Friday, January 29, 2010

Yacht taking on water, pumps keeping pace, captain stays calm

La Vida Nueva taking on water; captain concerned but not frantic; pumps activated

We were working on the shower sump pump last night. I was surprised to hear the sump pump running again today. I call the pump ‘little blue’ after the blue base West Marine used when then made her. Last night’s efforts revealed a clogged line. Little Blue, which was installed in the bilge at mid-ships, put out a heck of a blast. We just could not get the water through the line. Our efforts with a dock hose at full blast failed to clear the line. Since it was late, we left the pump on the high and dry. No use running a pump that wasn’t connected to a hose.

"Taking on lots of water never happens to me. Right?"
Ask me if I was surprised to hear my little pumper humming this afternoon. There had to be a lot of water in the bilge in order for her to go off. I was not overly concerned about it because taking on lots of water never happens to me. Right?

I was in for a surprise! What set little blue off is what sets off most pumps. The float valve. When I pulled up the floor board I was concerned when I saw water. My Tayana 37 never gets water that high. What could be the cause?

I turned on my super blaster pump and after an eternity the water was pumped out. I did not see a torrent coming back in so I decided to check her a little later on. Sad to say, four hours later, I had a bilge full of water half as high as it had been earlier. This is way too much water to come into my boat in so short a time.  How to keep a yacht from sinking

"At low tide, La Vida Nueva sits on the bottom"

Who panics when taking on water? If the water is coming in this fast now, will it come in faster as time goes by? I finally found comfort in a shallow harbor. At low tide, La Vida Nueva sits on the bottom. At high tide I was in for a heck of a bath but the boat would be savable. What is there to worry about?

Well, there were a lot of things I should have been worried about.  First, my primary automatic bilge pump is not working.  That requires me to manually pump the bilge when it gets full.  Need to get on that right away.  How to design an adequate bilge pump system

After searching the boat, examining sea cocks, speculating about the potantial emergency, and then reflecting, I think I finally found the source of my problem.

The water hose. We left it in the shower. I think it was leaking and filling up my bilge.

It is 3:00 a.m. The bilge seems fairly dry. It is time to turn in and let the god’s decide my fate. If I am on the bottom by the time I wake up it will be another adventure to write about. If not, well I will keep you posted on that, too!

Abbey Sunderland race around the world is it your dream?

15 year old Abbey Sunderland to be
youngest to circumnavigate

In the news, of late, is the adventure of 16 year old Abby Sunderlad of Marina del Rey, who plans to be the youngest person to sail around the world alone. She follows her brother, Zac Sunderland who made a similar voyage. As I sit in Port Isabel Texas waiting for my turn to be ‘out there’ it is fun to watch others live their life’s dream.

The mechanic who I thought was doing such a great job at putting La Vida Nueva back onto her feet after suffering damage at the hands of Hurricane Dolly is not faring well. I found items which belonged to me in his possession, including personal medications. I am finding lots of errors in his work. A significant part of our ‘progress’ needs to be redone. Not only is it not progress, it is a step backwards when re-doing a prior bad job. Before, we needed to fix things. Now, we have to un-fix and re-fix. Hence, it is a welcome relief watching others live their dreams. Go Abbey!
"I can clearly see significant differences in Abbey's dream and my own"
What about Abby? I wish her the best of luck, as I am sure we all do. However, I can clearly see significant differences in Abby’s dream and my own. You can read news about Abbey here.

My dream started when I was 12 years old and read about Robin Lee Graham and the Dove. What attracted me to Robin’s story went far beyond the sailing adventure. It was the chance to know other cultures, to meet wonderful people, to see places most of us never get to see. It was the coming of age, of meeting one’s life companion that intrigued me. It was the experiences of a 15 year old in over his head, a kid who did not have a lot of money but did it anyway, a person who obviously fought depression, an experience which was under reported. I admired Robin for finishing the job even though he really did not want to. My hero, Robin Lee Graham.  Most of these factors are missing from the Abbey Sunderland adventure. 

