Monday, November 27, 2017

Repairing the Fish Cleaning Station and Park Dock

We had already left Star Valley when our Winter Park asked, using Facebook, their winter Texans to bring tools, (Seems money is tight, and workers are scarce as many have lost their homes and moved from the area). The park didn’t have the budget to hire someone to repair the fish cleaning station and fishing pier, (they weren’t insured or, so the story goes).
When we arrived, there was already talk about what we could do and couldn’t. There was only one dock and pier left undamaged on the bay. Our dock had lost all its railings, the table of the cleaning station, the gate, and lots of floor planking.
Alan and Larry had done quite a bit of planning, (Larry is from Iowa and Alan from Kansas). They had even calculated the amount of woods and screws needed, and the park had bought enough to get started. At happy hour they announced that the work would start the next day.
I forgot about it till I saw them working and, so I went down to the pier to offer my help. As I didn’t have any tools I was basically grunt labor but at least I could be a gopher and run for tools or carry wood. There was quite a crew, besides Larry and Alan, Dave from Washington, Jim from Kansas, Minnesota Joe, Both Larry’s, and Tom.
By the time I got there, they had started to rebuild some of the planking and the entrance gate. Eight of us helped to carry and move the heavy frame, holding it upright in place as it was screwed and bolted to the pier floor. Some of the flooring and side panels were rebuilt using recycled wood from the fence and it didn’t take very long before we ran out of materials.
Several days later the park delivered more wood and screws and so the group continued their work. Railings wee built and strengthened, along with more flooring and some major replacement of cross members and flooring of the fish station., (Again, I was mostly a gopher, carrying wood and holding boards as they were sawed and then attached). Three hours seemed about all the time the crew could stand before we broke for another day.
The next work day, the park manager and park workers had arrived to help, so we had too many people. Larry organized us into crews working different tasks and the work progressed rapidly. The work had stopped for a couple of days as Larry had fallen and broken some ribs, but he still insisted on directing the workers, as he said Army Strong!
 I missed the next day’s work, on a Saturday, as Renita and I had volunteered to teach a class on wire wrapping at the Gem and Mineral Club shop. By the time we returned from Corpus Christi almost all the work had been done.
Walking out one could see Larry’s well thought out plans. We still didn’t have any electricity or water, but the park was planning to install a new power pole and run the electricity to the station. The group discussed the problems with cleaning the fish without the electric fillet knifes. But you do what you must do, (the problem is the large ocean fish have thick rib bones making cleaning challenging).
I did go fishing and got to use the new cleaning station, and as I have cleaned thousands of fish the old Dexter Russel fillet knife made short work of my sheep head, (not the fresh water variety). Thank goodness, we can clean fish back at the park and the station promises to be a busy place. The pelicans have already retuned, and were begging for scraps as I cleaned my fish.  One more step back towards normal. Clear skies

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Kayaking the Sailboat Channel

I cant believe it has been ten days since I last wrote on our blog/journal. Now I am three entries behind and so for that I apologize. The real reason I write this blog is so Renita and I are able to keep track of our retirement travels. So now its catch up time.

After Hurricane Harvey we talked with our friend Dave. He had told us that a friend of his had looked at the storage garage and that it had lost its garage door and been looted, (his fifth wheel had also been looted and he lost his fishing poles). Last spring Dave and John had offered to let us store our kayaks inside their bin, so we were surprised when Dave said that the storage door was only partially off and that the kayaks were still inside!
We waited till our friends arrived and were able to retrieve our yaks. A few days later we headed to the sailboat channel for our first kayak fishing. Arriving at the channel we were surprised at the extreme high tide. It was so high that the location where we usually parked the truck was flooded.
Still we were able to find a place on the sand where we could park and launch the yaks. Paddling to our first spot we anchored and baited up with live shrimp. As fast as we could throw out we had bites and caught fish after fish, mostly small reds, whiting, and sand trout.
All the fish were small, but we were greeted by a dolphin, probably feeding on the ever-present mullet and sand trout. Still we were having fun, when I set the hook on another trout. It fought harder than the others and it turned out to be the largest sand trout we have ever caught, fifteen inches!
Putting it on the stringer we were lulled into complacency by more small fish. Suddenly my reel screamed as a large fish, probably a black drum made a run. I picked up the rod to fight the fish when the line suddenly snapped. I had been lazy and even though we had caught a lot of fish, I had not checked the line and retied, a rookie mistake.

