Cruising the Port of Brownsville

The day after we arrived at our winter spot in Harlingen, our park activities department hosted a free doughnuts and coffee morning. Not one to ever turn down a free doughnut, Cal set off to the main hall to take part. He disappeared for quite a while. Just when I was starting to wonder what happened, he returned with tickets for a 4 hour cruise, a Branson-style Kenny Rogers sound-alike concert by a gentleman named Rick McEwan, and a brochure for a tour to Mexico. Neither he nor I connected beforehand that it was an event where options for things to do for the winter were presented. It turned out to be an expensive doughnut!

Booking the actual date of the cruise with Osprey Cruises proved to be difficult because it was hard to find a day when the weather was optimal. That was part of the reason for the two-night stay in South Padre Island which was the subject of my last post. We were to cruise on the morning of the day we checked out of the hotel. The cruise leaves at 9AM and passengers are to arrive at 8:30, so we thought we would spare ourselves a long early morning drive. As it happened, though, it was more windy than usual that morning and a storm was predicted. The cruise company canceled the tour.

We finally found a good weather morning just over a week before our departure from Harlingen. We took off from the dock at Port Isabel–

and cruised under the Causeway bridge through the Laguna Madre. It was so exciting to see dolphins for the first and only time on our visit to the Gulf. It’s hard to get good pictures of them, but you can see one in the picture below.

We went past a rotating bridge, which opened its gate for us.

And then, we were inside the Port of Brownsville waterway. The deepwater shipping channel is 17 miles long and 42 feet deep with 40,000 acres surrounding it. After we went through the bridge, the boat passed through miles of sand and brush. We could see a protected island that is prohibited for us humans to enter and it was full of bird life.

Many birds also filled the shore line.

We soon came to the shipping boneyard. Huge rectangles are cut out of the hulking ships. Those rectangles are cut and ground into steel pellets and reused.

There is currently even a military ship being scrapped. The Kittyhawk is one of the great diesel aircraft carriers built in the 60’s and the last to be decomissioned. It is here being taken apart bit by bit. I could still imagine the sailors waving on board the decks.

There is a lot of scrap to be processed. I enjoyed watching everyone hard at work while we just cruised on by.

There are little pretty little tugboats to be seen. I liked this one which reminded me of St. Joseph, Missouri, in the state I used to call home.

At the other end of vessel life, ships are being built here, too. This one will go to Hawaii. It is to be a container ship for a large shipping corporation there.

There are docking spots for ships to stop and unload goods or just to have a lay by. This ship holds the immense blades that will be installed on windmill farms.

It was time to visit the Brownsville Shrimp Basin. Shrimp boats need repairs, too, and some are in dry dock for that reason, or for a new coat of paint.

You would think that shrimp boats would be out catching shrimp on a workday, but many were docked as we went through the Basin. Currently, it is too expensive for the small-time operators to purchase gas. It costs about $75,000.00 to fill up the tank on a shrimp boat! It is hard to catch enough shrimp to recoup that cost.

And then, the Big Shrimp Handoff: we pulled in to Texas Gold Shrimp Company and two men were waiting there to hand us two big containers of shrimp. No sooner said than done, and we were off again.

We caught all the action from the best seat in the house: the front of the boat. From our position, it felt like we were the only ones on the cruise. It was definitely windy, cool to start, and once in a while we were splashed, but we persevered and the morning warmed up as it went on. Going in and out of the shipping area, there was a long period where we were just sailing with nothing more special than sand and the sea to see. The captain stopped his narration at times to play 70’s music ( what I call Boomer Music). Going out I was munching a doughnut. Coming back I was tucking into a nice bowl of peel and eat shrimp with a cup of pina colada. The dolphins were playing again, and pelicans awaited our return at the dock. Could life get any better than that?

Oh, and the Rick McEwan concert? He was great, and we enjoyed our evening very much.

Next time – about that brochure for a tour to Mexico…

2 thoughts on “Cruising the Port of Brownsville

  1. What an interesting excursion! I especially liked seeing the ship with the windmill blades on it. Those blades are so big; I never imagined they were on a ship. If it is too costly for shrimp boats to go out, does that mean shrimp is going to get more expensive? I am looking forward to your next post about Mexico!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was exciting to see the ship with the windmill blades. I don’t know about the shrimp. I think it’s a matter of the little guys getting squeezed out and bigger companies able to absorb that cost, but maybe not. Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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