Whether you’ve been day sailing in Galveston Bay or managed an offshore jaunt to another Texas port, everyone has to come home. Tacking or reaching through the Gulf, moored buoys mark the shipping lanes and jetties. Chirping and moaning across the waves, their bells, whistles and horns speak an ageless sea-language, and patterned flashes of light make them easily recognizable even for the night watch.
Slipping through the bay, there are day markers to look for – numbered red triangles and green squares on posts – or smaller red and green buoys. If you have a chart (you DO have a chart, don’t you?), you know what to look for. When you find it, you know where you are.
Probably the most well-known aid to navigation in Galveston Bay is Marker #2. Attached to a scarred post that’s been replaced a few times, the red triangle alerts boaters to the beginning of the Clear Creek channel. A traditional navigational mantra reminds boaters to keep “Red, Right, Returning”. Coming in from sea, the prudent skipper keeps red markers on the right, green on left, and the vessel in between for safe pasage.
Because Galveston Bay is so shallow, it’s always safest to enter the channel where the markers begin. Sometimes folks will cut into or out of the channel between markers 2 and 4, where the water still is deep enough to carry smaller boats. But generally speaking, boats line up and take their turn, counting down the markers through the Channel into Clear Lake.
At least they did before Hurricane Ike. Now, an eye for debris, a compass course or great familiarity with the channels are the only sure guides to safe passage because many markers apparently are gone, washed away in the surge. I say “apparently” because channel markers have begun to pop up in odd places – a green marker in a pile of debris at Lakewood Yacht Club, a red light on a pier in Seabrook shipyard.
Last week, I was startled to find Marker #4 propped up against a fence on Second Street in Seabrook, just across from the Post Office. Surrounded by piles of debris and household goods that had been brought out into the sunshine to dry. it seemed less a guide to navigation than a memento mori for a way of life. Continue reading