For the first year that I owned and lived aboard Libertine, my old 32-foot Endeavour sloop, I took casual day sails into the Galveston ship channel, dipping into Galveston Bay and straying timidly into the Gulf of Mexico and back.
Harvest Moon Regatta
Then five friends and I set out on my first real boating adventure: Lakewood Yacht Club’s Harvest Moon Regatta. The race took me on my first overnight passage, my first race and my first offshore port-to-port cruise, followed by a return trip home on the ICW.
The regatta starts in the afternoon just off Galveston Beach and finishes one day and 150 miles later in the colorful fishing/beach town of Port Aransas. The southerly run is generally on an easy tack off the prevailing winds. Racers can remain comfortably close to shore, and the full moon keeps the night sky lit well enough to spot the occasional oil platforms along the route. While the race has been hit some years by late tropical disturbances or early winter northers, it is normally the most benign time of year to be on the Texas Gulf waters.
That race was back in 1998 when the event had just celebrated its first decade. Libertine wasn’t competitive, but we finished the race, bumped my sailing comfort level up several notches and had a blast doing it.
Now in its 26th year, the Harvest Moon Regatta remains one of the largest port-to-port races in the country, routinely drawing more than 200 yachts from 27 feet up. Organizers have also added a powerboat cruise in recent years, so even more boaters can join the fun. Having so many other boats in close proximity offshore makes for a dramatic start to the race. It also increases the comfort level of less experienced sailors, but I can still remember the magic feeling as night fell and the running lights of our fellow racers slowly drifted away until it seemed we were gliding alone on the ocean beneath a blanket of stars and that big glowing moon.
Some diehard racers doggedly compete for bragging rights each year. With PHRF, cruising, non-spinnaker and multi-hull fleets divided into smaller divisions, there are plenty of trophies to go around. The party after the finish line is the highlight for many participants. The majority of boats raft up in the two main marinas in Port Aransas within easy strolling distance from the awards ceremony tent.
For many, myself included, the best part is the opportunity to gain that first offshore experience before going on to bigger cruises in the future.
Captain’s Roundable: Sept. 29
Entry deadline: Oct. 7
First race start: Oct. 25
Entry form and more info: harvestmoonregatta.com