FROM: Gene Gruender

Rainbow Chaser set sail

We finally got Rainbow Chaser in a shape to leave the dock. Not finished, mind you, just in a shape where it was safe to leave.

We left Rockport, Texas on Sunday morning heading east on the Intracoastal Waterway. It's a long way to the Bahamas this way, but at least we're going in the right direction.

We've spent 2 days dodging barges and watching the depth sounder. So far, we haven't run aground, and for us, that is saying something.

Getting ready to leave was quite a feat in itself. We've spent from September until mid Janurary working on our house in Missouri. I was trying to get all the exterior walls sealed up, but the weather just got too nasty. I was working on scaffolding that was covered in ice and snow, trying to carry materials up about 15 feet without slipping off. The air was around zero, windchill sometimes 20 below. In the end, it was just time to say uncle and head south. it was probably fitting that to leave I had to chip frozen gravel loose to throw under the tires to get the darn car to move.

Once we got to Rainbow Chaser we had some repairs and preperations to do. I've built an arch to hold the 4 solar panels we are taking this time, as well as the wind generator. It was more or less finished, but needed backing inside the boat to bolt it to so that the first strong wind wouldn't rip it right out of the boat. Building the backing involved hanging upside down and fiberglassing some layers of material in the underside of the decks where it bolted on. On my second day of doing this, the head (toilet, for you landlubbers) packed it up. I knew I'd have to rebuild it, I just thought it would be at my convenience. With 3 of us living on the boat, it couldn't wait.

Unfortunately, it was full of ... well, it was nasty when it quit. I couldn't pump the nasty stuff out, and that is a heck of a way to work on a head.

I remembered a trick someone had posted on a boating email list sometime ago. You take a tennis ball, force it into the head when it's supposed to be the pump - out stroke. The ball replaces the faulty valve, and you can get the nasty stuff out that way, then flush some clean water through to make the job much better. Since it's working on a toilet, maybe I should say, not as bad, as anything to do with a toilet can't be better.

Since I don't carry tennis balls on Rainbow Chaser, I had to run to the store to buy some. On the way to the store, the darn car had a flat. So, I found myself waiting on a tire repair, so I could get a tennis ball, so I could pump out the head, so I could rebuild a head, so I could get back to the nasty job of hanging upside down to fiberglass. Damn, being a lazy boat bum is a lot of work!

As I write this, we're anchored in the Colorado River, just below the locks on the Intracoastal waterway. We've had to seal the boat real well, as the mosquitos are pretty aggressive. Zack is running around the cabin smashing them. I hope he gets them all.

We're traveling with another couple who are on their boat, a Gulfstar 40. They haven't been offshore and we're waiting for a decent weather window to introduce them to that fun. Until then, we'll be following this narrow ditch and dodging barges.

Gene Gruender
Rainbow Chaser
Hanging on the hook in the Colorado River

Well, well. We tried to send email in Freeport but it just wouldn't go. The marina had a business phone system by Sprint, couldn't hook the modem up there. Tried some time to use the accoustical coupler on a couple of pay phones, but for reasons I haven't figured out, the pay phone would go back to a dial tone just as the login with CompuServe was completing.

Today was another long day of sailing and motoring down the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). we made about 50 or so miles with only a few brief periods of extreme excitement. The first came as we left the Colorado River. As I mentioned, we anchored downstream of the ICW in the Colorado River. At either side of the Colorado is a set of locks. If the river is high from rainwater upstream, they use the locks to keep the river from flowing into the ICW. As there is no flooding now, we didn't have to get lowered or raised by the locks, but still had to pass through them. Going back upstream, we made a right turn into the ICW, then passed through the lock. Just beyond the lock, there is a floating bridge that will swing back to the bank for boat traffic. They opened it just at the right time and we passed through it. The next obstacle was a dredge, a large floating barge with a huge pump on it. It sucks mud and rocks from the bottom, pumping the mess through a pipe which snakes around on floats and eventually goes to the shore, then on inland a bit. We passed with a bit of room to spare, but our neighbors behind us found it floating pretty fast towards shore. It kept crowding them and they kept getting closer to shore. They just did make it by with about a foot to spare on each side.

Later, about 20 miles down the way, I saw a big towboat coming with two long barges. I got far to the right, leaving him plenty of room. There wasn't any need to arrange the passing on the radio, as it was clear which side he wanted. About the time I cleared his stern, I heard him come on the radio, very loud in his Cajun accent, saying "Little sailboat, you betta get outta dat channel, or I gonna run right over you!" I looked back to see our friends sailing right for the front of the barge. It was close enough that I was pretty nervous about the whole deal. They didn't seem to be doing much to get out of the way. A sailboat going 6 knots or so, running into a 500,000 lb. boat is going to be pretty onesided, so I hollared on the radio "Ron, start your motor and get to the side of the channel!".

Pretty soon, they got over enough to miss as the barge captain was racing his motors in reverse and steering to the other side. After they passed, the barge captain came on the radio again and said, "Cap, (anyone running a boat here is a "Cap", for captain) you betta stay outta dat middle, or sombody is gonna run right ova you."

Later, I heard the rest of the story. Ron had gone downstairs to the head (remember heads?). While he was there, Bobbie called down and said, "Ron, you better get up here quick!". He saw that there was a problem and got the boat turned to the side of the channel, missing by a bigger margin by his accounting that it looked like from my viewpoint. In addition, their radio battery had just gone dead and they didn't even get to hear the Cajun's advice as he went by. Ron said the Cajun Cap did come out of his cabin to yell some things to him as he passed. He couldn't hear them but assumed they weren't real nice. I expect that whatever the Capt. was right.

So, by now we've stopped for fuel, which we really didn't need. What we really wanted was a modem connection. We did buy a bit of fuel, but since it was 40 cents higher than I paid a few miles back, we didn't buy much. And I probably wouldn't have bought much anyway, if I'd known that I could easily put 11 gallons in my 2-5 gallon cans with lots of room to spare. (Who checks those pumps, anyway??)

We've pulled into an old ditch that was part of the ICW many years ago, dropped two anchors each, closed up the boat quickly and started smashing mosquitos again. Tonight Zach had help.

Tomorrow it'll be Galveston, and I'll find a phone connection of some sort.

Gene Gruender
Rainbow Chaser
Hanging on the hook in 30K cut.