One day I want to be 15. After starting this dream at 12 years of age, I soon gained the requisite 15 years of age, only to find my parents unwilling to put up the $90,000 someone put up for Abbey. Nor were my parents willing to allow a 15 year old to chuck school, college, a job, a career, a future all for a sailboat ride around the world. Looking back I can say they were probably right. Abbey is not willing to do that either. She plans to be back within 5 months.

What is so romantic about 5 months racing around the world? It will make for a great adventure story, maybe a book or movie, and certainly life changing experiences for Abbey. Jessica Watson is ahead of Abbey, another aspiring sailor who will miss allof those people, places and things.  Abbey vs. jessica Watson, what lessons are we teaching?

What is missing from the Abbey and Zac Sunderland and Jessica Watson adventure is…well all of the adventures. All of those people to meet, places to visit, new cultures to learn about. For me, sailing is more than sailing. It is the people.
"What kind of hopes do we inspire in children whose parents are poor"
 What kind of hopes do we inspire in children whose parents are poor and cannot afford a simple $5,000 bay cruiser, much less an expensive racer? When do we teach others about the meeting people part of sailing?  The future of sailing belongs to our youth.
As for Abbey, that is not her thing, at least not right now. As I said, I wish her swift passage and a safe return. As for me, when I finally make age 15, I am 52 right now, I hope I can do it the Robin Lee Graham way.  While the dove is now history, the trip is a legend for generations of young people, and old ones, to follow.
I will keep you posted on the progress of La Vida Nueva, and the lessons and adventures of a stranded dreamer waiting his turn.

Dios te bendiga

Uncle Tim

Saturday, January 23, 2010

benneteau first 42 dismasted Captain Greg Gladdin fights heavy seas

Dismasting of
Benneteau First 42  Diablesse
Skipper Greg Gladden Fights Heavy Seas!

As an old time Texas sailor, my friend Greg Gladden has lots of great sailing tales. The dismasting of Diablesse while he was single handing her on his way to Isla de Mujeres must be one of his best!

Greg is also an accomplished criminal defense attorney.  He champions many causes to keep our country free.  Law offices of Greg Gladden

I crewed for Greg on Diablesse in the Regatta de Amigos race to Veracruz. I had a blast with Greg and learned some great lessons about managing a boat, managing a crew and having a great time! It was one of those 'never forget' experiences!
We returned through Tuxpam, MX.  If you want to see real Mexico, Tuxpam is a great place to do it!  A must see are pyramids of Tajin nearby.
If you stop in Tuxpam be sure to check in quickly with the naval guard when you get there, as they are not used to a lot of tourists!
Greg enjoys spending time at the haunts on the Boardwalk in Kemah, Texas.  If you bump into him be sure to say hello for me and ask him about the DiablesseThe boardwalk in Kemah, Texas, lots of great food!  

A note about the Benneteau First 42

The Benneteau First 42 is a fast boat with a functional layout.  Diablesse has some special features.  Her chart table is clear of the gangway and seas that might tumble in.  Greg's boat has pilot berths above the setees which made the trip much easier!

Here is the story of the dismasting of Diablesse that appeared on the net:

Attorney and sailboat captain Greg Gladden Dismasted

Emergency Beacon Aids in Rescue


FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – FEBRUARY 11, 2008 – Captains and pilots commonly say bad outcomes result from a series of problems adding up. Sailboat owner Greg Gladden understands this all too well. He was sailing alone 95 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico on his way to the Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico when a sequence of equipment failures immobilized his 42’ sailboat, Diablesse.

A little before 5 a.m. on November 18, Gladden, 56, suffered a dismasting in 25-knot winds and 12-foot rolling seas. Afterwards while trying to engage the motor, he found that his propeller was wrapped with lines that had fallen in the water during the dismasting. He could not send out a mayday call because his radio antenna was attached to the mast now underwater.

Gladden was basically adrift.

Story continued below...
Here is a Benneteau First 42 you can charter!

 Try these guys at:  Yacht charter hollidays

Sailboat dismasted
He used his handheld radio to summon help but no one was in range. At 5 a.m., Gladden activated his ACR Electronics’ GlobalFix™ 406 EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) that was in a bracket on the boat. Shortly thereafter, he also set off a second emergency beacon, an ACR Electronics’ ResQFix™ 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). He purchased the ResQFix™ because as a solo sailor he wanted a personal beacon to wear on his person in case he ended up in the water.

