First Ann, then Joanna passed us — exciting. Sitting in a small 30-foot sailboat in the Houston Ship Channel when Joanna’s — a container ship, 1,105-feet long, beam of 150-foot — wake created an 8-feet wave which plowed our sailboat’s bow into the sea. I think the right word is exciting. For some people it might be scary. For the four of us this was bay sailing at its best.

I had emailed Capt. Mike Janota about Schooner Sunday at the Sea Star Base. He replied the racing boat needed to be ferried back from the Houston Yacht Club.

So, in the cold spring morning we began to rig Lift Off, me pushing sails up through the hatch while Dick Gray, Mike Camm, and Capt. Matt Coulson completed the technical tasks necessary to set the sails. Within minutes we were ready to cast off lines.

Moving onto the dock to untie the ropes I wondered how I was going to get back on as there was a strong wind blowing the boat out into open water. These experienced sailors knew the trick. They pulled the boat up against the dock; I stepped over the safety cable, they released the line and off we went.

We shot out in the choppy north Galveston Bay with a 20 knot wind pushing us not always where we wanted to go. No other sailboats. Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen, in our case Mike from the United Kingdom.

After two gybes’, one where I got my shoulder blocked while ducking (sailors know what that is — stupid and painful — Lydia help), we were in the Houston channel. Which was a good thing. Most of Galveston Bay is very shallow and we had a keel.

The deep channel is where we needed to be, until Ann and Joanna came by. Then we surfed the waves 10 knots — fast. You had better hang on to something solid.

Behind the Texas City Dike the wind dropped and the sea smoothed out. Dick asked, “Alvin want to take a turn?”

My first time on a tiller. It’s confusing. The way you pull the tiller is the opposite way the boat goes.

Running straight, staying to the right up the shallow channel, as per Capt. Matt’s instructions, I was closely listening to Dick’s story about how his Dad’s beautiful wood sloop almost ran aground.

Lift Off quickly but smoothly slammed on its brakes. Actually, the keel went into the sand 5-feet below us. Not to worry, the sail was tightened the tiller pulled over and in less than a minute, which seemed like an hour to me, we slid back into the channel.

“That’s strange you were right on the edge, but the tide is low,” Dick commented.

We glided under Interstate 45. No traffic jam down here just another memorable day on the bay.

If you would like an enjoyable sailing experience or a wild ride, visit Another Galveston treasure.

Alvin Sallee lives in Galveston.


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