by Randall Beaird
During the summer of 2005 I was working south of Victoria, Texas and spending every weekend fishing in Port O’Connor. I bought a 15 foot kayak, built a trolling motor mount behind me, anchored it to the battery and was soon cruising miles from shore in the bay and finger-like canals.
I would pack my tent, find a sandy spot, as high as possible to dodge high tide, and explore–had a little shellac working by Sunday, layers of sunscreen and insect repellant.
I would troll a little, or anchor and fish by some structure. When the big boats flew by they loved to roar their approval/surprise as I puttered down the shoreline. I was in no hurry, and packed a collapsible lawnchair.
Nothing beats grilled trout, especially when you’re starving. After a few weeks I knew I needed a bigger kitchen, and a shower, so I started looking for a rental. I ended up buying my apartment, a 36 foot Grand Banks trawler.
It made my commute to work a little longer, but I was coming home daily, to my baby. I named her Salty June because it was a very salty June living off that kayak on the weekends. But by July, the tides were runnin’ right, and Fridays often found me headed to the offshore jetties a few miles away. Anchored on the calm bay side, just feet from the deep water cuts, was the place for me.
One hot night in August, millions of cabbage head jellyfish were in the marina, I mean thick, and one was clogging up my AC intake. Dripping sweat, desperate to sleep, I threw on my goggles and eased in with the cabbage heads. They don’t sting, but like playing dodgeball, and I was losing in this nightmare. Their mucous creates an itch, especially after that slow dance, so I took my weekly shower early.
Then came Rita, and things were about to get crazy. From early on she showed the potential to wreck Port O’Connor. Work let out early Thursday, September 22 so I rushed home to Salty June. It didn’t look good, though they said if it wobbled, it would most likely bend toward Louisiana. So I decided to make a run for Corpus Christi. (I had enough diesel to make Mexico with two 200 gallon tanks.)
The problem with my plan was that there were long desolate stretches between Port O’Connor and Corpus, plus I would be on foot if I abandoned ship. I was trying to save my insurance deductible — $4,000.
My GPS unit was dialed in nicely on the channel, showing me the deepest part and navigational buoys, or I wouldn’t have been able to drive by myself, 90 miles at 8 knots, twelve hours straight.
I remember around 1am, hearing on the radio, it was forecast to hit Matagorda, just north of Port O’Connor, but it was still several hundred miles away and over 24 hours from landfall. By the time I made Rockport around 3am, Rita started flirting with Louisiana. And when I pulled into the Corpus Christi Marina at 6am, she was moving in for a deadly mugging, the following morning, at the Texas/Louisiana border.
The marina was close to downtown Corpus, and after tying up and taking a nap, I hit the streets walking around noon. Many of the businesses were boarded up, but I found a Whataburger with the drive-thru open. I remember feeling odd as I waited in line among the cars, creeping toward a big burger meal, doing exaggerated stretching every 30 seconds–just little signals to the car behind, “Easy on the knees.” Certainly feeling vulnerable, yet lucky to be alive.
The journey back to Port O’Connor the next morning was heaven; I could see the sights. My dock mates who stayed said the water rose about five feet, and I lost some lawn chairs. I know–lucky. And if I ever meet a single lady named June, especially in June…