At sunrise, he shot off a flare. About 8 a.m., a passing commercial vessel came to his aid and stayed on scene. They were able to relay Gladden’s handheld radio messages to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), who confirmed that they were aware of his distress signal and were working the case. Since the beacon was registered, the Coast Guard Sector New Orleans was attempting to confirm with Gladden’s emergency contacts that he actually was on an offshore sailing voyage.

About 10 a.m., a small USCG jet flew over and made radio contact with Gladden. He could hear the jet but could not see it because of heavy overcast. Several hours later a USCG cutter arrived and towed Gladden and his boat to homeport in Galveston Bay.

Story continued below... 

A typical First 42 Salon


First 42 dismasted
Although his Thanksgiving holiday was written off and he was aggravated by the equipment failure, Gladden was thankful that he had his ACR Electronics’ emergency locator beacons. “The EPIRBs were the only radio or electronic devices I had available for any kind of emergency once I was out of radio range. I had a sideband radio but the antenna went down with the mast. The EPIRBs gave me reassurance that the SOS signal was going out,” said Gladden. “I wouldn’t set off in a boat offshore without one (EPIRB). Other than EPIRBs, I don’t know of any other help available if your are 100 miles out and are dismasted.”

A PLB is a satellite-signaling device of last resort, for use when all other means of self-rescue have been exhausted and where the situation is deemed to be grave and imminent, and the loss of life, limb, eyesight or valuable property will occur without assistance. All beacons must be registered following purchase.

Why you should register your EPIRB!
If you buy a used EPIRB and you don't register it then how will then the Coast Guard might be looking for the wrong cat!  They need all the information they can get when communications fail!  Family and friends of a registered unit can at least tell them when and where you left and how long you have been gone!


I have a lot of respect for Greg Gladden's abilities as a captain.  I am not sure I would have managed as well.  

I am going to reconsider the personal rescue device decision.  I remember thinking it was kind of nice but a little over kill and expensive when we went on the Amigos trip.

What would Greg have done if he had not had his personal unit?  The ship's EPIRB was supposedly disabled. 

In the Regatta de Amigos 2 years later there was a yachting disaster and a fatality.  Safety officer Roger Stone from Texas A & M University at Galveston was unable to escape the yacht he was racing, the Cynthia Woods, as she sank. 

Stone had been sailing a Cape Fear 38 with 5 others from the University when the keel apparantly fell off.  Another Texas A & M safety officer and four students had no time to grab the ship's EPIRB as they scrambled from the quickly sinking yacht.  In fact, the boat went down so fast they ended up in the water with four life vests between the five survivors.  

What do you want to bet safety officer Steve Conway and the four students wished they had a portable epirb device as they contemplated their situation?  Fortunately, the Cynthia Woods was reported missing when it the sailors failed to check in on time.  The five were rescued.  They were lucky.   fatality in Regatta de Amigos

ACR Electronics, Inc. made Greg's EPIRB. They are compact units and well worth a look when you are getting ready to go 'out there'.  ACR Electronics, your best 'last chance'   Some of the best money I spent has been for equipment I hope I will never use. After 'Hurricane Gale', I know having the right equipment on board can be a life saver!

While no sailor wants trouble during a passage it is all part of the adventure.  Sooner or later we hit rough weather, equipment fails, crew members go nuts and other problems fall upon us.  

Life is kind of that way too, I think.  The question is, how do we handle problems, what lessons did we learn?  What can we do better and what did we do right?  All of these elements are usually at play in sailing. 

Greg Gladden was fortunate in the dismasting of his Benneteau First 42 Diablesse on his sailing adventure to Isla de Mujeres.  Single handed sailing and heavy weather sailing have their risks!  Having a portable EPIRB can save your life.  While an epirb would not have saved Roger Stone on the Regatta de Amigos, including one from ACR Electronics, it sure helped in Greg's case.  It would have helped Conway and the Texas A & M students when their Cape Fear, the Cynthia B, went down.  

Watch for details about my trip to Veracruz with Greg and crew in an upcoming blog!


Uncle Tim

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Port Isabel Texas Lighthouse South Padre Island view into past and present!

