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  • 28 Sep 2020 4:13 PM | Anonymous

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  • 1 Sep 2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is your Commodore Speaking,

    I’m excited to say I have made my first Gulf crossing; from Florida to Texas. Cindy and I joined Travis and Tara Townsley and four others on their newly purchased Royal Cape Majestic 53 catamaran. We departed Ft Lauderdale and made it to Key West the following day. We couldn’t avoid catching some lobster traps on the props and rudders; however,  we were greeted with five fresh lobsters. We stopped at The Dry Tortugas for a day. What a unique place. Our trip across the Gulf was generally peaceful with light winds and near-calm seas. We caught some fish including yellow-tail snapper, mahi-mahi, kingfish and barracuda. We probably sailed 10% of the time, motor-sailed 40% of the time and motored 50% of the time. With that much motoring, fuel management became an issue. With the approaching storms (Laura and Marco), we didn’t have time to just go slow. We stopped at Grand Isle for fuel at the Sand Dollar Marina. The owners stayed open and met us at 9:00pm to help get us refueled and back on our way. We made it to Kemah just in time to prep the boat (and then our own boat) for hurricane Laura. 

    Several observations from the trip. First, there are lobster traps everywhere from Miami to Key West in the Hawks Channel during lobster season (which opened one week before our departure). Running at night is not advised. However, if you do, you should employ my approach which was “if you don’t look for them, they aren’t there”. Second, find a way to go to The Dry Tortugas. Fort Jefferson and the mote around it consumes the entire island. We were spoiled with near calm wind and seas. Spectacular place. Three, SiriusXM Weather is very beneficial when away from coastal connectivity. We were able to see nearby weather systems and their track as well as 36-48 hr grib weather forecasts. Four, if you want to use PredictWind for updated weather and current routing information away from shore, use the Iridium Go tracker which includes a seamless connection to PredictWind. Five, I believe there are about 50% fewer rigs off the Louisiana coast than what are displayed on the charts (Navionics). 

    As our 2020 cruising season continues, we are still challenged with opportunities to gather, hold dock parties and enjoy the social side of our cruises. We are looking ahead at some big events that may be impacted such as the Allen’s Landing cruise and the Commodores Ball. With our revenue from membership renewal down a bit, we will have to make some fiscally smart decisions how to manage our expenses. 

    This is also the time of year when we start looking ahead to the nominations for the 2021 TMCA Board Members. Volunteering to be part of the Club leadership is an opportunity to get involved and shape the future. If you are interested in putting your name in the hat to be nominated for one of the Board positions, please contact me or one of the current members of the Board. We will announce the Nomination Committee very soon. 

    Stay safe, boat smart...

    Bryan Austin

    TMCA Commodore, 2020

  • 1 Aug 2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is your Commodore Speaking,

    I apologize for the delay getting our newsletter out this month. Believe it or not, a lot is going on in my and Cindy’s world and of course the world around us. We had to cancel our July monthly meeting due to inclement weather after previously moving it outdoors while the Elks Lodge is closed. We look forward to the August meeting to pick back up again. Stay tuned. 

    On a more personal note, while our boat continues the post-lightning strike repair process, we traveled to Ft Lauderdale to look at some future catamaran purchase options. Looks like we arrived just just in time to greet hurricane Isaias. While there, we were able to help fellow TMCA members Tara and Travis Townsley complete the hurricane prep on their new (to them) 53’ Royal Cape catamaran. Fortunately the hurricane spared Ft Lauderdale and only hit the area with some periodic heavy rain and brisk winds with tropical storm level gusts. We will join the Townsley’s again in mid August to sail their catamaran across the Gulf back to Kemah. 

    This year brings unique challenges for our members to enjoy boating with friends. The Club Leadership continues to promote cruises and educational events that allow members to expand their boating knowledge and skills while limiting the planned social gatherings. 

    Stay safe and see you on the water.

    Bryan Austin

    TMCA Commodore, 2020

  • 1 Jul 2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    This is your Commodore Speaking,

    We dipped our toe back into Club activities last month with our first Monthly Meeting since the coronavirus lockdown began. We were able to space the tables and chairs to accommodate the expected social distancing both during the social hour and during our program which we also streamed live on Facebook for those members unable or uncomfortable with attending in person. Our program guest speaker was Greg Kutsen, M.D. (Mantus Marine)  who gave a great presentation about emergency medicine while boating. As long as there are social gathering restrictions, we will continue to stream the meetings live over our TMCA Facebook page or on our YouTube channel, “Texas Mariners Cruising Association”. 

    Closer to home and our boat, the system diagnosis and repairs continue following the May lightning strike on s/v Austintatious. We are working through the process with our insurance company. We expect to replace most all of the electrical components on the boat. Those of you that have experience with this act of nature know the event will immediately render many electronics failed while other systems can initially look and act normal but will soon fail. As an example, our two shower drain pumps use a 15 second timer relay. They each failed several days after the event. The repair/replace equipment list is long. Our boat is still on the market, as we look to move on to a catamaran, so this event was quite untimely. However, once the work has completed, the boat may almost be new again with renewed warranty on replaced (and upgraded) equipment. 

