Sailor Eric Dahlkamp shares a great write-up AND video regarding his adventure in the Texas 200 this year. And Eric says his [mostly] self-built boat – Squirt – handled this recent boating affair without a hitch.
Many thanks to him for yet again compiling a terrific on-the-water small trimaran chronicle.
Now, take it away Eric…
2022 Texas 200 – A Grand Adventure
By Eric Dahlkamp
The best Texas 200 for me thus far. My fourth attempt, my third completion. My one mishap was losing my glorious shade umbrella overboard, but no mind, I couldn’t have used it after anyway. Conditions got rough. Then again, it was far cooler this year to me than my previous occasions.
First and foremost, though, Squirt did amazing. Plus, I got to explore sail this year.
I hugged shores slowly, standing in the cockpit and on the bow, skimming the shallows searching for camps, versus sailing far out point-to-point on a time schedule. I did the back bays for the first time too which was awesome. I camped alone both by choice (as in NOT wanting to stay in the mud of the Land-cut), or by default (couldn’t make Army Hole before nightfall). At all these camps another sailor found refuge and stopped for the night nearby. We shared a few words then went about our separate business. Illuminating how just these brief encounters tend to bond one to another in a unique long-lasting way.
At the “not mud” day-two camp, I had the marvelous experience of observing hundreds, perhaps a thousand or more, birds of all types fly by…all traveling upwind…some singly, others in their species style of flight in flocks or small groups, some all alone…each displaying patterns and persona peculiar to their kind – furious wing flapping or drift gliding, flying at wave top height or far higher, silent determination or casual chattering flitting, as they travelled into the wind, hour after hour, intent on reaching some secret spot of their choosing for the night. I figure they do this late in the day to position themselves for the morrow when they’ll effortlessly feed by simply lifting and gliding or flit downwind in short hops all day long. Many roosted all about me all night. They chat, squabble and croon long after nightfall, late into the night! It took them hours to unwind from their busy hectic bird life day…I had earplugs thankfully.
Camp three was designed as a “you pick your spot” camp anyway. So, I was largely off on my own a lot. A little anti-social maybe, but circumstances dictated it so. I had anticipated and wanted to buddy sail with several of you, but it just didn’t happen. That’s why one should never have another boat carry any of one’s supplies. You’ll likely never meet up.
Turns out the solitude I experienced was rejuvenating. It brought back yesteryear African memories for me of exploring the lagoons and islands of my youth with our 12′ sailing skiff, The Bloodvessel (there’s a story behind that name). I had all but forgotten the feeling. Wonderful to relive it in this way. Truly a memorable Texas 200.
All that nostalgia aside, it really just takes me too long to get going in the morning.
I miss out on a lot of the social stuff because I arrive so late, or simply have to stop short. On the plus side though, I get to linger behind all alone, or camp in romantic isolation. It’s a real joy to simply savor the feel and fullness of the places alone…the sights and sounds and interactions of birds, bees, bugs, fish, vegetation…seeing raccoon and wild boar tracks, jackals lopping along the beach or hearing them call out in their wistful wailing way…feeling the wind, humidity, sun, crunch of shells and sand underfoot, gaze at distant vistas and wavelet patterns lapping the shore…all coexisting in their unique way. I particularly enjoy watching birds feeding… some dive bomb, there are lots of styles here too, others stealth wade fish in the shallows. Marvelous to get just a mere glimpse of their everyday activities as I sail on by.
All the dolphin I saw were either actively intent on feeding or traveling. They ignored me. Not like my last two tries were many swam close to chat and accompany my boat. This time only one interacted with me. She, I only surmise it was a her, swam ahead of me up the Port Mansfield Channel stopping on several occasions to slap her tail noisily multiple times on the surface in annoyance or anger at my intrusion. “These are my fish, this in my spot, go away!” I did. I sailed on leaving her alone in her cherished place.
I have to tear myself away to load the boat and cast off. Just “being there”, a lone human, observing, calls for a certain reverence. I usually sail several hours behind the group. Often experiencing remarkably different conditions.
Still, I came to sail. And sail we did! My peculiar self-built trimaran, scabbed together over five years, performed fabulously We had all wind conditions and some pretty gnarly sea states. I was hit with everything from hours of being becalmed, to at least 30 knot gusts. Squirt held up to severe pounding chop given she’s really quite small in reality despite appearing bigger in pictures. She is amazingly dry! Oh, I must say, she is very comfortable too. That’s a huge plus.
She is responsive, yet very forgiving. I had water over the foredeck in sizeable following seas, water over her gunnels as amas buried in strong gusts. She always recovered easily from each incident reinforcing my confident in her. She is seaworthy within the range of seas and blows we generally get on this event.
And, she sails on all points in all winds very well indeed. Her rig is very versatile. She’s not fast loaded down, but she’s not a slouch either. We hit 10 knots off-wind on several occasions. Got up on an extended plane twice. Surfed a lot of waves. Upwind 5-6 knots. Very respectful. The real sailing, and there’s lots of it, is on my GoPro. I’ll get that up on my YouTube channel in time.
In hindsight I carry to much crap. There’ll be a serious purging of gear I don’t need if I get to go again. Weight is a killer in a tiny hull.
Then there’s the self-inflicted drawback of my overcomplicating her rig, but that’s just me inventing stuff to do over long Utah winters. I’m no boat designer or rigger. But I used every gizmo and line so perhaps she is fine as she is. There’s a lot of “layman’s foolishness” in her build…it adds unnecessary weight. Oh well, my own fault. She is tough though, really tough. I’ll give her that.
Nothing broke. The few issues she did have were easily put right. The most significant of which was a leeboard that wouldn’t drop farther than halfway the day I needed to pinch up a VERY busy Corpus Christi ship channel. The wooden leeboard case had swollen. All it took at Quarantine Shore to repair was half an hour with the rasp file Dana Hardy just happened have aboard his 26′ sharpie Remedy. Who else would carry a wood rasp, right?
The fact Squirt made the ship channel almost on one tack, with half leeboard depth, is a testament to her pointing ability. Then there was the wing-on-wing downwind run to Maggy Beach from Port O’Connor sitting in the shade of the mainsail. Pure bliss!
Last observation. I found I was surprisingly able to endure it physically. After the first day and night it got easier actually. First night was brutal with stiffness, pain, cramps and exhaustion Then as the week wore on, I became less and less fatigued and more limber. I experienced no cramps after that first night…none! What a nice surprise. Especially since I bombed both the 2020 Everglades Challenge on day one with food poisoning, cramps and hypothermia, and the 2021 Texas 200 with severe vertigo when I reached San Antonio. At 72 now, I do find myself wondering if I’ll be healthy to go at crunch time.
This year I was truly blessed to feel fit and strong.
In summary, I honestly had more fun this trip than the other two years combined.
But none of this would have been possible, or as pleasant, without the help and support of so many of you. Thank you. I treasure your friendships near and far.
And Julie Dahlkamp, what can I say? Thank you so much for holding down the fort and all your encouragement. I love you sweetheart!
I’ll be back next year, se Deus quiser.
Day 1 –
Day 1 (Setting Out) –
Day 2 –
Day 3 –
Day 4 –