Port Isabel Lighthouse

State Historic Site

The Port Isabel Lighthouse is a fun place to visit when in the South Padre Island area. If you are on spring break and need a break, this one would be a fun stop. Why not take your new girlfriend that you will probably never see again to the top for a few romantic memories?A break from spring break, check out the lighthouse  It is a great place for the gals who come with their husbands to the Texas International Sport Fishing tournament!  TIFT. Life after tift, texas international sport fishing

 Navigating the South Padre waters is always a task. The inter coastal waterway is full of shifting dunes. From year to year one can never be sure where the real channel is.

The Port Isabel Navigation District is in Port Isabel, as well.  Sailors departing the U.S. need a clearance letter from thier last port of call.  The Navigation District will give you a clearance letter which should suffice for the Mexican officials. Stop at the navigation district for your clearance letter

When the inter coastal waterway from Galveston opens up to the Laguna Madre and the Padre Island shores it looks like you finally have open water and safe cruising. I have been stuck with a dingy and an outboard between the intercoastal waterway and 2000 yards of bay water to Padre Island.  Be careful!

That is why they built the Port Isabel lighthouse. You can bet ships from yesteryear had as much trouble as modern day sailors and barge people do today. The Port Isabel Lighthouse was constructed in 1852, near sites of the Civil War Battle of Palmito Ranch in 1865 and the Mexican War Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.

The light house system fell out of use over many years. New technology meant new towers with powerful navigation equipment. The depression kept public money out of the hands of the light house crews. Most of all, a new railroad line between Corpus Christi and Mexico made transportation by ship less economical.

Sadly, in 1905, the Light House that guided so many mariners went dark. In 1947 visionaries sought to restore the light house and preserve Texas landmarks. The site was dedicated as a state park in 1952. Today, the historic landmark has become a popular tourist attraction.

It took until the year 2000 to complete the restoration of the 72 foot structure. You can bet the delay was more for lack of funds than lack of interest. The lighthouse was returned to the appearance it had following its last major operational renovation in 1880. The restoration project involved extensive metal casting and fabrication, masonry and structural repairs, new coatings and development of the park and surrounding grounds.

The Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce occupies the old light keeper’s cottage. Perhaps it was a cottage then. It would make a fabulous home today!  They have an exhibit of the lighthouse and old fort Polk that was on the site.  Most important during tourist season, there are clean bathrooms.

If you love touring light houses this is the one to see. In fact it is the only one to see on the Texas coast. The rest are closed to the public.  Surely, sage minds have an answer to the question, why aren’t more open?    

The lighthouse is on high ground if you consider 50 feet above sea level high ground. The perch gives photographers and tourists a wonderful view of the Island, the Laguna Madre, the Padre beach and the surrounding area. It has even been used as a wedding chapel. That is for the young, access to the top is up 75 winding stairs including three short ladders. There is a small fee to enter the lighthouse but it is well worth the investment!

It is easy to pass through Port Isabel without stopping as you rush over the causeway on your way to Padre.  However, if you want to experience the flavor of life in an old sea port, the city of Port Isabel should be on your list!
Check out this information on the Port Isabel lighthouse

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

spring break south padre island

South Padre Island 
Spring Break SPI

While I am in South Padre Island area trying to get my boat ready for cruising, I might as well tell you about the places and people and my adventures here. I plan to give you reports about the places I visit; this Texas paradise is no different. The idea of folding my business tent and setting off under the tent of the sails on La Vida Nueva is to see places and do things. Part of the lifestyle for me is to be an eternal tourist during my travels. Let’s explore!

One of the biggest events on South Padre Island is spring break! It never ceases to amaze me how the young generation and the old generation look at spring break pictures on South Padre and have such different reaction. The young bucks can’t wait to get here and the old cats can’t wait to leave! Sad to say, I am in the old cat category. I just hope it is not snowing in Colorado during spring break!

"The young bucks can't wait to get there and the old cat's can't wait to leave!"

South Padre spring break is one of the biggest places for breakers in the nation. Florida is too far away for many in the ‘middle states’ of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Louisiana Arkansas and did I mention Texas? Airfare from Colorado, for example, is as little as $250 bucks Denver to nearby Brownsville Texas! That is cheap considering March in South Padre is likely to be 50 to 70 degrees. March in Colorado is likely to be 10 degrees below zero!

