What a fun 4th of July Cruise to Oak Island! Within this report is a link to my flicker site where there are many photographs (both by myself and 3 other cruise participants) that visually document the entire weekend.
Enjoy your reading and viewing! Philip Kropf, Cruise Leader
In mid-May I posted on the TMCA website information about a 4th of July Cruise to Oak Island for a brand-new event that was being planned for that location. Various local organizations who were trying to involve all the residents of Chambers County in something that would be lots of fun, and also raise some money for community projects and for also for some local vendors. They were calling it “Double Bayou Bash” (http://chamberswild.com/july-4th- double-bayou-bash/) and the website description said: “ChaRT, ChambersWild and area partners are bringing you an Independence Day festival for everyone to celebrate the “wild Side” of our beautiful county – the scenery, the food, music, the market place, the culture and of course – nature at its best.”
I had been talking to Jacque White, one of the organizers of this event, and a new Chambers County friend, since early April when I first heard about this “bash”, and so I wrote on our website: “TMCA always has summer holiday weekend cruises for Memorial Day and Labor Day, but since it is not always of a 3-day weekend, rarely do we have a 4th of July Cruise. But this year will be the exception, with now a great cruise being planned to celebrate our nation’s 238th birthday in small-town America grand style!!!”
After writing my calendar piece I reserved the entire Job Beason Marina for three nights, thinking that, as happens almost any time we go to Beason, that all slips would quickly be taken! I was well aware of course that the 4th is in the torrid heat of Texas summer, but since we have had other well-attended cruises to Beason in July and August, I was expecting lots of interest! The electricity to power those boat a/c’s of ours is abundant, there is plenty of shade under the pavilion, and there even places in town to go have a good meal!
Sign-ups began to trickle in, but then a couple of weeks into the process someone floated an idea on yahoogroups for an “Impromptu Cruise” to someplace called Harborwalk, a destination with a pool, a tiki bar, a fancy restaurant, and lots of mosquitoes! Of course he did not mention the mosquitoes, and so people started signing up in droves! I did my best to good-naturedly try to persuade folks that Oak Island had much more going for it, but the pool and the tiki bar and Floyd’s kind of won out, and so many people who I know (from photos that I have taken on past
cruises...) have cruised over to Beason in the summertime, and seemed to have had a very good time while there, this time opted for the expensive cushy destination instead!
Anyhow, there was a great deal on “interest” in my cruise, with well over 300 calendar hits during the sign-up period, but in the end a total of only 7 TMCA boats signed up for the Oak Island Cruise, two of which were newbies to this destination. The participants were:
1. s/v Silhouette, Philip Kropf
2. m/v Ondine, Bruce & Norma Kennedy
3. m/v Almost Paradise .5, Jim & Doris Lee
4. m/v Sand Dollar, Steve & Jeannie Keith
5. s/v Wave Dancer, Richard & Trudy Bird
6. m/v Spirit, Russ & Carol Burchfield
7. m/v Yellow Rose II, Kevin & Edie Williams and family
And so, here is the great saga of the weekend........
I am not normally a morning person at all, and yet wanting to arrive at Oak Island in plenty of time to get tied up and plugged in before the Friday noontime start of the parade of assorted decorated land vehicles, s/v Silhouette was underway from Portofino at 6:30am!!! Heading out into the bay it was quickly evident that the predicted 5-10kt light winds were more like 15kts or greater, and of course they were on the nose! So at least the first half of the trip over was a bit lumpy and wet, but it was still nice to be out on the water at this early hour!
Spirit and Ondine had made the trip over on Thursday, and Almost Paradise had zoomed on past me while crossing Trinity Bay, and so I knew that there would be line handlers when I arrived. As I approached the DB #2 marker about 9:30, listening on the VHF radio I heard TMCA boats heading out to Harborwalk who were just then departing Kemah, one of whom (a certain Past Commodore!) had originally signed up for Oak Island, but then he had backed out in favor of the tiki bar thing! They all had a long ride ahead of them!
