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Festival goers get a taste of a sailor's life


Roxanne “Rocky” Hadler is back in her home port.

The former assistant registrar at the University of Texas Medical Branch spent Friday showing enthusiastic festival goers the ship she’s been living on for the past few weeks.

Hadler got her first taste of sailing in 1996 when she volunteered on the tall ship Elissa in Galveston. Since retiring from the medical branch in 2005, Hadler has become a full-time third mate, traveling around the world on different vessels for sometimes monthslong excursions.

Most recently, she joined the Picton Castle in Turks and Caicos Islands before setting sail for Galveston.

“It was fun coming into the Gulf and starting to see the oil rigs about 180 miles out of Galveston,” Hadler said. “There’s a lot of traffic there, and that’s the challenge of the Gulf, but it’s also part of the fun. It makes everyone sharper and keeps you on your feet.”

The other fun of being back in the Gulf? Getting to visit her grandchildren, she said. When Hadler isn’t on the water, she’s at her condominium in the Clear Lake area, where she stays when she’s home for visits with her daughter and grandchildren or visiting her parents, she said.

In all, Hadler estimated she has worked on about 12 ships, sometimes with as many as 52 crew members, she said.

“On every ship you learn something new — they all run a little differently,” Hadler said.

Picton Castle, a refitted 1928 barque ported in Novia Scotia, is one of six tall ships in Galveston this weekend for the Tall Ships Challenge.

Galveston is the first of three ports hosting the Tall Ships Challenge this month, the first tall ship series held in the Gulf of Mexico. After leaving Galveston on April 9, the ships will sail to Pensacola, Fla., from April 12-15 and then to New Orleans from April 19-22.

On Friday, thousands of people explored the ships docked along Pier 21 and Pier 22, climbing aboard mostly historic vessels and learning about a sailor’s life. For crew members, the festival is a chance to share their passion, they said.

Sara Kallvik learned about sailing in high school in Sweden. Now, she’s one of seven crew members aboard the Dutch-flagged Oosterschelde, a 1918 three-masted topsail schooner that’s traveled around the world, usually with about 20 guests or sailing trainees, she said.

Kallvik started on the ship in December with a tour to Cape Verde off the coast of Africa. It took 16 days to sail between Cape Verde and Saint Martin in the Caribbean. There’s nothing more peaceful than being in the middle of the ocean, she said.

“I love that feeling,” she said. “All the struggles or stress of daily life seems so far away.”

The ship’s crew in that time work six hours on, six hours off, she said. There’s constant work to keep them busy, said Maarten de Jong, captain of the Oosterschelde.

“In the middle of the ocean, you can’t call up a mechanic,” de Jong said. “You have to figure it out yourself.”

The Oosterschelde started sailing again in 1992 after a four-year restoration project brought it “back to its original glory,” de Jong said. The boat had at one point been used to haul 500 tons of coal. Now, the cabin of the ship has a wet bar, couches and a piano for guests to entertain themselves while at sea.

Since its restoration, the ship has traveled to the Arctic, Antarctica — and just about everywhere in between, he said. For the past four years, de Jong has been at the helm.

“Being at sea, it’s just you and the elements,” de Jong said. “You don’t have phones or much contact with the world. You’re apart from the wars breaking out or anything else going on. You’re just there and maybe worried about a cloud coming in.”

GISD offers Young Gardeners program for children


Twice a week, you can find students of Coastal Village Elementary School participating in an after-school program that’s benefiting them on campus and at home.

With the help of Galveston’s Own Farmers Market, the Young Gardeners program, coordinated by Nan Wilson, is available to children from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the school, 712 10th St.

When the program began in October 2017, Wilson and the many volunteers who help with the program were begging the children to take home the fruits of their labor, Wilson said.

“They didn’t even want to take home a small bag of lettuce,” Wilson said. “But now, they’re asking for extra bags of fresh produce every week. They also are making healthy recipes every month from the food they’ve grown.”

The program also receives help from local businesses such as Chalmers True Value Hardware, and interns from various departments from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

“The goal of this program is to reach as many children as possible — particularly those most likely to have issues with access to healthy food,” Wilson said.

Fourth-grader Maia Turner, 9, said she grew up in a family that had a garden at her grandmothers house where they would grow flowers.

“I wanted to be a part of this program because I remember working in the garden as a little girl with my grandmother and siblings,” Turner said. “This gave me an opportunity to not only do that — but with more people — that’s what makes it fun.”

Turner said the best thing she’s learned so far is how to make a rubbed kale salad. She was quick to point out, however, that gardening will be only a hobby once she’s older — not a job.

“This will just be a good hobby for me to do as I grow older,” Turner said. “By learning how to not only pick our own food from the garden, the program has also taught us how to make certain items at home to share with our families.”

The program is always seeking volunteers to work in small groups with the children participants, and also in various other duties meant to keep the young gardeners interested into developing green thumbs.

There also are community workdays once a month on Saturdays when volunteers will get an opportunity to build things, weed, make garden art and more, Wilson said.

“There is a multitude of opportunities for the community to become involved,” Wilson said. “All we ask for is a minimum eight hours per month commitment for this role. It’s a very rewarding endeavor and we hope to branch out to other schools in the near future.”

For information, visit www.galvestonsownfarm ardeners, or contact Nan Wilson at younggarden or 206-653-6326.

Feds: Buyouts of flooded houses don't justify costs


Friendswood’s request for a $12 million flood mitigation grant was rejected because city officials asked for too much money and some houses that would have been part of a voluntary buyout didn’t meet criteria, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said Friday.