SPI, as South Padre is often referred to, is the ‘Two nation vacation’. If you happen to be Mexican, SPI is, well not Mexico. It is always fun to visit a foreign land during spring break and the same applies to our friends from Mexico who are avid ‘breakers’ just like the rest of us. As a result, no matter which country you are from, there is a good representation from the US and Mexico so you get a little feel for both countries this close to the border.

Most people don’t know SPI is further South than Florida. The weather is perfect most of the winter. It is not too muggy and it is a lot warmer than Colorado! Nothing in life is guaranteed, and certainly not the weather. If you have the same bad luck I do sometimes, and you find yourself ‘breaking it’ in South Padre during a cold snap, you can count on it being absolutely miserable. But then, that applies to the rest of the world. Try Skiing in Colorado during a mild winter and blazing son! Great weather is a matter of perspective.

So what do you do in SPI during spring break? Of course, there is a lot of sitting on the beach. Then there is the kegger while sitting on the beach. Then there is surfing and sitting on the beach. And of course, there are beach parties while…in the hotel, in restaurants, in parks and…sitting on the beach!

One of the biggest attractions in Padre, besides the beach, is the turtle a turtle, see the turtle lady, have a great time! They call it Sea Turtle Incorporated now. When I was a buckaroo we used to visit a little cottage not far from the ocean side of the island. There was a sweet gal who had turtles crawling around in her back yard. They were rescued by the fish and game folks and since no one wanted to take care of them, left for the turtle lady to bring back to good health. For a modest fee, you could go in and see the turtles and know you were in the house of a Good Samaritan.

The ‘turtle lady’ isn’t a small operation anymore. They moved it to the main drag on the Island with much bigger quarters. Nothing more than that has changed. These are people devoted to helping a creature that lives a lot longer than humans do, given the chance.

A pet project of the turtle people this year is the Atlantic Green. So far this has been a cold year for most Texans. They walk around in jeans and jackets while I bask in my Colorado shorts.

“Aren’t you cold?” They ask.
“No. I am from Iceland” I say with a smile.
"Unlike wacky tabacy, the sea turtle is well worth saving"

Unfortunately, for the Atlantic Green turtle, it has been a cold year indeed. This magnificent turtle is not used to sudden changes in water temperature and go into shock. They end up floating in the waves, and like so many bales of marijuana, get washed up in the surf. Unlike wacky tabacy, the sea turtle is well worth saving. There went that young versus old perspective again!

Here is what the sea turtle people say about the ‘Greens:
"When water temperatures drop quickly in the Gulf of Mexico sea turtles can become "cold stunned". This refers to their systems becoming so cold that they become hypothermic. The turtles will then float and wash ashore. With the help of volunteers these cold sea turtles are rescued and brought to our facility. Sea Turtle, Inc. staff gives the turtles steroids and slowly warm them back up. A photo section has been created for the recent stranding event.

As of 1/15/10 a total of 127 Atlantic greens have been affected by the cold waters. Of those 83 have survived and 44 are dead. We have released 70 of the surviving sea turtles."

The sea turtle people rely on donations to keep them going. In a sense, they have been taken advantage of in not receiving compensation from wildlife agencies, as protecting our world and the creatures within it is the responsibility of us all. On the other hand, I am sure they would say the burden has been well worth it! This is one place not to be missed.

O.K., the beach! And the parties! Nudity is frowned upon on most of Padre's beaches.  .Put some underwear on said the gal who can't take hers off  There are lots of little ones, even during spring break, and parents don't think their children should be exposed to naked bodies.  However, if you go up-island to the last beach entrance you may find the bare essentials.  I don't have any problem taking it off, but after gaining plenty of weight over the last two years, other peoople duck when I come by.  So you won't see me in my birthday suit, especially in Colorful Colorado!

One popular party spot on SPI is Louie’s Back Yard. Tie on a Louie, party at Louie's     The folks behind this popular watering hole are movers and shakers on South Padre. They know how to show you a good time! These guys have been at it a long time and have such a great reputation they are featured in tons of places, including MTV, 60 Minutes, the Travel Channel, VH1, ETV, and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. When I was a party boy they called it the Tonight show with Johnny Carson, but most of you won’t remember that!