Upon arrival I found that Jim and Doris already had their nifty shade shelter set up, and tiki torches (the first part of creating a tiki bar!) were set in place around the Walmart swimming pool that Jim was filling with a garden hose! By the way, there are of course copious photos to document both this scene, and also the entire weekend, and they are available by going to an album on my flickr site at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/15251435@N08/sets/72157645903375542/
Since earlier in the week Dr. Ron S (a Harborwalker) had thrown down the gauntlet by proposing a “Photo Contest” to “decide which was the best venue”, I certainly was going to make sure that I had plenty of images to show upon my return!
Noontime was approaching and the decorated vehicle parade would soon be starting from over by the Hurricane Restaurant. Vicki Dearman, one of TMCA’s Oak Island friends, had recruited us to be the judges for the parade, and having participated in that capacity with HYC over the
past four years in the judging of Oak Island Easter Parades, I was geared up to do it again! But then I got a VHF call from Yellow Rose II who had been coming in the DB channel and yes..., they were hard aground!!! This was the first trip to Double Bayou for Kevin and Edie, and in a new boat at that! And even though I had had several conversations with Edie in the week or so prior to the cruise, and had sent her various files showing routes and waypoints, and also various photos of the DB entrance area, somehow they managed to get planted well out of the channel on the green side just beyond #11 and 12!
I had brought my dinghy to Oak Island, but had not yet attached the motor, and so Russ (Spirit) and I jumped into his dinghy and headed on out to see what we could do! Yellow Rose’s props were dug into the hard mud bottom at that location, and their fly-by-wire gear shifting system was shutting the engines down as soon as the transmissions were engaged, and so it was difficult to get the boat moving at all! Russ was able to make some progress by going to manual-override mode down in the engine room, and I was pushing tugboat-style as hard as I could with the dinghy, but the frustrations were mounting!! A passing crewboat was kind enough to take a towline, but even he had to give up when one of his engines started to overheat! Almost Paradise had come out to see what he could do, but if the crewboat couldn’t budge things, there was no way that Jim was going to, and so I sent him back!!! At least the tide was incoming, and after awhile, with lots of effort on everyone’s part, she broke free and Russ (still onboard) guided Kevin safely in to Beason. It is one thing for a TMCA DB veteran to run aground, but I always hate to see a “newbie” do it, especially on a cruise that I am leading! I figured that, besides this being their first DB cruise, that it might also be their last! But later on (with cold beverages in hand!) captain and crew seemed quite philosophical about the mishap, and so all was well aboard Yellow Rose II.
Russ and I had of course missed the vehicle parade judging, but there were plenty of other TMCAers to perform that fun task, and I guess it all went quite well! Many photos of this event, taken by Richard and Trudy (Wave Dancer), are part of the flickr album referenced above. (Note: Giving both of them full credit for their photos that are now in my posted album, all images with a “rb” suffix after the file name were taken by Richard, and all images with a “tb” suffix after the file name were taken by Trudy.)
After cooling down in now the air-conditioned comfort of Silhouette, and having had a bit of lunch, I started to make the rounds of the various vendor booths that were now open for business in the grassy areas around the pavilion. Again, as the reader of this report will see by going to the flickr album, there was a little bit of everything! I was told the next day that the organizers of the “DB Bash” were quite pleased (this being the first year for this event) with the number of vendors who had signed up, and the fact that most of them also did quite well financially!
It was fun to go from booth to booth and visit with the locals and see what they had to sell. There were “DB Bash” shirts for sale, as well as other clothing items, and the person with the plants I think sold them all! At the Shaved Ice stand I have never seen as many flavors available at any such stand in my life! And at the Watermelon Stand I have not seen such good-looking watermelon since a famous watermelon event over at Spoonbill RV Park (Smith Point) several years ago that some of you readers might remember!! At the Twisted Taters stand I was intrigued about how they turned nice-looking spuds into even better-looking twisted taters, and although
the aroma of the final result was very tempting, I managed to resist partaking on several passes of this stand. (Full disclosure: I succumbed later in the afternoon when hunger finally got the best of me!)
