah.

Vintage brass diver’s helmet from I Spy in Kemah.

Ships bell from Home by Eagles’ Nest in League City.

Ships bell from Home by Eagles’ Nest in League City.

Judy’s Jewels available from Encore Resale in Kemah.

Judy’s Jewels available from Encore Resale in Kemah.

Boat models available at Home by Eagles Nest in League City.

Boat models available at Home by Eagles Nest in League City.

Crab throw pillow available at Island Furniture in Seabrook.

Crab throw pillow available at Island Furniture in Seabrook.

Seabrook Saltwater Derby Results

November 1st, 2014

HeaviestTeamStringRedfish Seabrook Saltwater Derby Results

Heaviest Stringer Redfish
Team: Saldana Bros
with Gerardo Saldana and Ovidio Saldana

HeaviestTeamStringTrout1 Seabrook Saltwater Derby Results

Heaviest Stringer Trout
Team: Scandy Candy with
Chris Gonzales, Jason Nolan, James Plaag and David Schmidt

Heaviest Stringer Trout  Team: Scandy Candy with Chris Gonzales, Jason Nolan, James Plaag and David Schmidt

Heaviest Stringer Trout
Team: Scandy Candy with
Chris Gonzales, Jason Nolan, James Plaag and David Schmidt

Heaviest Individual Trout Team:  Remax Galveston with John Sincox and Ryan Moody

Heaviest Individual Trout
Team:
Remax Galveston
with John Sincox and Ryan Moody

Flounder Pot Team:  CCS Fishing with Jason Otto, Jeff Koester, Austin Owens and Tyson Schindler

Flounder Pot
Team:
CCS Fishing with Jason Otto, Jeff Koester, Austin Owens and Tyson Schindler

 

 

Luxury Outdoorsman

November 1st, 2014

2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV 003 300x200 Luxury OutdoorsmanBy Don Armstrong

Put a lid on it! That’s pretty much what General Motors did when they created the Suburban – dubbed “Carryall” in 1935.

General Motors simply replaced the bed with a lengthened cab and put in on the same half-ton truck chassis. A GMC version quickly followed, and in 1999 Cadillac badged its own iteration called Escalade. Now comes the 12th version of the iconic “Carryall” for 2015.

The Cadillac Escalade is at the top of the food chain when it comes to full-size heavy weights; and we do mean heavy, as in poundage. Rolling out of its birthing ship in Arlington, Texas, the Escalade, branded four wheel drive Suburban, tips the scales at three tons.

Moving all that weight is a 6.2-liter V-8 delivering 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of grunt; more than enough juice to also tow another 8,000 pounds. That’s why we thought this would be the ultimate luxury hauler, not only for people and their stuff but a nice sized bass boat or camper.

The new sheet metal is fitting for a modern do-all with plenty of edgy Cadillac styling cues including LED lighting all around. This big beauty makes heads turn no matter what neighborhood you’re cruising.

Ride quality has always been part of the Cadillac success equation, and the Escalade is no different. To achieve its comfortable level, without sacrificing control, the Caddy engineers installed GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system; first developed for the Corvette.

2015 Cadillac Escalade 075 300x200 Luxury OutdoorsmanWind and road noise used to be a given in most vehicles. Not in the Escalade. Triple door seals and lightweight, yet very effective sound deadening materials, bring a new meaning to a quiet interior.

Speaking of interiors, this is where the Escalade really shines. When we used to speak of fit and finish, our minds went to most financially unreachable rides. Say hello to a new era. Cadillac suits said, “We can do that too, but in volume,” and they did. With layered materials, cut-and-sewn craftsmanship and real wood accents, you are officially dared to compare.

Remember that heavy, old third row seat that most owners removed and stored on their dirty garage floors? No more, ‘cause there’s no need to remove it. Both the third and second row seats fold flat with the touch of a power button. Finally.
Pricing starts at $71,695, but with 72-month notes available…well, you know you want it.