A popular local spot you should not miss is Dirty Al’s. When I say ‘local’s spot’ this is really one of South Padre’s best kept secrets. It is located in the marina on the Island. While the building is not fancy, the food is divine! Here is one review:
“Atmosphere is not for the faint hearted. The place is a dive, bathrooms are disgraceful and open into the dining room. Tables and chairs are mis-matched. Come as you are gets pushed to the limit by some of the patrons.

The food is a different story. The New Orlean's Style Peel & Eat Shrimp are fantastic! The fried shrimp are crunchy and light and are delicious too! The food must overcome the atmosphere because the place is full during dinner, even in the off season.” trip advisor review from cup cake

I am not sure what cup cake is talking about when he makes a deal about mis-matched chairs. There are no real country clubs on Padre. The owners of this personality come from south of Mexico. The food is divine. Did I say that yet? I will let you in on one secret most people don’t know. If you eat shrimp on South Padre Island it probably came from Al’s, or Alphonso in Spanish, shrimp boat. This is the freshest caught sea food in the gulf. Most of it did not spend the night in the Gulf! They were caught this morning!

If you miss this place you have missed the flavor of SPI.  The service is good and the waitresses are ‘well chosen’, if you know what I mean. They also own Daddy’s and a few other places on Padre. Do the Dirty, Dirty Al's that is!

The schlitterbahn water park-This is a great place to get away from the fools and the sand on the beach and have some real fun in the water! When they first told me about this place I was a little confused. Why put a water park next to the nation’s 7th best seashore?  Ride the autobahn go to schlitterbahn

The answer is, there are two kinds of ‘bahns”. One is the autobahn, the other the Schlitterbahn. These guys know how to do a water park international style!

The Port Isabel Lighthouse in across the bridge is a romantic place.  Take your new boyfriend you met on SPI who you will never see again... 

And then of course, there are the girls. There will be lots of ‘em this year. SPI is going to look very attractive for students with a strapped budget. Depending upon where you are from, a few tanks of gas shared between your buds and you are in paradise!  A good site to check out for spring break 2010 is here: Party Padre spring break 2010

There is so much more I want to tell you about SPI and the places to visit and see. I have a little time here before I have to return to the Mile High City, Denver, Colorado.

George Bernard Shaw says, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I am not sure. After doing this write up being young and wasted wasn’t so bad. I am just glad I moved along.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

South Padre Island ship wreck, the S.S. Nicaragua, gun runner, gulf coast ship wrecks, treasure and gus?

S.S. Nicaragua sinks on

South Padre Island

What was her secret


The S.S. Nicaragua sailed from her birth place in Bergen, Norway, into the history books of South Padre Island. She is a gulf coast ship wreck with a mystery to rival that of the treasure ships sunk in the Gulf of Mexico. Her trip between Port Arthur, Texas and Tamaulipas Mexico was to be her last. The secret to her mystery cargo may depend upon which direction and to which port she was headed.

This was a lithe ship, 190 feet in length. She was launched in 1891 and was the first ship into the new harbor at Beaumont Texas. At 190 feet overall she was not a monster for her times, but no lightweight, either. She had a slim silhouette and weighed 611 tons. She was white in color.
"Many ships sent out may days"
On October 16th, 1912, a hurricane hit the Gulf of Mexico. Many ships sent out may days, many of the ships seeking help did not make it. The S.S. Nicaragua was one of them.

According to Captain Echeverria, the S.S. Nicaragua’s commander, she was due east of So. Padre Island when the storm struck. Unfortunately, a strained rudder chain broke and the ship lost steerage. She was driven aground in the part of South Padre called the “Devil’s Elbow”. The dreaded Devil's Elbow is near milepost 50 from Malaquite Beach of the North Island. The convergence of the tides at this juncture left more than one crew ship wrecked.
"Why was the ship so close to the South Padre shore?"

