T he call came at 6pm, Thanksgiving Day.
It was a desperate plea for help. Their boat had run aground and they were stranded in Carlos Bay. The wind was picking up from the north, and the temperature was dropping.
Fortunately it was what we call a “dry front,” but as is the case here in the Rockport area, a stiff north wind makes for the roughest bay. This phenomenon is caused by the way our bay system is laid.
To add insult to injury, returning to most boat ramps in the area meant facing the teeth of the wind, which makes for a long trip back, if you get caught out.
“No one is answering their phone,” the message continued. “ My wife and I are in a bad way!”
I could hear what I believed to be crying in the background. It was true most tow guides were out of town, and the thought had fleetingly crossed my mind to claim the same status. The truth was I was at home with a tummy full of turkey and dressing. I had to call even though my body wanted to settle down to some much-deserved TV.
They answered their phone before I heard a ring. The immediate words were “Whoever you are please come get us!”
“Captain Mac here,” I said.
“We are taking on water, my lower unit is ruined and the bilges have stopped working!” the caller exclaimed.
“Okay first things first, before your cell phone goes dead. Where are you?”
“Carlos Bay, and I think it’s Cedar Reef.”
“Ahh, you tried to cut across.”
“Yes”, he said.
“I will come get you, so please calm down. You will think more clearly.”
“We are freezing and wet from bailing water!”
“What do you have to put on in the way of clothes?”
“Nothing, just some waders.”
“Neoprene?” I asked.
“Yes, but they are damp and wet inside.”
“You can be wet and warm at the same time,” I said.
“Put them on. It will cut the wind and help you warm up.”
“Do you know where the water is coming in at?” I asked.
“No, but the hull or transom doesn’t seem to be cracked.”
“Can you get to your bilges or aerators?”
“I think so” he said.
I hear noise, rumbling, wind, then in a panicked voice he says “It’s pouring in around my aerator pump!”
“Sir, is your boat on the reef?”
“Yes, that’s what I hit!” he responded in a frustrated voice.
“Then you are not gonna sink! Further, the water there is no more than three feet deep, unless you are in the channel—are you close to the channel?”
“Hmm, no, that’s how we came in—it’s a quarter mile away.”
“Can you reach the intake hole that feeds your aerator?”
“I think so, but wouldn’t it be better to wrap the rag from inside?” he asked.
“No, you want the pressure of the water working for you, not against you. Unscrew the screen if it has one and stuff a rag in the hole. That will stop the leak for the most part.”
“Okay, I can do that.”
I waited. A few minutes later he was back.
“I had to get in the water, but it’s stopped now.”
“Waders ARE warm!” he said.
“How’s your wife?” I asked.
“She is in waders, hiding behind the console, out of the wind.” “Good. I will be there in about an hour.”
“Yes sir, thirty minutes to get my boat in the water and about thirty minutes via the water. How big is your boat?”
“About 20 or so feet.”
Good, I thought. “Is it a deep V?”
“No, it’s a catamaran boat.”
Even better, I thought. “You have my cell phone number right?” I asked.
“Yes, my wife wants to talk to you.”
“Please don’t leave us out here!” she begged.
“I am walking out the door now ma’am. See you in just a little bit.”
“It’s getting dark” she said. “Can you find us in the dark?”
“Get a flashlight, and when you hear my boat shine it at me.”
“I don’t have a flashlight!” The man was back on the phone.
“No problem, when you see or hear my boat, point the phone and take a picture in my direction with the flash on, I will see it.”
“Can you do that?” he queried.
The ride over was easy enough as I was going with the wind most of the way, but the bad news was it was now gale force. Fortunately they were about where I had envisioned and from the cheering and hand waving it appeared I was welcome.
The boat, for this area, was enormous. I estimated 28 to 30 feet, with twin outboards. The only thing he got right was the catamaran hull. It was a World Cat boat. Dry, it weighed more than my boat could safely handle in these winds. Its high profile would catch a lot of the wind.
Add the two motors to its weight and displacement, and I knew it was not a boat I could pull with my 175hp without breaking something.
The question I wanted to ask was “What in the @#$$% were they doing in these waters out of the channel with that type boat!!??”