The rejection and the reasons for it illuminated how frustratingly difficult it is to meet all the requirements in a program meant to remove properties and stop development in flood-prone areas, ultimately easing pressure on the National Flood Insurance Program.

The $12 million flood mitigation grant would have allowed the city to offer voluntary buyouts to owners of 44 properties that have repeatedly flooded. Under the grant, the city would buy the properties, the owners would vacate, the city would demolish the houses and no one would be allowed to build new structures on the sites.

Friendswood officials this week learned the city had been denied the grant, but didn’t know why, they said.

Seven of the 44 properties were considered severe repetitive losses, while the other 37 are considered repetitive losses, city officials said.

“The project was found to be technically feasible but not cost-effective,” FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering said. “The cost-effectiveness of the project as presented could not be verified. Therefore, it was not recommended for further consideration.”

The benefits of giving Friendswood $12 million for the buyout program didn’t justify the costs, Pickering said.

Under the program, a property’s purchase must be what the feds call “cost beneficial,” meaning acquiring and demolishing the property is less than the cost of the estimated future flood damages to the property.

City officials weren’t given an official reason about the application’s rejection Monday, but Assistant City Manager Morad Kabiri speculated they had asked for too much from a program for which only $90 million was available nationwide, he said.

Although FEMA funds buyout programs, they’re administered by the state through the Texas Division of Emergency Management, FEMA officials said.

Friendswood, where some neighborhoods were badly flooded during Hurricane Harvey, in November filed an application with the Texas Water Development Board for the grant.

Not only did Friendswood ask for too much money, some of the houses the city hoped to include in the program failed to meet certain guidelines, despite being repetitive losses, said Kathy Hopkins, a spokeswoman for the Texas Development Water Board.

“Three of those structures were not located in a special flood hazard area,” she said.

It’s frustrating that all structures have to meet specific requirements, Councilman Steve Rockey said.

“I don’t see the argument of we have to do all the properties or none,” he said.

Friendswood officials estimate the damage from Harvey to be near $82.7 million citywide.

Friendswood officials report that Harvey flooded or damaged 2,711 houses to varying degrees. Of those homes, 2,410 were single-family residences while 301 were in multifamily units, city officials said.

On Monday, city council members approved the hiring of Jeffery Ward, a consultant who will help the city with drainage improvement projects and with seeking assistance through state and local programs, city officials said.

The city of Friendswood is looking at other programs that might provide buyouts, but the grant’s rejection is upsetting, Rockey said.

“It’s disappointing and I think it’s not fair,” he said.

The city will not give up on getting a buyout approved for the 44 properties, Councilman Jim Hill said.

“We will pursue any option available,” he said. “It seems like the paperwork is more intense. It’s been a struggle.”

County Republicans reach peace accord

Feuding members of the Galveston County Republican Party agreed Friday to cease legal hostilities — provided none of the factions renew the fight before the Texas Republican Convention in June.

After a court hearing of more than four hours, most of which was heard behind closed doors, county party Chairman Carl Gustafson and eight precinct chairs signed an agreement that tentatively ended a brew-up over control of party functions.

The settlement, known as a Rule 11 agreement, requires the party’s leadership to act under bylaws in place on Nov. 29, 2017, the day before a group of precinct chairs moved to change party rules and take some administrative powers from Gustafson.

Dissident precinct chairs, who had formed a steering committee, said they were dissatisfied with Gustafson’s leadership, particularly his planning of party functions such as conventions, and his communication with the county executive committee, which is made up of precinct chairs.

The steering committee in November voted to change party bylaws to give it the power to prepare the party’s annual budget, appoint officers and subcommittee members and set the executive committee agenda.

Gustafson refused to recognize the bylaw changes, which led to a power struggle with the steering committee.

Committee members in December tried to access a party account at Galveston’s Moody Bank. The bank, citing confusion about who was legally allowed to access party funds, in February sued the county party, asking the court to intervene.

Gustafson in March added his own complaints to the bank’s lawsuit, and convinced visiting Judge Lisa Burkhalter to issue restraining orders against members of the steering committee, which prevented them from acting on behalf of the party.

Friday’s agreement forbids the steering committee from attempting to change the “banking relationship” with Moody Bank, and names David Smith, a former Friendswood mayor, as treasurer until the county party holds its biennial organizational meeting, which is scheduled for later this year.

Burkhalter didn’t rule on whether the November bylaw change was legal.

All of the parties agreed to drop their legal claims if the agreement holds until July 16.

Attorneys who worked out Friday’s agreement said it doesn’t resolve the internal party rift, but allows county Republicans to work out their issues through normal party procedures, instead of inside a court room.

“Everybody agreed to enter into an agreement that neutralizes the prior problems and, hopefully, gives the party a chance to get back on track,” said Tom Dickens, who represented five of the precinct chairs during the hearing.

Attorney Alton Todd, who represented Gustafson, said that while the agreement was struck without the court’s direction, a violation would have legal consequences.

“If no one complies, it’s subject to contempt,” Todd said. “Everybody is kind of standing down and letting the process work.”

Todd said he thought the party’s issues would be resolved after the organizational meeting later this year — when some new precinct chairs will be sworn in. At the same meeting, the county party will vote on whether to change the bylaws, which will give Gustafson’s critics another chance to change the structure of the party.

“I have a feeling that whatever ills may exist will be taken care of,” Todd said.

The parties all agreed to cover their own legal costs.

Gustafson, who won re-election in March, declined to comment after Friday’s hearing.

Carl Gustafson