Kids were certainly having great fun at the dunking booth, and what was nice was to see several “God Bless America” signs (and some just saying “God Bless”) at the booths, and I know also in the vehicle parade, and later in the decorated boat parade. Mark Pagels, Pastor of the Community Christian Fellowship Church in Oak Island, and whom I have known for several years now, always plays a big role in these Oak Island special events, and he did so again this time. He is also it seems quite a country dancer, and there is a photo (IMG_0199) included to prove that! There were by the way, two bands featured during the afternoon and evening. One was a Cajun band called Jason Delon and Cajun Blend out of Abbeville, LA (check them out on youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA0psBQATGY ), and the other was a band called Eazy the Band (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eazy-the-Band/182617441766471 and https://myspace.com/eazytheband/music/songs) from out of the Beaumont area. And if we have another Spring Fling in Port Arthur I definitely think Eazy should be considered as the featured band! Great sound, and very danceable..., and would also be great for the Commodore’s Ball!
We did get a bit of a shower in the afternoon as I was touring another area of the site containing the kid’s petting zoo, a face-painting area, and two inflatable structures, one the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and the other a slide. The small kids were having lots of fun with all of this, and again it all made for a great environment for Chambers County families to be out there celebrating Independence Day!
Since Silhouette was docked right next to the TMCA swimming pool and the surrounding tiki torches, each time that I would go back to the boat during the afternoon to replenish my adult beverage I considered as just a trip to the “Job Beason Tiki Bar”! My rum & coke drinks were cold and refreshing, and the very affordable price had it all over anything that I would have been purchasing at Harborwalk!!!
On one of these trips back to the marina area I noticed that Sand Dollar had finally made it in! I had not heard from them all day and I figured that maybe they had decided not to do the trip. Come to find out however that they too, on only their second voyage on this boat, and on their first trip to Double Bayou, had also found the bottom in the very same area on the green side of the channel where Yellow Rose II had earlier run aground. And..., that was not their only mishap of the day!! They had been assigned to slip #5, and although I was not there to see it, there is photographic evidence (thanks to Russ) of what happened when they came into the slip just a bit too hot!
The official start of the evening events occurred about 5:15pm with a brief presentation of the colors ceremony, followed by the singing of the National Anthem led by a local young lady very patriotically attired in American flag-themed shorts, and then a prayer offered by Pastor Pagels! Shortly thereafter began the decorated boat parade. The event organizers were quite pleased to have the number of entries that they got, with all of them being local boats except for the Lee’s Almost Paradise! Jim had decided to enter so that TMCA would be officially represented, and he and Doris had done a very fine job of decorating the boat, and even having patriotic music
ready to play during the parade! Boats started moving out a bit before 5:30 and assembling down in the area near the Oak Island store fuel dock. ($3.29/gal for diesel btw!!!) Once the earlier afternoon shower had passed things had cleared up a bit, but now off to the east things were brewing again, this time with very dark clouds and lightning! There was quite a variety of boats entered, with both boats and crews very patriotically decked out! Thankfully the storm skirted by us just enough off to the north to cause no harm, and this important part of the day’s scheduled events had come off without a hitch!
I spent the next hour or so up at the pavilion, listening to the Cajun Blend, and watching the locals party. I was taking photos of course, and it was great to see people, young and old alike, dancing and having a very good time! The serious part of the passing storm had missed us, but it did now start to rain lightly, and it continued to do so until it was almost time for the fireworks. But no one seemed to mind very much, and there were even people sitting in chairs up at the top of the hill, shielded by umbrellas, taking it all in! It was during this period of time that I consumed my Twisted Tater, and also a cold drink in hand, all was well as the early evening progressed.
