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Family-Friendly Yacht Club Looking to Grow

 Its members have sailed all over the world.

But, for these folks who love sailing and boating, home will always be the Laguna Madre Yacht Club.

So, you didn’t know there was a yacht club located in Port Isabel?

Rather, did you think we were talking about the old Yacht Club Restaurant and Hotel on Yturria Street?

Well, there is a yacht club in PI and members are hoping to make a bigger name for themselves.

John Pinkerman is the commodore of the club and he knows the benefits and enjoyment members have. The group wants to share their knowledge and enjoyment of boating and sailing.

That is why they will hold an open house this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the club, which is located in South Pointe Marina.

The light brown building erected in the 1970s has a style similar to the Air Marine Homeland Security Building facing the Intercoastal Waterway.

But, it’s home to the Laguna Madre Yacht Club.

With about 75 members, the group is passionate about water activities in the Gulf of Mexico and Lower Laguna Madre.

Members have vast amounts of experience and different types of boats.

“We have people who have sailed all over the world,” Pinkerman said. “Others have sailed up the east coast of the U.S. and others do what is called the Great Loop.”

That 6,000 mile great loop is a water course going around through the northeast, down through the great lakes and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.

Boat sizes run from 19 feet all the way to 45 feet.

“Many people think you can’t have a sailboat here because it is to shallow,” Pinkerman said. “But, we have much knowledge of the water and there are a lot of places where you don’t have to worry about running the boat into the ground.”

Pinkerman cited the West Bay in front of Point Isabel High School.

“That area is really fine and deep for sailing,” he said.

But, don’t let the name trick you. It’s not just Bay sailing for these folks, including racing.

“Some contests are in the Laguna and some are as far as 150 miles off of shore,” Pinkerman said. “We have sailed races to Port Aransas.”

Pinkerman himself is a master mariner and is certified as a sailing instructor through the American Sailing Association.

He sailed as a youth and then got back into it more than 15 years ago. Pinkerman admitted he started out at ground zero, taking lessons and working on his boat.

“It is the most fun you can have without harming the environment you can have,” he said about sailing. “You are using the wind. Every day is new day. You can think you know a lot, but there’s the water current, the tide, the wind, the boat. There are a multitude of factors that go into sailing on a particular day.”

Pinkerman said he wishes more people would enjoy the sport, which he said many people think is for folks with money.

“We have people from all walks of life,” he said. “We have high school graduates to medical doctors.”

Members are from the Valley the Midwest and pretty much anywhere around the country and beyond.

Pinkerman said he hopes to grow the yacht club and the open house is the first step to make people more aware of the organization.

So, when you head over to the open house this weekend, don’t get confused.

This isn’t the place rumored to have been a stopping spot for Al Capone or a great place to have dinner back in the day.

Head over to South Pointe Marina. That’s where you’ll find the sailors you are looking for at the Laguna Madre Yacht Club.

What you need to know about the Laguna Madre Yacht Club?

* The Laguna Madre Yacht Club is a voluntary club focused on local boating activities, including sailboat racing and cruising.

* This year’s scheduled events include fall racing series and educational workshops on a variety of boating topics.

* The club emphasizes safe boating activities for the entire family.

* A monthly highlight is the social dinner held typically on the second Saturday of the month. Eight of these are held per year and are free to members.

* At least once a year, the club hosts sailing or boating groups from the area. For the last several years, the club has hosted the Race to the Border, which starts in Galveston and ends at the jetties of SPI.

How To Join

The club entertains membership applications from the public upon recommendation by two LMYC members.

The initiation fee is $100. Yearly dues are $300.

Flag Officers

Commodore – John Pinkerman

Rear Commodore – Lillian Renner

Treasurer – Cindy Ebess

Fleet Surgeon – Raul Rivet

Vice Commodore – Rick Eckstrom

Fleet Captain – Chris Hughston

Secretary – Caren Craig

Barrister - Steve Gano

By LISA SEISER, Editor


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On the Hook: First Phase of RGV Reef Project Complete

The RGV Reef is about a quarter of the way done and, according to marine biologists, already teeming with juvenile red snapper and schools of bait fish.

So says Gary Glick, president of the nonprofit group Friends of RGV Reef, formed in 2015 with the goal of creating a 1,650-acre artificial reef off the coast of South Padre Island to substantially boost the local population of red snapper and other game fish.

To date the project has sunk two boats (a shrimp trawler and a tugboat) and roughly 4,000 tons of low-, medium- and high-relief material at the site, eight nautical miles off the coast and 14 nautical miles north of the Brazos Santiago Pass jetties. That material includes concrete pyramids, rip-rap, and box culverts weighing 26,000 pounds a piece, as well as 20 truckloads of concrete roof tiles.

