Sunday, January 24, 2010

The err, first attempt... a 14 year olds sailors story


No, not on the road, on the intercoastal canal………..

The beginning of the tale…

A person who lived in or around Long Island , bought a boat at a salvage sale from the US Navy. Manufactured in 1942, a torpedo retriever, originally built to collect the practice torpedoes fired from PT boats and submarines during training, and also to haul targets for naval gunnery practice.

Originally equipped with a 670 diesel, this owner replaced it with a gas powered Chevy 350.

He retired and decided to take his boat, wife and there three cats to Florida. They made it, barely, unfortunately, the Chevy engine didn’t.

Short of cash, he sold the boat to a broker, who sold it to a person in Texas. How it arrived in La Porte, I don’t know.

Enter my part in this hitchhiking trip.

The boat was purchased when it was docked in La Porte Texas, no engine and all, to supposedly live out its life as a dive boat in Port Aransas.

Day one of moving it to the yard in Engleside Texas , we spent the night in La Porte, every time a ship would pass by in the Houston ship channel the tide would rise about 2’ over the piers, and then go down leaving all kinds of feces, toilet paper ect. All of that laying on top the piers in the boatyard.

This was about 1974; the Houston ship channel had the black water then.

Bright and early the next morning we towed it from the marina out in the ship channel with a 16’ 50 hp outboard. (Understand the boat was 42’, with a 12’ beam and drafted 3 ½ ‘)

The first night we spent just off shore from a refinery in Texas City. The next morning the person in charge of this fiasco decides that instead of towing the boat, we hitchhike on push boats. All well and good, we got a hitch with a Louisiana push boat for a few miles, and they got us another hitch with another boat, again a Louisiana push boat. The push boat crew had just cooked, and err…. that’s the reason I hate fried liver to this day.

One of the strangest things I saw, or maybe these surfers were just dedicated, was that there were 3 or 4 of them, in the Houston ship channel. They would paddle out and wait for the tankers and cargo ships to come by and ride the waves from the ships wake. (The waves looked to me to be about 6’ to 8’, of course black, like the water was.)

Anyway the second push boat took us all the way to the swing bridge at Sergeant, but……going thru the locks at the Colorado River, we lost the out board, and almost lost the big boat, the pilot of the push boat scrubbed it up against the bulk heads at the locks. (When asked, they said they where breaking in a new pilot).

While we where anchored at Sergeant, the current changed and started to turn the boat, so I went to reset the bow line, a 12" passage by the cabin with rotten wood took care of almost half the skin on my foot. My shipmates flagged down a pleasure fisherman, got a ride to shore and went to the store in Sergeant, they bought first aid stuff, a hamburger and a 6 pack of Bud, hot food and cold beer fixes everything..

The guys also went to the swing bridge operators office?, cubicle? Whatever, and heard that the Margo Kelso was coming thru.

One of my shipmates was a commercial diver who had removed a wire rope that was wrapped in the Margo Kelso’s wheel previously, so he knew them. The bridge operator let him talk to them and, believe this or not, they came thru the swing bridge, dropped there barges, and came back and picked us up.

Good Lord oh mercy, a nice push boat, with air conditioning and a shower!!!!!, and as far as I am concerned some of the best spaghetti I ever ate

They took us all the way to the entrance to the Victoria barge cannel, radioed to get us another ride all the way to the bridge over Copano bay where a boat from the Engleside boat yard picked us up. Solid ground at last, then of course followed 3 months of scraping, re-caulking, painting and cleaning out the nastiest bilge that you can imagine (the previous owners 3 cats remember).

A 5 day trip, hitchhiking, eating cold Campbell’s soup straight out of the can most times, kudos to the generosity of the push boat crews that shared their hot meals, they were very much appreciated.

After all was said and done, the boat was a lemon, installed a 470 diesel and it vibrated like hell, had the shaft turned, still vibrated, it turned out that the packing box was warped.

We ended up selling it to a commercial fisherman, so as far as I know, it is still in the Rockport area.

Lot’s of sweat and a lot of memories with that old boat.



  1. Who knows--you may have crossed watery paths with Pilot somewhere in your journey. Wouldn't that be cool?

    I'm sure he'll be by to visit and post one of his memories here. These make really great reading.

    Thanks, EA

  2. So glad you have started blogging on Google, Legion. I have great respect for your comments on VicAd, and now I get to see a different, fascinating side of you through your stories.

    Welcome! Keep 'em comin'!

  3. Hey! My captcha just said I was "unsaxi"! What the Sam Hill? I think I'm starting to take these things a little personally....

  4. I love reading blogs by different writers, because everyone's story is so different and it helps me understand what I haven't ever experienced. Thanks for sharing. Come on over and read my blog. I always welcome input and you never know, you might learn some Fun Ferret Facts, while you're there.