9-4-04 Trip to Huntsville State Park

Article By Shorty

Preparing for the maiden voyage.... Well.... not really. I have had her in the water twice before, each time to adjust the trailer, and of them only once did I actually get on the boat to test lower the centerboard. Then as I look at the hull, she has definitely been used before, she has a number of repairs from previous damage spots, so someone has sailed her before, so this couldn't be the maiden voyage -- but it was for us.

After burning my fingers enough, and worring about catching the gas or boat on fire, I was looking for other alternatives. At last year's palacios raid, John Cody shows up and when I asked him where his stove was, he smiled and offered me an oreo. He and his son just brought "open and eat" food. Dang, that is such a simple idea (why didn't I think of that?) - and my kids are always spoiling their dinner by having too many snacks, wonder what they would think of just eating snacks all weekend?

So I moseyed on down to the grocery store and picked up a bunch of stuff that I thought the kids would like to eat. They have so many friends come over and eat snacks, that even thought most of this won't go on the boat, thier friends will help consume it later on.

My kids took turns, each putting one item into the food bucket till it was 2/3 full. At that point, we had enough food for a month.

Huntsville State Park is a nice family campground that is very cheap to get in. Only cost me $3 for a day use pass, the kids were free, and an additional $2 for overnight fishing pass. Since we were sleeping on the boat, we didn't need to reserve a campsite.

They only have one ramp, and here it is. Wasn't sure if I would have enough depth to launch, or would have to do the disconnect and push trick, but I was able to launch just fine, didn't even have to bubble the tail pipe.

I know that she is 19' long, and looks really big on the trailer, but feels as simple and easy as a little dinghy.

Motoring out, the lake regulations state that you can only use a motor at idle speed. This regulation is the reason we were out here, being labor day weekend, I won't go near the big patches of water because of all the drunken power boaters.

I only had enough time to chlorox and clean one side of the boat, the other side is fairly disgusting still. Figured it would be better to go sailing and sit on one half of the cockpit, than to spend another good weather weekend at home working on the boat.

Look girls, there is the beach !!! Thank you, thank you...

We briefly anchored out in the middle of the lake and changed into our bathing suits. And used the potti.

The park imported some sand, and they maintain a little swim area. It has a shark net around the outer perimeter, and a float line perimeter on the interior. Both my girls can swim like fish, and as they went out to the first line, I was wondering how deep it was there. They swam and it looked pretty deep, but then my younger one stood up and it barely came up to her armpits, so it was pretty shallow.

I walked to the end of the concrete bulkhead area and took these two pics looking back.

You can see the oday in the background, she is against a concrete bulkhead. All the beach area was covered in kids, so I didn't see a spot to beach the boat, and on the other side of the concrete bulkhead was swampy tall grass which often harbor snakes, so the only place I really had was the bulkheads. Luckily I brought a couple of bumpers, I was going to leave them at home.

As I was coming in to land at the bulkhead, there was a family of 6 sanding right at the edge where I wanted to go, and they were just staring at me (all of them age 12 or older). I hailed them to say I was landing my boat there, but they didn't speak english. Though it was pretty obvious with me holding an anchor in one hand, and puttering RIGHT FOR THEM. I also waved my hand in a "could you move please" motion, but I guess they didn't speak sign language either.

So I came in as slow as I could, hopped off right in the middle of them and then walked forward with my anchor & rode. As if I were a police man at a million mom march, with the rode stretched across at knee level and pressing against them, they finally got the idea I was parking there and they needed to take 2 steps back.

Not sure if I am conveying the humor properly, but here they are, 6 of them huddled in the one spot that I need to land, like penguins waiting to jump off the edge of a galcier. Flat mowed grass for 100' in each direction around them, with nobody else near them, plenty of space to scoot back just 2 steps, so I can get off my boat.

No docking cleats to be seen, I pushed my anchor in the grass with my foot. I looked up and smiled at the family, the father raised his eyebrows as if to say "oh, so that is what you were going to do". Then in some foriegn jabber they said something to themselves and suddenly walked away. I think they said "So we drove all the way out here to see this?".

The girls played and played, making sand castles, swimming in the water and having a great time. It sprinkled a little and half of the people at the beach left, but I figured my girls were already wet so it didn't matter.

Stayed at the beach till it started to get dark.

Got on the boat and the girls went below, wrapped in towels they said they were HUNGRY!!! I unscrewed the lid to the big snack bucket, scooted it towards them and they started munching. Man that was easy !! This could mean the end of my cooking on boats !!

And realistically, I am not out here for the food, if I want something fancy to eat, I'll make it when I get back home.

We motored to the farthest point in the lake from the launch ramp, which is only about a mile. Anchored there and watched the bass hit the surface. That lake has a lot of fish in it, they prohibit removal of large mouth bass, so there are some really big ones that hit the bugs on the surface.

