The Second Annual Duckworks Gulf Coast Messabout
by Sandra Leinweber

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Technically, the Messabout was scheduled for Saturday, May 22, but Chuck and I drove down Thursday. Our excuse was checking out the details of the spot (like we could change it at that point), but really we just wanted a little time for messing about in our boats before everyone else arrived. We stopped in Victoria to see Charlie Jones. He is building a Princess 22 from B & B Yacht Designs. She is coming right along, not quite as fast as he had hoped, but coming ever closer to seeing the water. He announced that he was cooking dinner for us, an unexpected treat, especially for me. Instead of skillet stew from cans, we had barbequed chicken. Charlie and Laura live in the quiet town of Magnolia Beach. Laura is becoming well known on the Texas coast for her paintings of seabirds and other local scenes. For a visual feast, log onto her website at: What with after dinner conversation and BROWNIES (yum), it was dark by the time we drove on down to the park. I think we could set our tent up blindfolded by now, and once the air mattress was inflated, we fell inside and dreamed.

Friday morning we were up at first light. Just like the hair of the werewolf in the Warren Zevon song; the weather was perfect. Winds 10 to 15, partly cloudy, not too terribly hot. The water was a bit muddy, due to recent rains upstream. We were at Lavaca Bay, and the Lavaca River empties here as do other small streams. The bottom drops off sharply along the bay, quickly down to about 4-5 feet, making launching simple. The beach and the bay bottom is a mix of sand and oyster shell, and Charlie and Laura had advised us to wear our boat shoes. “Those shells will slice bare feet faster than a broken beer bottle.” I have to remind myself that this is salt water, because it looks like a big lake. Salt water is waves breaking on the beach and the roar of the surf. The bay shrimpers were out, not too far offshore.


We rigged the Ladybug and took her out for her maiden voyage. The Ladybug is one of Jim Michalak’s new designs, and as far as we know the first one to be built. She is 14 feet long, with a balanced lug sail, and a leeboard. Chuck was a bit concerned about going out with no motor in an untested boat with no one around for rescue if something went amiss. I would never think about all the potential disasters, but he always feels compelled to list them for me, complete with visual descriptions. Broken mast, broken leeboard, broken rudder, boat turning turtle, etc. That makes me think about sharks, barracudas, sting rays....We decided to stay within swimming distance of shore and took off. She worked well, heading up almost straight into the wind and swells. Like any small skiff, she does capture a bit of spray, and I longed for a windshield, but Chuck tells me that real sailors scoff at windshields.

Laura at the helm of the Ladybug. Laura helped Chuck tweak the sail trim on the Ladybug and pronounced her an excellent little boat.

This is what Chuck wrote to Jim Michalak: “She is well balanced on all points and docile as far as we could tell.” We will be taking her to Illinois in June to the Michalak messabout for a formal inspection and more capsize testing.

Chuck's Skinboat

The boats started rolling in Friday evening, and by Saturday noon, our little section of beach was littered with interesting boats of various shapes and sizes. In addition to the Ladybug, we brought Chuck’s skinboat (photo 34.35.36) and my Toto, also a Michalak design.

my Toto

Charlie and Laura brought their CLC John’s Sharpie, Traveler. Traveler is a beauty to behold and a joy to sail. Charlie and Laura are long time sailors, both winners of numerous Dolphin Sr. challenges. They own a small stable of various boats, and take them out whenever they can. Laura helped Chuck tweak the sail trim on the Ladybug and pronounced her an excellent little boat.

Charlie and Laura's CLC - John's Sharpie

Running down the beach


Jerry Mittelstaedt, his wife, Mona, son Joseph and friend Dave Hetrick came from McAllen, TX with their self-designed skiff, Ocean Breeze. They also brought a Sabot and their one-sheet skiff, Night Swan.

"Ocean Breeze" and crew...

...participating in an at-sea rescue

The Ocean Breeze and the Ladybug made numerous excursions with various crew throughout the day, including two minor at-sea rescues.

Cecil Carnes, from Los Alamos, NM and Sargeant, TX, brought his self-designed Pink Possum with the creative double paddle made from a crutch, as well as Calapso.

The Pink Possum

Calapso looked like a flat piece of this plywood on the roof rack of his truck, but she folded outward with a center brace, and presto, she was a boat.

Just about everyone who attended tried out Cecil’s boats.

Roger Harlow and his wife, Gay, drove over from Portland, TX, bringing a Bolger Surf. Roger has built a number of boats.

Roger and Gay

Bob William and his brother John arrived from Kerrville, TX. Bob had his Mouse which is set up for either rowing or sailing. (photos) Bob is currently building a Michalak Shanteuse.

Bob tries my Toto

This Big Mouse is one of Bob's many boats

Brett Wilde, Houston, TX, arrived with a bright yellow boat in the back of his car, a cut-down Brick, "Distraction", also set up for rowing or sailing.

Brett Wilde (facing camera)

Skip Johnson (Cypress, TX) spent the afternoon assembling his proa, which started life as a $50 boat for a race that David “Shorty” Routh held at Lake Conroe last year. It is a spiffy boat, and he has since made modifications that took it out of the $50 category. He says it's up to about 75 bucks! I especially liked the way it was set up, with a seat for the operator.

Skip sets up ACDC...

...gets set...

...and he's GONE!

It moves FAST. Skip is recently back from participating in the Ruta Maya, a 4 day, 170 mile canoe race in Belize. (Editor's note - there will be an article about this race next month) Skip designed and built the boat that he and his two partners used in the race. His boats have great names– "Easy B", "ACDC", and the "Bionic Log".

Skip's lovely "EasyB"

Shorty of (aka David Routh-The Woodlands, TX) is an organizer of messabouts and races, famous for the PD Racer design, about 6 of which of have been built and raced at various locations here in Texas. He brought his Racer hoping to have enough others show up for a race. Chuck’s was the only other one that came, and they decided not to race. (Photo19,20)

Shorty's PDRacer

Shorty tries out the One Sheet Skiff "Night Swan"

Greg Rinaca and Christina Wycoff (Coldspring, TX), brought Lady, their miniature Schnauzer, along with 2 beautiful CLC kayaks, owner built.

Christina with the two beautiful CLC Kayaks

Greg, Christina and Lady

Lady sez "Let's do this thing"

Lady has the snazziest boating outfit I have seen to date.

Tim Cowden (Bryan, TX) arrived with his self-designed canoe and a friend who flew over the messabout in his plane, snapping photos. We will post those when we receive them.

Also in attendance were Bob Shipman (Houston and Hunt, TX), who brought his Boston Whaler and kayak....

Bob Shipman (at left)

... and Kenneth and Maria Purdy (Freeport, TX), who own but did not bring a Michalak Piccup Pram and are building a Fatcat2.

Kenneth and Maria Prudy

Without the near constant wind, the Texas coast in summer would be unbearable on a sunny day. Even the cooler early mornings and evenings would be tough to take without the wind because the big mosquitos would literally carry one away. Sailing would be hampered as well. The day was gone in a flash of sails and oars and good conversation. After a delicious potluck dinner Saturday night, those of us who had not already left, visited until we could no longer hold our eyes open. Sunday was yet another beautiful day, but we had miles to travel, and by 10:30 we were loaded and on the road for home.

Towing Brett back to the beach

Saturday evening