That’s right. We got stuck in the mud!
I know, I know. We have a 40 foot sailboat and should be moving around in shallow muddy water. But the little harbor we were trying to get into is just so nice!
And we thought the high tide was on our side.
We were wrong.
Before I share what happened, let’s talk about why.
Why Were We There?
The fridge was stocked. Food was prepped for 3 days. The water and diesel tanks were full.
The plan was to spend three days away from land, be near to the Gulf of Mexico inlet, and practice our offshore sailing skills.
Where we’re currently located in Kemah, TX it’s a 4-6 hour sail out of Galveston and into the challenging Gulf of Mexico.
To make good time, we decided to stay in a little harbor near the inlet. It’s on the Bolivar Peninsula and is literally 45 minutes from the ocean!
This would help us make the most of our offshore time.
Where The Plan Gets Muddy
The thing about the Bolivar Peninsula is that it’s the only route for inshore shipping from all of the North Gulf Coast into the Houston Ship Channel (the world’s largest port by tonnage).
The commercial traffic, barges and tugs, all use the intracoastal waterway – which is like a large river just inside the coastline.
This means a two things:
- There are a lot of barges, so anchoring in the waterway can be dangerous as barges do not stop or maneuver around sailboats!
- All of the silt stirred up by barge traffic settles on the banks.
The silt is where we come in.
We can’t anchor safely in the waterway, so we needed to enter a safe harbor.
But the silt also enters the harbor. As a matter of fact, the silt settles right at the entrance of the harbor.
While the entrance is dredged to 6-8 feet, the silt actually creates a muddy bottom around 4-5 feet deep.
Getting Into The Harbor
Depending on the tide, we can/can’t get into the harbor.
However, the bottom is kind of soft. Actually, it’s like marshmallows. A thick goo that doesn’t damage the bottom of a boat.
When we’re loaded for travel, the Catalina 387 sits around 5ft deep.
Our depth finder read 4.9 feet, which meant there was an inch or two of silt that we had to push through.
We entered slowly. Taking it easy so that the keel would be jolted.
The boat came to a slow stop as we buried into the “marshmallow”. We’ve been here before (watch us do it successfully here). Simply let the sailboat stop, and keep the motor in gear while the mud gives way.
But this time was different.
The mud didn’t give way.
This is a crucial decision point.
Do we push it? Is it really just soft mud that will give way? Or is it more solid, and by pushing it we’ll be stuck. Like really stuck and unable to get the boat off.
This would mean the tide would go out. And we’d be hard on the bottom. Putting the full weight of the boat on the keel. Worse, putting weight on the rudder leading to bending and damage.
These are decisions not to be taken lightly.