Some wonder why the ship was so close to the So. Padre shore in the first place. There is speculation the ship was full of guns and arms destined for Pancho Villa’s army. Others say all she carried was cotton, still a cash crop for Texas at the time. If she was on her way from Port Arthur to Tamaulipas, the gun running theory makes sense. If she was bound for Port Arthur from Tamaulipas, her gun running legend falls flat for common sense. Who would send guns for the Pancho Villa army from Tamaulipas, Mexico to Port Arthur, Texas?

After she sent out her may day, the S.S. Nicaragua was lost from the face of the earth for many days. Most thought had sunk in the Hurricane, to join the ranks of galleons and freighters claimed by the treacherous Gulf of Mexico. At the request of her Mexican owners, the U.S. Revenue Cutter “Windom” was dispatched from Galveston, Texas, in search of the Nicaragua and her crew. Lives aside, she was a sizable investment and her owners wished to determine her fate.  Wikipedia.account

Unbeknownst to the rescuers, Captain Eschevarria and the crew had survived the hurricane. After 5 days, the Captain divided his crew. He and nine others took one of the ship’s life boats and steered northward. The determined mariners fought the sea for five days. They were finally found by the U.S. Coast Guard near Port Aranasas. Captain Eschevarria had left 12 crewmen, possibly with instructions to head South on foot, also looking for a Texas port and help.
"No sign of the missing crew was seen"
After being sent to search for the remains of the S.S. Nicaragua, officers on the Windham were notified Captain Eschevarria and some of his crew had been found. Lt. Carnes, in charge of the Windom, was asked to search for the rest of the survivors. Coast Guard cutter Windom  However, no sign of the missing crew was seen. When the Windham returned to port it was assumed the rest of the crew had perished.

To the surprise of all, on October 29th, six of the crew members made their way to the Port Isabel life boat station after a 54 mile trek along the shores of South Padre. It had been 12 days since the S.S. Nicaragua had gone ashore.

The crew said they stayed on board waiting for the ship to wash onto the sand bars which allowed them to safely abandon ship. The first to arrive at the life boat station said four more men were following the first six down the Padre Island coast. Two others remain with the ship as they were in such bad shape they could not be moved.  ss nicaraugua ship wreck gulf coast on so padre island 

Above and left, Cutter Windom

A power boat was dispatched from the Port Aransas Coast Guard Station with Captain Ed White in command, and with Dr. J.A. Orr, to pick up the two injured crewmen.  They found both men, a Spaniard and a Mexican and rescued them.

"All eleven men were tossed
about by rough seas"

Just a few miles out of Port Aransas the seas began to stiffen and soon all eleven men were tossed about by rough seas. The anchor was put down under Captain White’s instructions and five men took the lifeboat they were towing and went to shore to wait out the storm. Rough shelters made of driftwood were constructed to keep the men warm.

Captain White remained with his boat. He and five of his men fought drenching waves and a bouncing sea for two days and nights. The breakers were huge and made life aboard the powerboat uncomfortable. It was impossible to cook so the men went without food and suffered cold days and nights waiting for the weather to clear. When the storm broke the men on the beach re-joined Captain White and his crew and they returned to Port Aransas. The life saving journey took for days at sea.

Efforts were made to save the Nicaragua, but none was successful. She was finally abandoned and left to rest for eternity on the sand bars of South Padre Island. The following is a report by a newspaper reporter who went to the wreck site 10 years later:

“Her bow was headed northward, and from the storm-swept bridge deck you felt as though she had just plowed through the breakers, and was about to part the sea oats at high-tide mark and sail off into the shimmering mirages of the dancing and ever-shifting sand dunes.

"A rope ladder still dangled over her side…"

“Her stern sloped off into the water, as her bow rose abruptly from the sandy beach. A rope ladder still dangled over her side…The deck cleaned and weathered by 10 years of sun, was tilted; and what was left of the superstructure gave you the impression of a ship starting a climb after wallowing through the trough of a wave.

“A galley door still swung protestingly on rusty hinges as the steady Gulf breeze swept through the ruined cabins. In the main salon the molding that had trimmed the doors and adorned the ceiling had long since sprung loose from the nails and hung at grotesque angles, like long fingers pointing at you.”

For many years the ship wreck, the S.S. Nicaragua, served as a navigation point for those traveling So. Padre Island’s shores. The stern, the engine room and the masthead of the vessel was visible just beyond the surf as one made their way up and down the coast.