Port of Houston: Impossible dream turned into a reality

November 1st, 2014

039 1914 masterpieceofcongestion1 300x185 Port of Houston: Impossible dream turned into a reality

Houston Ship Channel at the foot of Main Street in 1914.

By Mary Alys Cherry

The Port of Houston will celebrate its 100th birthday Monday, Nov. 10 – an anniversary that seemed an impossible dream and almost laughable a century ago. Build a port 52 miles inland?

At first, almost no one thought it would happen, but through a combination of Mother Nature’s fury, the discovery of oil and a young congressman’s dedication, the Houston Ship Channel paved the way for Houston to become the nation’s fourth largest city and the Port of Houston to become the nation’s leading port in foreign tonnage and second in overall tonnage.

According to the Port’s history, in the 1890s Congressman Tom Ball – for whom the town of Tomball is named – worked hard to get support for a deep water port for Houston. In September 1900, a devastating hurricane nearly wiped Galveston off the map, killing some 8,000 people in one of the nation’s worst disasters in history.

Ball’s colleagues began to listen to his argument for a protected inland port. Then, with the discovery of oil at Spindletop and the growth of crops such as cotton and rice, it became clear that Houston’s ship channel needed the capacity to handle larger vessels. Through Tom Ball’s persistence, Houston and the federal government shared the cost of dredging the ship channel that would link Houston to the world.

040 1914 portofhoustonopening 300x180 Port of Houston: Impossible dream turned into a reality

Port of Houston opening celebration in 1914.

Work began in 1912 and the Houston Ship Channel opened on a Tuesday morning, Nov. 10, 1914, with a 21-gun salute and thousands of people on hand to celebrate as President Woodrow Wilson fired a cannon via remote control to officially open the channel.

Today, the Port of Houston, a 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities along the ship channel, is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the nation.

It has giant container terminals at Barbours Cut, Texas’ first cargo container terminal which opened in 1977 at Morgan’s Point, and its $1.4 billion Bayport complex, which opened Feb. 7, 2007 just north of Seabrook. A computerized inventory control system tracks the status and location of individual containers at each terminal.

With the widening of the Panama Canal, which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Port Authority is preparing for the larger generation of vessels (9,000-plus TEU in capacity) that soon will need to call at Bayport and Barbours Cut with an $80 million dredging project to deepen the channels from 40 feet to 45 feet to match the depth of the Houston Ship Channel.

“This has been a tremendous effort by all parties involved to make sure we are ready to handle the larger ships needing to call our facilities,” Port Executive Director Roger Guenther said, adding that dredging already is under way at Barbours Cut, and when completed later this year, work will begin at Bayport.

Quite a change from those days long ago when the Port was located near the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou at Allen’s Landing, now a park known as the birthplace of Houston.

Seared Mahi Mahi With Zesty Basil Butter

November 1st, 2014

mahi1 226x300 Seared Mahi Mahi With Zesty Basil ButterServe on a bed of rice with your favorite side of vegetables

• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional for seasoning
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning
• 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 (6 to 8-ounce) mahi mahi fillets

Zesty Basil Butter:
Combine the butter, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until the butter melts. Cover and keep warm over low heat.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook the fish for 3 minutes; then turn and cook until just opaque, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the fillets to individual plates.
Spoon the warm basil butter over the fish and serve.

All About Big Blue

September 1st, 2014

bluemarlin larva Rooker1 300x225 All About Big Blue

This tiny blue marlin larva won’t reach maturity until it is around four years of age. Photo: Dr. Jay Rooker

The blue marlin is one of the most iconic catches in sports fishing and with a length of 16 feet, and record weight of nearly one ton, it’s for good reason.

By Jarred Roberts

Blue marlin territory in the Atlantic reaches as far north as Maine and as far south as the tip of Africa. There are also Pacific blue marlin, debated to be a separate species, that will sometimes migrate and breed with their Atlantic relatives.

Spawning occurs in late summer during the warmest months, but nearer the equator with constant high temperatures, spawning can last much longer.