We did catch some whiting and I kept a larger one hoping to have enough for a meal. However no more large fish bit and so we ended up with leftovers for dinner, (we rarely eat cornbread anymore as it bad for our Keto diet). Still it had been a lot of fun, kayaking, catching fish after fish, and just plain relaxing while fishing the channel. Clear skies

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Busy Week, Working Rocks, Fishing, and Relaxing

It’s been hot and humid, here in south Texas, but the first major cold front has just passed through bringing some rain and a relief from the hot temperatures.  In the past week we have started to work rocks at the rock shop, spent some more time sightseeing, and done some fishing,
We have been blessed with meeting and making many new friends here in south Texas, many of them members of the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society. So, when we arrived at the rock shop we were warmly greeted by Big Mark, Russel, and Rita.  All the machines were busy, and that was fine as we only needed to saw a few rocks.
Mark showed us his beautiful specimen of Turkish Stick Agate and Russ and I talked about working Koroit Boulder opals. Rita said she has been finding quite a few fossils, including a large fossil shark tooth, a megalodon!
The best thing about our membership is to be able to get the expert advice on the proper way to work material. The rock shop survived the hurricane with very light damage. The roof leaked in some place and some tiles fell in, but the machines were all fine, so it promises to be a very busy season.
The reports are that the whooping cranes are starting to arrive. The wild flock here has grown, and they expect about four hundred and thirty birds, (at one time there were only fifteen birds left). Driving to Lamar we stopped along the shoreline, but didn’t see any whoopers. Each breeding pair with its young stake out a mile size territory and vigorously defend it from other whoopers and sandhill cranes. Due to the tremendous amount of rain from the hurricane there’s a great supply of berries and crabs so it portends a good year for the birds.
Another morning I went wade fishing to a nearby spot. Buying a pint of shrimp, I discovered that I have a leak in my good waders, but slogging on I begin to cast live shrimp, working them slowly along the oyster bottom. On each cast small fish stole my bait, almost as fast as I cast out.
As I worked along the shoreline, I begin to catch black drum and redfish. They were all undersize and, so I was able to release them back into the water, (I almost exclusively use circle hooks, which hook the fish in the corner of the mouth and allow for an easy live release).
I caught black drum, redfish, whiting, and pinfish. Surprisingly I did not catch any speckled trout. (weakfish in Florida), as other fishermen arrived. I watched them fish as it’s a great way to find hidden spots. They were casting jigs and I did see one catch a nice trout, but the school just wasn’t in
The next day Renita joined me, and we fished under the new bridge. The results were the same as the day before and, so we moved out to a spot near the airport. There, we set up the lawn chairs and fished with no success. It always takes a while before we catch some keepers and so we returned home and grilled hot dogs, (we don’t eat cornbread anymore due to the diet our doctor put us on. Molly likes hot dogs better anyway).

Our friends from Iowa, Kansas, and Michigan are starting to arrive and so today we are all going out to breakfast, before helping them set up their rig. The forecast is for some rain, which the area can use as it has been dry since the hurricane came ashore. Other friends are still trickling in and so to them all, and to you we say travel safe, and of course clear skies.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rockport, Aransas Pass, and Port A

As we neared Rockport, the first thing we noticed were the new utility poles. It’s a quiet testimony to all the people who have, and are, recreating cities where once stood nothing but piles of destruction. Passing Holiday Beach and Lamar we crossed Copano Bay. Trees had disappeared, and we had new vistas of what used to be tree shrouded forest but now is wide-open spaces.
Texas DOT Trucks were hauling away pile after pile of debris and everywhere work was being done, Blue tarps are now the most common color, but roofers were hard at work with many buildings spotting new shingles.
Our Rv park was not yet open and so we moved, temporarily, to Southern Oaks. The workers there have done such an excellent job that you can hardly see any damage from the hurricane. The birds don’t seem to notice any difference, and a vermillion flycatcher greeted us on one of our morning walks.
Monday, we traveled to Corpus Christi and were welcomed at the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society’s Rock Shop by old friends, and new members. The shop was full, a far cry from years past where Renita and I would be the only two members using the machines.
Yesterday we decided to drive to Port A which was also devastated by Hurricane Harvey. The destruction there was catastrophic and, yet you could see that, so much work had been done.
The beach, next to the jetty, has pretty much disappeared but still fishermen were able to access the long structure.
Fisherman were throwing cast nets for finger mullet where we had parked. Perhaps the most symbolic thing we saw was the sign at Virginias, that said, “Port A Strong”!
Most of businesses were still being repaired but there were restaurants and even a gas station open) Every place we have gone to has an open Whataburger, if I were to build a house I think I would build it using the same general plan.
Eating at Virginias, we enjoyed the same great food. The garlic fish is one of our favorites! Many of the docks have been destroyed but I am sure it will be only a matter of time before they too are back, better than ever.
We plan on doing our part by spending lots of money, just what the places need.
A dome house looked undamaged, at least from the outside, Again the amount of rebuilding visible speaks volumes to the spirit of Texans! Dolphins were still feeding near the ferry’s and I was surprised to see the old Fina Dock stood across the pass.

Today we are going to visit our usual rv park and we hope it will be open this week. Renita and I have purchased our fishing licenses and can’t wait to get our kayaks and start enjoying the water! Clear skies.