Sailing South Texas

Sailing Texas

   Who is staring at the sea is already sailing a little.

        Day 4Camp Day 3Day 1

Having never sailed before I purchased an old Macgregor 26 (Miss Adventures) and moved from Illinois to South Padre Island to chase my dreams of sailing off into the wild blue. After finding work as a deck hand I began my sailing odyssey. Not knowing how to sail or being able to afford sailing lessons I had to teach myself through trial and error, I should say through error and error. Her name was fitting, because I had many Miss Adventures with her. After many day sails and overnights at anchor it was time to sell Miss Adventures.

A few years later I received my 100 ton near coastal master Captains license and made enough money to resume my sailing goals. The experience gained in working on the water took me all over the Gulf of Mexico. I Captained crew boats and utility boats serving the oil platforms between New Orleans and the southern tip of Texas. Working offshore gave me very little knowledge of the coast so I offered my services delivering yachts and fishing boats from as far away as Mississippi. Those deliveries kept me close to the coast and I gained a lot of valuable information and experience on the coast line. Captaining the dolphin watch and occasionally the dive boat for snorkel trips added to my knowledge of the immediate area around South Padre Island. Diving offshore and owning my own snorkeling boat gave me additional knowledge about the marine life around Padre Island.

In 2010 I started looking for a good pocket cruiser for the Texas 200 sailing regatta that covered most of the Texas coast. Not being able to find the boat I wanted and time running out, I made the decision to buy the Windrider 16 and camp sail the trip. I had enough time for one shake down and set out the day before the start so I could leave from South Padre Island and catch the 200 group at their start in Port Mansfield the following day. I purchased the Windrider specifically for the 200 and sold it after the voyage.

Now I have my Son, a wife and a shiny new mortgage. It has always been my intention to sail solo, but I realized that it can get a little boring sitting at anchor, so I decided to give myself a job to do. I now have video and camera gear so I can take some video and try to get some good landscape and wildlife photography. Most of my trips will be along the Texas coast, between the mainland and padre Island, the area known as the Laguna Madre. I have some great spots where I can beach the boat and go for long walks looking for flotsam and jetsam and get up wind of some of the wildlife on the barrier island. If I am lucky I will be able to go days without seeing another human being.

                            Laguna Madre                                                  


                         Padre Island  


Barrier islands cover much of the east coast of the USA, from the Mexican border all the way to Canada - these low-lying strips of land, formed by deposition of sand and pebbles by sea currents serve to protect the main coastline from weather and high tides. Padre Island lies off the southern Gulf Coast of Texas and is geographically just about in the Southwest although it is a long way from the deserts and canyons of Arizona. Only the northern tip of Padre Island is inhabited; beyond lies the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in the US with over 80 miles of empty white sand coastline.

Padre Island: The Island, which varies in width from three miles to less than one, used to be 147 miles long until the Port Mansfield Channel was constructed in 1962 to allow ships into the inner lagoon (the Laguna Madre); this now divides the island into north and south sections. The south has a road for 10 miles at the far end; beyond is quite empty and often inaccessible due to shifting sand and occasional submerging of narrow sections. The north is the main island; this is the area protected as a National Seashore.

Wildlife: Padre Island has particularly varied bird life. Most common are laughing gulls, sandpipers, geese and herons but over 300 other species are recorded. Diamondback rattlesnakes, coyotes, deer and rabbits live in the dunes, while ghost crabs inhabit the area just above the high tide mark, and are responsible for the many small holes in the dry sand that mysteriously stay unblocked, even when sand is blown about by the strong sea breezes that affect the island during most summer afternoons. The endangered sea turtle may also occasionally be spotted, and during the egg-laying season park rangers patrol the beaches looking for any signs of activity.
Only about 5 miles are reachable by 2WD vehicles - the sand is too soft beyond. The other 55 miles are little different, just emptier, with the only variation being the extent of the grasslands in the centre of the island - sometimes the sand and dunes at the edge continue right across to the west side. This is said to be the largest undeveloped section of Barrier Island anywhere in the world. Sea shells are generally not found in great quantities on Padre Island except for two quite extensive areas centered around miles 12 and 24. The only other notable feature is near mile 50 - the wreck of the Nicaragua which ran aground in 1912.

Many thanks to: for this great information.


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