According to scientists studying the project, in two years the amount of reef already deployed will have added 60,000 to 240,000 adult red snapper to the waters off South Padre Island, Glick said.

“We need to do this four or five more times and we will then have something that will begin to approach what they’ve done in Alabama, which throws off $50 million to $60 million of economic impact every year,” he said.

Glick is referring to Alabama’s artificial reef project, which began in the mid-1980s. With less than 4 percent of the Gulf coastline, that state went from no red snapper landings to hauling in 35 to 40 percent of the Gulf snapper catch each year, to enormous economic benefit, he said.

Alabama’s reef is quite a bit bigger than what’s planned for RGV Reef though it’s all high-relief, meant to attract mature red snapper from neighboring waters, Glick said. In contrast, RGV Reef’s combination of high, low and medium relief protects snapper from predators from the juvenile stage through adulthood, he said.

“We’re a nursery reef,” Glick said. “You can grow many times more snapper than you can attract. We can have that big economic impact with less area. Instead of trying to attract other people’s fish we’re going to grow our own.”

He said recreational red snapper fishing generates several times the economic force of commercial red snapper fishing, since people who come to fish also spend money on food and lodging, gas, tackle, charter trips, etc.

Glick estimated that Friends of RGV Reef has spent about $400,000 on deploying reef material so far, but said the group has managed to do it for roughly $100 a ton as opposed to the more typical $700 to $1,000 per ton.

“Contributions from multiple stakeholders and intensive management of the most efficient of the scientifically proven best practices have taken us far with what little money we have raised,” he said. “It’s making a virtue of necessity. We have a huge reef to fill and limited funds.”

Glick said the work so far wouldn’t have been possible without help from the Coastal Conservation Association-Building Conservation Trust, City of South Padre Island, Foremost Paving, Max Nichols, Port of Brownsville, South Point Marine, Texas International Fishing Tournament, and the marine science department at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, among others.

EMR International Shipbreaking was a big help with deployments this summer, providing space for thousands of tons of reef material and loading it onto a Vietnam-era landing craft for transport to the reef site — all at a reasonable cost, Glick said.

“We’ve got all the stepping stones of habitat in place,” he said. “Now we’ve got to raise money and figure out how to do it better next time.”

Glick said it’s taken three years of intense effort to get to this point. While it seems like it’s taken forever, the experts see the project moving rapidly, he said.

“Marine biologists at UTRGV and Texas A&M at Corpus Christi and Galveston have already done several monitoring dives and are telling us that the juvenile recruitment is phenomenal and we’re well on our way to that 60,000 to 240,000 snapper in two years,” Glick said. “We’re well pleased with our progress.”

Roxanne Harris, president and CEO of the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce, said her organization has been working closely with Friends of RGV Reef, and that local sport-fishing captains, boats and businesses are excited about the reef project.

“Although we don’t have hard numbers, certainly there will be increased interest in offshore fishing and particularly the red snapper,” she said. “The federal laws for red snapper are so restrictive, having habitat in state waters to attract fish and fishing tourists year round will be huge for us on South Padre Island.”

By STEVE CLARK Staff Writer


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Rio History: The Cut

In March of 1950 the Willacy County Navigation District sued to have the 1,760 acres of land immediately surrounding the port facilities of “Red Fish Landing” condemned. In a court ordered settlement, the District paid the American Legion $3 an acre for the land it owned. The small fishing park was renamed Port Mansfield in honor of State Senator Mansfield from Columbus, who headed the Commission that pushed legislation through the U.S. Congress to have the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway extended from Corpus Christi. The new harbor at Port Mansfield was completed by 1956.

The next logical step was to open a jetties-protected channel through Padre Island to the Gulf of Mexico. This would provide the new port with recreational opportunities and enhance its commercial uses.
The first cut through Padre Island was completed by September of 1957.

Disregarding advice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, local engineers chose to construct their jetty with geometrically-shaped concrete blocks called tetra pods which are vaguely similar to the toy jacks used in sidewalk games. The blocks were placed with three legs touching the sandy bottom and the fourth leg sticking straight up. In addition, the rocks to the north of the channel were placed atop the shattered remains of the Spanish galleon. No footing was laid down however and with nothing below but Padre Island sand, the jetties soon fell victim to a flurry of late November storms in 1957, sinking completely out of sight.

Before long, the new channel was almost completely closed. The Island might have healed itself if it were not for the intervention of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Bringing in modern dredges, the Corps began re-dredging the channel in July 1962.

The initial operation proceeded smoothly until the day the dredge ran its hoses over the final resting spot of an ancient Spanish galleon. There was a loud groaning sound as the rotted wood of the sunken ship yielded to the irresistible suction…. Suddenly an arc of twinkling silver flashed in the afternoon sun as a fortune in Spanish treasure spewed onto the spoil banks. Work was briefly stopped as the workers scrambled into the mud to gather as many of the coins as possible. After a short time, the hoses were once again lowered and the men resumed their task and by year’s end the new jetties were in place.