In 1933 the Texas Highway Department surveyed South Padre Island. When they came upon the wreck site there was little left to see of the shipwreck. They said only part of the hull had survived. Today, there is almost nothing left to mark the historic voyage of the S.S. Nicaragua, a steamer which set sail from Port Arthur to Tamaulipas Mexico, possibly with secret cargo destined for the Pancho Villa war effort aboard.

What makes a Revenue Cutter

a Revenue Cutter?

The "system of cutters," the Revenue Marine, and the Revenue Cutter Service, as it was known variously throughout the nineteenth century, referred to its vessels as cutters. The term, English in origin, refers to a specific type of sailing vessel, namely, "a small, decked ship with one mast and bowsprit, with a gaff mainsail on a boom, a square yard and topsail, and two jibs or a jib and a staysail." (Peter Kemp, editor, The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea; London: Oxford University Press, 1976; pp. 221-222.) By general usage, however, that term came to define any vessel of Great Britain's Royal Customs Service.

The U.S. Treasury Department adopted that term at the creation of its "system of cutters." Since that time, no matter what the vessel type, the Coast Guard and its illustrious predecessor have referred to their largest vessels as cutters.  Today a cutter is any Coast Guard vessel over 65 feet in length.  

What happened to the


Considered to be the Revenue Cutter Service's "first attempt at modern ship construction," this 171-foot, 670-ton, twin screw steamer was the first cutter to be powered by a triple-expansion steam engine and have a fully watertight hull. Her top speed was 13 knots. Stern over, windom

 She was built by the Iowa Iron Works of Dubuque, IA, for $98,500. She was taken, partially finished, to Cairo, IL, and then on to New Orleans, LA where she was accepted by the Treasury Department. She then sailed to Baltimore where she was "finished by the Government" and entered service in 1896.

Windom served along the mid-Atlantic coast, saw service during the Spanish-American War in the waters off Cuba, and then transferred to Galveston, TX, in 1906. She enforced neutrality laws after the start of World War I, was renamed Comanche in December, 1915, underwent a year-long refit during 1916, and then was transferred to the Navy on 6 April 1917.

 She continued to patrol the waters of the Gulf of Mexico out of Key West and Galveston during the war and for the remainder of her Coast Guard service. She was decommissioned and sold to Weiss Motor Lines in Baltimore in 1930 for $4,501.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gulf coast sail to beliz and caribbean - stopped by hurricane dolly

La Vida Nueva

Sailing adventure to the caribbean

Join me in fulfillng my life time dream of sailing off into the horizon, of living the sailing lifestyle, of meeting new people, learning about new cultures, and of bringing what I can to those who may be in need, and in the process of growing.

La Vida Nueva, the new life, is the name of my boat.  She is a Tayana 37, a Perry design, I didn't know when I bought her, but she is perfect for one...or two. 

Pehaps that second person will be in my it used be for 26 years before my other half passed to the other side.  It will be fun to find out!

There is something magic in sailing, something I cannot tell you, because it is something powers far greater than I control.  My Tayana 36 is a heavy boat, yet she brushes the ocean waves aside using nothing more than a sail and a jib, kept on line by keel and steered by rudder.  No motor, no gas, no fumes, just this magic thing that happens when one matches sail with wind and stands aside for those great powers to go to work.

Then there is the prospect for adventure.  I have had a lot of adventures in my life.  Unfortunately, most of them happened in the city, in a bank, fixing a house, driving a car.  Very few of them happened in nature, man with nature, and sometimes man against nature.  They will now.  Sailing is, at it's roots, man and nature, and one's wits, and one's foolish pride and lots of trouble at times and lots of fun.  When it is all over and it is time to sell my beloved boat, I am sure I will say, but it was well woth the sacrifices.

Come along, share the adventure, if you are out there then let's become the best of friends and if you are not, then live it from the arm chair until it is your time.  Please email me, tell me what yout think, be part of this wonderful adventure called life.

Life dream halted, sailboat damaged hurricane dolly, murphys law on south padre island

dramatic pics, la vida nueva and murphys law meet     dramatic photos my sailboat collides hurricane dolly