Wednesday, April 6, 2011


As I've written before, I was fortunate growing up to have a friend whose dad was into yacht racing and had a 27 foot Catalina at a Yacht Club on East Galveston Bay, as well as several Sunfish sailboats. I spent many days and nights aboard that boat and others sailing and spending star filled nights on the water. Back then, East Galveston Bay around Shore Acres didn't stink like it seems to now. I could still catch specks and reds on most days from the seawall that surrounded the Yacht harbor, and many days the East Bay water was that clear, green color that one often has to move quite a ways south of the Galveston Bay Complex to encounter.

I'm very poor as a sailing captain of any kind of large craft, but I used to do fairly well with the Sunfish. Except for that one time I pitched Billy Ray into Clear Lake headfirst and stuck the mast of the rental boat about two feet into the black petrochemical-looking muck that lay on the bottom of Clear Lake some 27 years ago.

But I really like the interior and exterior layout of the sailboats in the twenty foot range, and I'm most familiar with the 25' and 27' Catalinas and Hunters. There is a lot of interior room on these boats, complete with head and range and fridge.  The last one of these boats I crewed on had a Honda generator that was mounted into a cutout on the back of the boat and let me tell you that having the juice to power a small window unit makes all the difference during a Texas summer when it comes to boat sleeping and camping.

I call it camping because it is like camping, albeit more akin to trailer/rv camping then roiling in the dirt tent camping. With a sailboat in the bay, you simply find a quiet cove or spot out of the channels and lanes of traffic and display some lights so that no one inadvertantly hits you. We'd often be out near, but not close to, the Intercoastal Canal or the Houston Ship Channel. You could see a million stars.

I had a great time fishing at these anchorages and have written of the benefits of having a compact travel rod that would stow in my personal duffle when not in use. Back then, the only travel rod made and sold in Texas was the Zebco travel rod, and I replaced the Zebco 33 with a Abu Garcia 290 for saltwater bay fishing.

So it's been 20 years since I've done any crewing on a sailboat, the last one being a Catalina 25, just a slightly scaled down but otherwise identical version of the Catalina 27 I spent 10 years sailing on. As I said, the Catalina 25 had an AC and a generator as well as a hang-over-the-side-BBQ-Pit and a lot of interior room.

So the idea occurred to me that this would be an ideal inexpensive cabin for El Fisho Jr. and I, and of course, Mrs. El Fisho if she would join us. She doesn't care much for tent camping, but will do RV and trailer camping, so it's an idea.

I've seen screaming deals on supposedly seaworthy boats in the 25' and 27' range. I saw one recently sell for a little over $3k with a new ac, outboard motor, generator, sails, etc.

My idea is not to embark on a life of sailing, although I wouldn't be above occasionally flying a jib (rather than the main) and doing a little sailing. No, I'm El Fishing Musician. I want to fish, and play some guitar and relax with the waves 'neath the bow and the wind playing chimes on the sail ropes and mast cables.

My idea of an affordable weekend getaway would be a nice 27' boat moored at a marina at a constant level lake (Canyon comes to mind readily) with as big as an outboard motor as could be fitted to the boat with a steering wheel and throttle installed in the cockpit.

So you say, but El Fisho, why not get a cuddy cabin boat, a real motor boat, if you want to motor around?

And I can answer that question. First, you need a lot smaller, and thus, lot less expensive motor to move a 27' sailboat vs. a like-sized powerboat. The sailboat won't move near as fast as the motor boat, but it'll go plenty fast for finding a quiet cove to weigh anchor in and do some fishing and relaxing.

I envision something looking more like a trawler in the far east than a sailboat. They make a shade system for large sailboats that involves draping a canopy over the boom and then using ropes and the boats winches to hold it tight. It makes for a nice shady cockpit area while on the water, and I envision an extended one built onto some sort of carbon fiber tube rack that would also support a 10' lightweight foam dingy or several kayaks for excursion travel.

I don't know what slip rates are nowadays. I suspect they are a lot more than I think they are, but I'm going to do some checking. Another alternative is keeping the boat dry stored at a marina. The procedure is that you call before you go down there and when you get there they have taken the crane and picked up your boat and it's in the water dockside awaiting your arrival. Theoretically.

I've also seen some ads on craigslist lately with folks looking to rent out their houseboats and sailboats. This would be a good way to check out this unique kind of camping, and if you're like me, it's the only kind of camping that the Mrs. and I may likely agree on.

I don't mind trailer or RV camping in a secluded locale, but I abhor RV and trailer parks. It's just too much like real life, like living in a subdivision or apartment, and I'll take an RV on the beach over a five-star RV park any day of the week.

The water has always been calming to me. With a reasonably priced used but seaworthy boat, in a nice freshwater lake with a fish population within a reasonable weekend driving distance, it'd be a nice weekend getaway for a fairly affordable amount.

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