During this period the female lays millions of eggs for males to fertilize. Those eggs that don’t get eaten will float with the current until they hatch.

Upon hatching, marlin larvae eat anything they can fit in their mouths, including each other. A few weeks later when they’ve grown a few inches the marlins become more active hunters. Unfortunately, little is known about the period of time when marlins mature about four years later. These younger marlins slip through nets and quickly dart away from boats and researchers.

BLUEMARLINBIG 169x300 All About Big Blue

A big blue tries to shake loose a Makaira Pulling Lure.

Once they have matured, the females can be up to four times larger than the males with lengths up to 16 feet and a record weight of almost one ton. To sustain this size, marlins have been known to eat nearly anything with local reports of fisherman catching them eating plastic sandals, though a favorite food of theirs is squid. Marlin will dive down to 2,000 feet and skewer the squid on their bill, sometimes slicing them in half. Their size and natural body heat allow them to dive farther and longer than many other species, with the females going even deeper due to their larger size. Marlin also commonly eat mackerel, tuna and can take down white marlin as well.

Marlins have been around a long time with fossils found in Baja California dated to just over three million years ago showing little change since then. These records also support that blue marlin are more closely related to sailfish, as opposed to the similarly named black marlin, who are closer relatives to swordfish.

Despite this long legacy blue marlin are currently a threatened species. Though many nations and sport fishing competitions and organizations have adapted to these numbers and work to make sure marlin populations stay healthy and off the endangered species list.

Any females that aren’t caught almost always outlive the males. Males live until about 18 while females live until 27 with reports of a few females reaching 40.

Hooray For Labor Day!

September 1st, 2014

doradofeeesh 300x200 Hooray For Labor Day!By Capt. Joe Kent

Each year large numbers of anglers look forward to the Labor Day Holiday.  While you might think it is because it is a holiday and a day to go fishing that is not the case.  It signals the end of the busy tourist season and takes hordes of visitors off of the water and sends them back to work, school and other activities.

Following the first Monday in September, there begins a lot of competition for sportsmen’s time.  Dove season starts right away, football games and school activities begin taking the attention of anglers and, as the year progresses, more hunting seasons crop up.

All of this is music to the ears of serious anglers who love to see the early September exodus.

For many seasonal visitors to the Texas Coast, there is a mentality that fishing starts to slow after Labor Day with offshore fishing nearing the end of its prime time and trout beginning to depart the jetties and surf.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons so many are enthused about the last big holiday of the summer.

While September is known as a transition month for fishing, meaning trout, reds and flounder begin to start changing their patterns, there is a lot of excellent fishing that month and the action just continues to get better as we get into fall.

The days are not so hot and most of the migratory pelagic fish continue to roam the near Gulf waters.  September is one of the best months for tarpon fishing and the jetties and surf begin to come alive with redfish of all sizes.

Some of the best offshore fishing takes place during September.  Until the first cool spell sets in, just about all of the popular pelagic fish are within easy reach for the sports fishing fleet including one of its components, the Mosquito Fleet of smaller seaworthy boats.

Several of my best catches of ling and dorado have occurred during September and October.

While trout begin their transition back into the bays from deeper waters, reds start stacking up at the jetties, with the larger reds preparing to make their annual spawn.

All of this has the added attraction of taking place during mild to warm weather and not the stifling heat of July and August.
Baring an event in the Gulf of Mexico or a cold front, September through early October the weather tends to be quite stable.  Light winds and calm conditions tend to be the norm.

One change that I have noticed over the past 10 years is that our summer has tended to be extended with the beach water temperature remaining in the 80-degree range throughout much of October.  Several decades ago, summer ended earlier and the fall fishing patterns began in early October, usually by Columbus Day.

Recently, it has been late October before any significant cooling has taken place.

For now, let’s plan on taking advantage of the extended summer without the huge crowds.

By the time the next edition of Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine is off the press, our fall fishing patterns should be in full swing and we will take a look where the action is taking place.