Still had some ants living in the boat from when I recovered it, we would grab the ants and toss them overboard, then sit still and wait for them to get gobbled up by the fish. The ants were nesting in a big block of foam in the stern, while cleaning I couldn't reach them or wash them out, guessing they are embedded in this big block of foam under the cockpit in the stern. I was using ant baits to kill them off, but while out on the water it dawned on me that I should have just taken a saw and cut the foam out. Would have taken all of 5 minutes, but hey, they don't bite, and it was too late now.

We played a few games on the travel game set, it has little magnetic pieces and a bunch of different game boards that scroll over the surface. Great for the boat.

The biggest attraction point of this boat is the huge 8' cockpit, and I though it might be squeezing the cabin, but there really is a bunch of space in there. I can sit up and move around, change clothes, use the potti etc, doing all this with both kids in there with me.

There goes another ant out the front hatch.

The bolts for the mast step stuck down into the cabin, and to keep from cutting my head open on them, I put a piece of plywood around them. This also made a great place to mount a couple of LED flashlights.

Notice there is no compression post !! The cabin top has a transfer beam molded into it, so the compression load is transferred to the sides and into the gunnels. I have only had a couple of boats that had transfer beams like this, really is a nice feature. If it didn't have the beam, I definitely would have glassed one in.

I am very impressed with the quality of the molding, the entire cabin top is very solid, with a smooth finish (lots of the smooth splatter bubbles). This boat was built back in the day when they actually put glass into the boats, must have been a lot cheaper then.

Got up the next day and the fog had rolled in.

You know those mini boxes of cereal? They make for a great breakfast. We ate more snacks and stowed our sleeping gear.

I have had various toys for them to play with on the boat, but their favorites are these little rubber duckies with a short leash. I started off with a leash about 10' long, but the spare line kept getting stepped on and tangled up in stuff. The current length is about 3' long, just long enough for them to toss the duck out, but short enough that it doesn't tangle in stuff, and when done it wraps up around the duck very neatly.

Of course each kid brings their own selection of toys, these ducks are only for play when on the boat, they don't get to play with them at home, so they are special.

If held just right, the duck will tow very nicely and wobble back and forth as it skims over the surface of the water. If accidentally let go, they float so I can turn around and pick them up.

On my first pocket cruiser trip with my older one (this happened years ago), I had an incredible failure with the "boat toy" I picked to bring along. It was a small plastic tug boat with a rope on it. First stupid thing I did was put a snap link in the end, she had it wrapped around her hand and I realized that if it caught on something, it could pull a finger or hand off really quickly. So I pulled off the link. The line was too long, it came close to being tangled in the outboard and rudder a few times. She was leaning over wiggling it back and forth in the water, and then accidentally let go, and just started crying her eyes out.

I tried to calm her down as I swung around to pick it up. I didn't have a boat hook handy, and when I came up to it, I miss-judged the distance and couldn't reach it. It was one of those hollow plastic toys that did not have any foam in it, and the wake jostled it enough that the bubble of air trapped inside, was released and the toy started to sink. Swinging around for a second pass, the toy was gone, she was destroyed, and had a bit of a phobia of loosing stuff over the side.

It actually turned out to be a positive lesson, I explained how all "things" can be replaced, and then demonstrated by getting a new toy boat, the only truely valuable thing is life, which can't be replaced if it is lost. But I digress...

So we were off in search of alligators. Looked over this lillie pad field, not even a frog.

A ways down and we saw the first one, you can barely see his eyes above the water. I guess he is about 5' long? But you have to understand most of that is tail, so really it is a small gator.

I swung by for a closer look, but turned too quickly and spooked him.

Just before this picture, we passed a fisherman and I hailed him "Ahoy !!! Who, where to and fro?"

The reply "Eh? (with a twang), I am fishen for crappie, got a few too" and his hand raised with a string of fish on it.

That looks like a nice catch, this is the ship MoogieBob, we are 1 day out of Huntsville State park, headed for... errr... oh never mind.

I have no idea why this tower is here.

We tootled around the edge of the lake hunting for more gators. The fog was lifting rather quickly.

I almost ran over the 2nd gator, he was dead ahead and I didn't notice him till we were almost on top, then with a quick splash he dove away from us.

Then up ahead I saw a log that was moving a bit quicker than I thought it should, and it turned out to be the 3rd gator we saw.

My cheap crummy digital camera doesn't have a zoom, but here is the best pic I took of him. He had pretty eyes, and wasn't as easily spooked. He was the bigger than the other two that we saw, guessing 6-7' ?

Time to pull the boat off the water.

The girls collected some shells to take home. There were a TON of minnows at the dock, should have brought a dip net to bring some back for my pond at home.