    Continue to monitor your email, our TMCA website and Facebook page for updated information on cruises and social events.

    In the meantime, be smart and stay safe. 

    Bryan Austin

    TMCA Commodore, 2020

  • 1 Jun 2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous
    This is your Commodore Speaking,

    We are beginning to see thelight at the end of the COVID tunnel; and I’m not talking about the lighting strike we took on our boat several weeks ago. We are thoughtfully and carefully turning back on our club events. Stay tuned to our website and Facebookpage (TMCA) for information on upcoming events, cruises and of course our new website rollout.

    The TMCA Leadership Team has adjusted our approach to social activities while additional state and local restrictions are in affect. For cruises, instead of the traditional pot-luck meal sharing, we will ask members to bring and eat their own food. Participation in “Docktails” and “Sterngating” will be at the discretion of each member. Dock parties will have a similar restriction. Food may be provided if purchased directly from a commercial establishment and properly handled. For example, the June Dock Party at Watergate Marina is hosted by Sailing Angels. They will provide pizza and maintain an orderly and controlled access to it; allowing persons to manage their social distancing they are comfortable with.

    While our boat is recovering from a lightning strike, we spent the last ten days out on the water cruising with friends. We made stops at Moody Gardens Marina, Surfside Marina, anchored in the San Bernardriver and then headed home with an overnight stop at Harborwalk Marina. We were really impressed with Surfside Marina and the staff. They dropped what they were doing to help us dock our boats. They have a ship store and clean showers that are both open 24/7. I spoke to Jason Ross, the manager of the marina about our Club. He has graciously agreed to establish a $50/night TMCA rate. Just show your TMCA member badge. A nice restaurant is within walking distance. Also nearby are golf cart rentals. We spent a full day driving around Surfside and checking out the beach and other establishments. Jason is looking forward to seeing us again.

    Finally, June 1 is the beginning of hurricane season and there is already something brewing in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Take some time to review how you would secure your boat. This includes identifying the extra lines and fenders you would use, how to remove bimini canvas and sails and how you would shutdown your boat and configure it for the coming storm; all with the assumption you may not be able to return to it for several days or even weeks.
    Stay safe, be smart and I look forward to seeing you on the water.

    Bryan Austin
    TMCA Commodore, 2020
  • 1 May 2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Bryan AustinSo what did you do on your Coronavirus isolation vacation? Cindy and I took Austintatious out on a three week extreme social distance cruise to Galveston and Offatts Bayou. Even after five years of ownership, we learned so much more about how our boat operates and how the two of us operate together “on the hook”. From battery management to food planning, boat maintenance, pet control and, what became most critical, anchor management, we learned a lot.

    After spending a night at Redfish Island, we took a short trip to the Bayshore side of the bay and anchored just off of Bayshore Park. I think we found a new cruise destination. They have a nice dock with easy dinghy access into the park. We then spent the bulk of our time in Offats Bayou ping-ponging anchorages between Moody Gardens and Pelican Rest as each weather system came through. One such weather system demonstrated our anchor was a little undersized as we swung around and quickly drug into the Moody Gardens marina before we could react. We are now the proud owners of a new Mantus anchor.

    I continue to encourage our Club members to get out on the water. Either plan some local cruises to anchor out or head down the coast; just check the status of the local marinas to see if they are receiving boats.

    I will be working with our Club leadership to determine how best to re-engage the members and when and how to pick back up with our Monthly Meetings and Dock Parties. June seems like the new target to get things cranked up again... Stay tuned.

    Stay Safe & See You on the Water

    Bryan Austin
    TMCA Commodore, 2020

  • 1 Apr 2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is your Commodore Speaking,

    This is a very different world we are experiencing right now. If there was ever a time to follow the guidance of the medical and government officials, it is now. As a social boating organization, we are canceling planned social events while the social distancing guidance is in effect; which has been extended through April 30th. Thus our next Monthly Meeting and other scheduled social events in April will not occur. 

    We will continue to promote creative cruising events that do not include social gatherings. The recent Follow the Leader cruise around the bay is a great example of creative cruising. I encourage members to organize small group cruises to near by anchorages. 

    Cindy and I (along with our dog Zeus) have been exercising our “extreme” social distancing by taking Austintatious out of the marina and anchoring at Redfish Island for the past several days. Our fridge and freezer are loaded and the tanks are full. On Tuesday, we moved the boat and spent the night anchored near Bayshore Park. There is a boat ramp with a dinghy friendly access. By spending these extra days “on the hook”, we learned a little more about how to manage our boat, batteries and generator.  We will continue our tour around the bay this week with a stop in Offats Bayou and maybe a night or two at Harborwalk. We may get down to Freeport. Who knows. 

    If you know of any members who have been affected by the coronavirus, please reach out to them to check on their status. First and foremost, Keep yourself and family safe. 

    See you on the water...soon.