In my previous trip to the “Tiki Bar” I had noticed others gathered on their boats, visiting and watching the splashing raindrops form hundreds of concentric circles on the calm waters of the bayou! So after some time of watching the partying, and even though I was not particularly hungry, I began to wonder what folks might be planning for dinner. I wandered over to Ondine where there seemed to good crowd gathered and was welcomed aboard. Some folks did seem to be thinking about food, and as we made some jokes about other TMCAers probably right then consuming fancy expensive dinners at Floyd’s, we decided to go the tried-and-true TMCA ad- hoc dish-to share route! There were more jokes about just nuking some weenies, but Bruce argued that we could do much better than that and actually grill them right there on deck, and the rest of us would go and bring whatever other victuals that we had onboard and could share. And so Bruce grilled the weenies to perfection, and we proceeded to have quite a feast, still continuing to make jokes about Floyd’s!!!
The rain finally stopped and by now Eazy had been playing for awhile. I walked back up to the pavilion area to watch people now dancing and partying with patriotic fervor! Darkness had descended on the scene and it would not be long until the start of the fireworks show. The fireworks barge was located right at the intersection of the East Fork with the main part of the bayou, and so we all knew that we were going to have superb front-row seats! Catherine Williams, another one of my Chambers County contacts, and one of the organizers of the day’s events, had told me that the crew that would be shooting off the shells had volunteered their time for this event, and so every dollar in the fireworks budget was being spent on the ordinance itself. It promised to be a great show!!!
And so the show began right around 9:30 or so. As with most 4th of July fireworks shows these days, the pyrotechnics were coordinated with a musical medley broadcast over large speakers in the pavilion area, and a really great job was done with that! I was able to capture some of the images as the shells burst overhead, but of course no photograph can do justice to a good fireworks show. You just had to be there! And whatever was happening off the Kemah coastline
20 miles away with Tillman’s fireworks, they had nothing on this pyrotechnic extravaganza in Oak Island!!!
We were all so close that we could see the workers scrambling across the deck of the barge as they went about their work, after the show had been going on for awhile, one pair of shells apparently misfired and shot out horizontally in two different directions (and luckily not toward us spectators!). There was somewhat of a pause after that, and then more bursts went up vertically where they were of course supposed to go! This went on for quite a few minutes more, and then we got to what everyone thought was the end. However..., it turned out that it was not the end! Apparently their electronic firing system had gone awry, but with lots of live shells still unfired on deck, after a pause of a few minutes the show continued with the workers firing off the rest of the shells, lighting shell fuses manually the old-fashioned way! In any case, due to this stop and restart in the program, I am not really quite sure what the total show duration was, but everyone appeared to love it all and I think that the “DB Bash” organizers really got their money’s worth!!!
After the fireworks, Eazy went back to playing, and a great many of the locals went back to dancing and partying! And they did so right up until the band quit at 11:00pm! In the almost 12 hours between the start of the decorated vehicle parade at noon and Eazy’s last song of the night, it had been a long day, and a wonderful one at that!! The “Double Bayou Bash” organizers have a lot to be proud of in pulling this all together, and I am pretty sure that “Double Bayou Bash 2015” is going to be even bigger and better!
The morning dawned brightly, and with the promise of more Texas heat! With the intermittent light rains, and threats of more serious storminess, the Friday heat had not really been that bad at all, and so now we would see what the new day would bring! As I joined other TMCA’ers already ashore and nursing their morning coffee, there were also several of the event organizers present supervising site clean-up, including the taking down of the orange plastic fence that kept some of the Friday crowds from overwhelming the immediate marina area. The fence had been erected on Friday morning by some young guys wearing blue coveralls with “CCSO” (Chambers County Sheriff’s Office) and “Inmate” stenciled on the back, and now they were back to take it all down. They made pretty short work of it, and Doris made sure to remind them several times that once they got out of confinement not to do anything to get themselves back there! They all seemed to think that that was very good advice!