By now the answer was all too obvious. The man was not happy I could not tow his boat—or more acturately—that I WOULD NOT tow his boat. His wife on the other hand, was ready to get the hell out of Dodge and get back to dry land.
I made my position clear. My priority was to get them both back to safety. They could deal with recovering their boat when the conditions improved.
I took a scolding from the man, even though I reminded him of the 45+ mph winds and that I was not equipped to tow that type of boat.
“Then why did you come to get us!?”
His wife quickly responded. “He came to get us because no one else called us back! We also begged him to, and I for one deeply appreciate that. He’s not the one who ran our boat up on the reef, you did, Capt. Marvelous!”
“Folks please!” I interceded. “I left a turkey dinner and a warm easy chair with a good football game, all of which I seldom get to enjoy. Let’s get your boat secured to the reef and get going.”
After securing the boat with two anchors and a stout push pole hammered into the reef, we headed back.
My Haynie takes rough water well but the swells in Aransas Bay were close to five feet and looked even bigger in the dark, so we were all glad to get back to the boat ramp where they had launched. I gave them some warm coffee and phone numbers for someone that would assist them in recovering their boat, as well as the GPS coordinates.
The lady ran to their truck, and the man simply said thank you and turned and walked away. “Happy Thanksgiving,” I called out.
With his back to me. He just raised his hand and never looked back. I headed back out into Aransas Bay in the dark a little worn, a little poorer, but all the wiser for the 10 miles that would thankfully take me home. Draw your own moral conclusions.
• • •
The croakers are croaking, the shrimp are flipping and the cut bait is smelling. So use all three this month until you find the right bait. This need not cost a fortune either. Get small amounts until you figure out what works.
Rule of thumb: if the cold hangs on through April into May use shrimp and cut bait, but if the warmer weather sets in croakers are the golden ticket.
Contact Capt. Mac Gable at
Mac Attack Guide Service,
Copano Bay: Port Bay is a good spot for red fish using free-lined mud minnows or finger mullet. I’ve found the east shoreline to be best in the morning and the west shoreline in the late evening. The deeper water off on Lonetree Point is good for trout using shrimp under a rattle cork or a free-lined croaker.
Aransas Bay: Some trout are off of Traylor Island close to Big Cut and Little Cut. Drifts work well here if the wind allows. Lap Reef is holding some keeper trout. use free-lined croakers or free lined live shrimp. Some black drum and gafftop may be found just off the north bank at the mouth of Mission Bay. Fresh dead shrimp works well here.
St. Charles Bay: Reefs just off the old Boy Scout hole have some reds and trout in the early morning. Mud minnows and croakers work well here. In the back of St. Charles Bay, the northwest shoreline is a good spot for keeper reds using finger mullet on a medium heavy Carolina rig.
Carlos Bay: The point off Pelican Reef is a good spot for black drum and reds with free-lined live shrimp the best choice. The north edge of Spalding Reef is good for trout using a croaker on a light Carolina rig or free-lined.
Mesquite Bay: The reefs at the mouth of Brays Cove are good for trout early morning and reds later in the day. For the trout, use croakers free-lined and finger mullet for the reds. The mouth of Cedar Bayou is a good wade for trout using a popping cork and shrimp or soft plastics in watermelon and mullet colors.
Ayers Bay: Ayers Reef has some reds in the late evening. Free-lined is best here if the wind allows; use mud minnows or cut menhaden. The Second Chain Islands are a good spot for black drum and gafftop using fresh dead shrimp on a light Carolina rig.
Port Bay Bridge: The area around the bridge off Highway 188 on Port Bay is a good spot for those who are less mobile. The water is close to the highway so be careful with high speed traffic. Early morning use finger mullet that drift with the tide. Late evening use live shrimp under a rattle cork for trout and black drum.
Location: Port Bay Bridge: The area around the bridge off Highway 188 on Port Bay is a good spot for those who are less mobile. The water is close to the highway so be careful with high speed traffic. Early morning use finger mullet that drift with the tide. Late evening use live shrimp under a rattle cork for trout and black drum.
Email Capt. Mac Gable at [email protected]