    Bryan Austin

    TMCA Commodore

  • 1 Mar 2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    This is your Commodore Speaking,

    February has been a month of boat projects. I cleaned and sanded the teak toe rail that runs along the outer edge of the deck. I also made several trips to the tip top of our 72’ mast to replace the anchor light and repair my custom PVC bridge “curb feeler” that extends out in front and above the mast tip. Since our mast height is so close to the 73’ ICW bridge height in our area, we are very sensitive to bridge clearance. The consequences of hitting a bridge with our mast could likely result in the mast failing and come crashing down on the boat deck. So that small piece of insurance really reduces the likelihood of getting into that situation. 

    I use this as a transition to relate how NASA assesses and manages risk in human spaceflight and how you can apply it with your personal boat operations. Loss of vehicle and loss of human life are the most catastrophic failures for NASA spaceflight. The consequences could mean the end of that NASA program as did the Space Shuttle STS-107 Columbia disaster in February, 2003. 

    Risk managed failures are evaluated and debated in terms of likelihood and consequences. What is the likelihood of the failure (aka “hazard”) and, if it occurs, what are the consequences. NASA has a very robust process of identifying system failures and assessing the consequences. They use a 5 x 5 Likelihood vs Consequences grid (1 being least and 5 being most) to map the hazard. System design strives to keep risk out of the red and closer to the green. Many times that means additional design cost such as redundant devices or systems to bring the risk level down. 

    Let’s look at your boat engine as an example. Typical system failures you may (will) encounter are cooling and fuel flow related such as clogged fuel filters and failed impellers. Less likely are thru-hull seacocks and fuel and water pumps (long life or more reliable). Even less likely may be mechanical failures; however, as the system ages, those less likely failures can now increase in likelihood. You can mitigate (reduce the likelihood) of many failures through routine servicing. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law says the failure will happen at the most unfortunate time. For sailors heading offshore, a unique set of man overboard hazards exist that can, and should be mitigated. 

    Take some time to review each system on your boat and identify where a potential hazard could exist. Then ask yourself what the consequences of the failure would be in the area you will be operating (in the ICW, offshore at night, etc.). Not just the major ones but also those that could impact your quality of life such as the hot water heater or fresh water pump. Plan ahead to identify how you would respond. 

    Before you go out and spend a bunch of money on spares for every possible failure, always consider the likelihood of the failure and the consequences if it were to occur; use the 5 x 5 risk matrix. Sometimes you have to spend a little green to stay in the green. 

    See you on the water.

    Bryan Austin

    TMCA Commodore, 2020

  • 1 Feb 2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    This is your Commodore Speaking,

    Fifty three years ago, on January 27th, we lost 3 astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire on the pad. It’s been 34 years since, on January 28th, the Shuttle Challenger exploded during ascent and took 7 more lives. And 17 years ago, on February 1st, I concluded my last Flight Director shift for the Shuttle mission STS-107 and handed over helm to the Entry team and Flight Director Leroy Cain. I went home, got a little sleep, then woke up expecting to see the contrail of Columbia flying overhead at Mach 22 on the way to a landing at KSC. Instead, sadly, I saw a number of bright objects flying across the sky as Columbia had broken up and disintegrated over Texas due to a thermal tile failure on the port wing caused by a piece of foam that fell from the external tank during ascent. Seven more astronauts lost their lives that day. I will never forget that image in the sky. Equally tough, was the fact that just 10 hours earlier, I greeted family members from each of the Columbia astronauts as they came in the Control Center to have their private family call before heading to KSC to watch the landing.

    When we were flying the Space Shuttle, we would spend around two years preparing for each mission. The more straightforward element was choreographing how things should be scheduled; even for a complex Hubble telescope repair mission. The greatest amount of time was spent identifying the what-if failure scenarios that could occur and then developing and rehearsing our response procedures in order to keep the crew and Shuttle safe and continue the mission.

    My philosophy for staying safe and prepared on our boat is similar to our approach with Shuttle Missions. I spend time thinking and preparing for those what-if’s and how we would respond. Have you prepared for your boating what-if’s.

    Let’s take a specific system failure on your boat; like the engine fails (bigger deal on a single engine boat). Murphy’s Law says this will happen at the worse time. So what if that failure occurs in a confined marina fairway just as you are about to turn into your slip. What would you do? This is one of a number of time-critical or space-limited situations you could find yourself in. And of course, in our area, there is always some wind impacting your approach and docking.

    So think through how you approach your slip, what the prevailing winds are and how they affect your approach and docking. What dock lines should you retrieve first. During your approach, do you have space to maneuver around to burn off some speed? Consider staging a spare dock line on the boat and have it ready to throw and loop around a piling or cleat on the dock. It may even be the best solution to run your boat aground to stop it if you have that option. You may want to practice it (with a running engine in neutral of course). Spend some time thinking about your what-if scenarios and how you would respond. Be prepared so you can avoid the “hopeless position”.

    Stay prepared and I'll see you on the water…


    Bryan Austin

    TMCA Commodore, 2020

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