As part of my “4th of July Cruise to Oak Island” weekend cruise planning, my plan for Saturday was there would really be no organized plans at all! Everyone was on their own to do whatever they liked! And by late morning everyone seemed to be doing a pretty darn good job of doing just that! But as noontime approached an ad hoc plan was conceived by some to head on over to Marker 17 for lunch. And so we did, with everyone walking the overgrown path between Beason and Marker 17, except for myself who boated on over aboard dinghy “Sil-o-wet”.
Lunch was great, and near the end of our meal we saw Sand Dollar passing by heading westbound and about to run the DB shoals on their own! We all watched apprehensively as they
approached that part of the channel near markers 11/12 where they had run aground on Friday, but this time they were successful in getting through unscathed! Afterwards, as everyone walked back to the marina, I headed out into the bay and then up the Oak Island coastline looking at some of the new waterfront homes that have sprouted up since the devastation of IKE over all of Oak Island. The passage of almost six years has greatly transformed this community from almost complete destruction to now a town having a great rebirth and the ability to mount events like what we had seen on Friday!
As I eventually headed back to the marina another big t-storm was brewing off to the north, but again it looked like it would slide on by and miss us. And the various TMCA crews were now relaxing, or taking naps, or whatever. Carol of m/v Spirit had their pedal-equipped kayak out on the bayou near its mouth to do some sight-seeing and also some fishing, and in fact there had been lots of fishing going on from the sterns of TMCA boats all weekend! Not much was caught..., mostly it was a matter of keeping baits and lures wet! Even when Almost Paradise and Spirit had rigged very bright fishing lights late on Friday night, mostly it just made for very dramatic lighting and shadow effects in the foliage across the bayou and produced no fish at all!
By early afternoon Jim was dismantling the shade structure, taking down the tiki torches, and letting the water out of the swimming pool in preparation for Almost Paradise’s departure later on. Russ (Spirit) did get a couple of great photos of TMCA’ers standing in the pool before it was drained, and also two more images of “evidence” of what happened to the bulkhead at “Slip No. 5” as a result of Sand Dollar’s docking on Friday. Almost Paradise did depart shortly before 4pm in order to get back home for another obligation, and this departure was just ahead of yet another threatening-looking storm which we were not quite sure where it was going! (Jim did call later and said that they had made it back to San Leon with no problems.)
Having gone to the trouble to tow “Sil-o-wet” all the way to Oak Island, and not having had my fill of DB exploration for the day, I decided to take another little tour before it would be time to put her up for the return home on Sunday. I had only once previously traveled very far up the West Fork, and so it was in that direction I decided to go. The first mile or so is very industrial with both Peninsula Marine and also a scrap steel operation well established on the north bank, but once past that area the bayou becomes as pristine as is most of the East Fork, with a few houses also mixed into the wilderness. “Houses” in this case is perhaps a term that requires some clarification! Some houses are quite nice, but other structures are not much more than run-down shacks, or maybe a beat-up old mobile home with a fishing boat tied up to a rickety old dock! But it is all very picturesque, and I love taking photos of this scenery!
Since I was not accompanied by any other boats, in case of a breakdown I did not dare to venture any further than the Eagle Road bridge that crosses the bayou about 2 1⁄2 miles from Beason. Returning to the marina, shortly thereafter, while resting a bit aboard Silhouette, a knock on the cabin revealed a delegation of TMCA’ers on their way to the Oak Island Market for ice cream! This great little store which has all kinds of unexpected things stocked within its walls, now has its own little Baskin Robbins-type ice cream bar! (There’s certainly nothing like it at Harborwalk!!!) The choices are pretty good, and like for diesel fuel, the prices are right! A double scoop in cup was wonderful, but it did have the effect of making both myself, and probably others, hardly ready for dinner!
I next visited Yellow Rose II for awhile visiting with Kevin and Edie, watching more “fishing” efforts, and just enjoying the early evening ambience of Double Bayou. All weekend the usual number of crewboats, tows pushing work barges, etc. motored by us as they came and went between the commercial berths at Peninsula Marine and their work sites out in Galveston Bay. Especially on Friday all the crews seemed to be in great holiday spirits and all waved as they glided by! This continued on Saturday, and in fact never stops as some of this work activity goes on 24/7365! Also passing by of course were local fishermen and other locals just out for boat rides, and most are respectful and slow down when there are boats in the marina.
Ondine was berthed on the other side of the finger pier from Yellow Rose II, and like the previous evening, the Ondine seemed to be the focus point as other crews gathered, always with their cold beverages, and began to wonder about actually eating something! Since they had not gone to lunch at Marker 17, Kevin and Edie and their crew had decided that they would walk down there for dinner. Not being sure of how to actually get there on foot, Norma (Ondine) volunteered to lead them there. They were admonished to bring flashlights for the return trip, and also of course mosquito spray, and so off they all went! The crew of Wave Dancer had decided to have their dinner onboard their own vessel, but when the crew of Spirit showed up at Ondine’s finger pier, those two crews and myself decided to forgo a real dinner in favor of snackies-on-the dock! Dusk had descended and the always-present threat of mosquitoes caused us all to get liberally sprayed up, but after that it was a pleasant way to spend the early evening in a very scenic location! As “planned”, Saturday had been a very laid-back day, and another fun one indeed!!
Since there were predictions for more possibly strong t-storms for Sunday afternoon, the consensus amongst all the crews was that an early departure from Beason was warranted! I awoke at 6:00am, and sticking my camera out of the companionway I took a nice photo of the sun rising over the Double Bayou’s West Fork. And by the time 7:00am rolled around, Wave Dancer, and then Spirit, and then Yellow Rose II had all departed. So by the time that Silhouette pulled out of her slip at 7:15, the only TMCA boat left at Beason was Ondine!
I always like taking photos as I head out of Oak Island and into Trinity Bay, particularly of the various water birds always nesting on the spit of sand adjacent to where some poor recreational vessels come to grief as they navigate the narrow adjacent channel. The birds appear to have not a care in the world, and their presence always reminds me of the continuity of nature..., the wind, and the water, and her wildlife!
The journey across the bay was uneventful, at least until the end! There was very little wind, and wanting to get off the water before the outbreak of any t-storms, I did not even try to sail! Spirit and Silhouette arrived at the North Boater Cut at about the same time, and at the ship channel we both had to wait for an inbound tow to pass. Then through the NBC and on the homestretch to marker #2, off to the southwest a storm is clearly brewing! About a mile or so from the marker some rain started to splash on Silhouette’s deck, and since it was really looking pretty ominous over the Kemah Boardwalk, I elected to hold off going in and wait to see which direction this
thing is going! But then shortly the heavy rain over the channel appears to stop and I proceed on in. I do make it into my slip at Portofino, but barely do I get tied up than the heavens open up big time! The gully-washer does not last for too long however, and the good thing is that I will this time not have to do my usual post-trip boat washdown!
My return to Portofino had been just slightly more than 52 hours since my departure on Friday morning, and it had indeed been an interesting, fun, and very enjoyable 4th of July holiday weekend. In this Cruise Report, and in the accompanying photos, I have tried to convey impressions of how much fun it was, and what a great way it was to celebrate our nation’s birthday. I didn’t grow up in a town as quite as small as Oak Island, and yet many of the small- town things that I remember from Independence Day celebrations in my home town were very much a part of this weekend in Oak Island. And so I hope that when the folks in Chambers County do this again in 2015, that many more TMCA’ers will decide to cross Galveston Bay to Oak Island and celebrate that 4th of July the way that it should be celebrated, with parades, food, music, and of course great fireworks!