Today, the Port Mansfield Gulf Channel, now known as the East Cut, provides a much-needed access to the protected Intracoastal Canal and provides access by boat to both North and South Padre Island.

By STEVE HATHCOCK


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Weather Won’t Stop Ladies Kingfish Event

Last week, it was the big one: the Texas International Fishing Tournament.

This weekend, it’s the big one for the women: the Ladies Kingfish Tournament.

And there’s no way the rain and surf Thursday will dampen what is expected to be a great day on the water Saturday.

It’s been 10 months in the making, and all that work will culminate with about 100 boats, and 250 to 350 women anglers and their captains, crews and families descending on the area.

It is the 36th year of the event, which was the first all-women tournament on the Texas coast. Now, according to South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce President Roxanne Harris, there are many more.

That could be attributed to the success of the LKT event.

It’s all about the women, Harris said. That’s not just the competitors — most of the folks running, volunteering and organizing the event also are women.

“We try to make it an all-women’s event,” she said.

Harris is one of those, as she leads all aspects of the event as the Chamber’s fundraiser.

“I work the entire weekend, and oversee all the operations and make sure it runs smoothly,” she said.

Harris also has a favorite time.

“The weigh-in is the most exciting,” she said. “Everything is so much fun. It is just exciting to see the fish come in and how enthusiastic they are. Then, when the leaderboard changes, you see the reactions.”

Although the crowds aren’t as big as they are for TIFT, Harris expects between 200 and 300 people to come out and watch as the fish are brought in.

By LISA SEISER Staff Writer


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Laguna Vista to Host Back-to-School 5K

Students living in the Laguna Madre area will run into the new school year. 

Laguna Vista is partnering with Point Isabel ISD to put on a Back to School 5K Run/Walk event.

This is the first Back to School 5K the city has hosted.

Students, teachers and residents of the Laguna Madre area are all invited to take part in the event.

According to City Manager Rolando Vela, this event is an opportunity to promote health and fitness while supporting education.

Lone Star National Bank will set up an inflatable arch that marks the start and finish lines.

Cowboy Cash, the bank’s mascot, will also be in attendance and will set up a water station and be available for photos.

“We are urging students and educators to proudly wear their school colors,” Vela said.

The 5K will include a table set up by the town’s health workers who will conduct blood pressure readings and hand out literature on wellness.

The event is free to all participants and there will be booths set up to benefit all in attendance.

The Community Development Corporation of Brownsville will be handing out school supplies as prizes.

Residents interested in donating school supplies can drop them off at the town office.

Those interested in participating in the 5k can register at the town office or they can go online at the city’s website.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Back to School Run and Walk

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 19

TIME: 7 a.m.

WHERE: Roloff Park

HOW: Register at www.lvtexas.us or go to the Laguna Vista Town Hall

 

By ALEXIS AGUIRRE Staff writer


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78th Annual Texas International Fishing Tournament this weekend

It’s the big one … waters surrounding SPI will be busy with boats loaded with fishermen seeking the catch. 

It’s one of the biggest fishing tournaments on the Texas Gulf Coast and it is here this weekend.

The 78th annual Texas International Fishing Tournament is expected to attract as many as 1,500 participants.

The family-oriented event includes two days of competitive fishing and an array of activities for family members of all ages.

John Tippit, president of TIFT, is excited and ready for another year of the huge tournament.

“For a lot of people, we find, it is not a one-time thing,” Tippit said. “We talked to people who have fished TIFT for 15, 20, 25 years or more. We have literally had four generations registered at a tournament. They keep coming back. It is like a big fishing family reunion.”

That reunion starts today with registration and will continue tomorrow with some family activities and preparations for the fishing.

On the weekend, fishermen, young and old, will compete in one of three divisions — bay, tarpon and offshore.

Dockside, more than 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out to view the catches of blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish brought in by the big boats offshore.

Bay anglers will be weighing in speckled trout, redfish and flounder during the two days of fishing.

That’s some of the best times, according to Tippit.

“It is so much fun to see the people with the fish,” he said. “The young kids coming in with mom or dad, taking pictures, holding their fish and sometimes you have kids who have caught some nice fish.”

The history runs deep with this event for Tippit and others.

The current McAllen resident who also has a home on SPI, fell in love with the area many years ago. He has been involved in TIFT since the 1990s, on its board 15 years.

When he and his wife moved to Valley in 1987, Tippit went fishing with someone who he worked with and fell in love with it.

Tippit and his wife raised three boys, all of whom enjoyed fishing. But Tippit sees SPI as being a partial draw that makes TIFT what it is.

If some members of the family want to fish, and others don’t, there is plenty to do on the Island — making it a true family vacation opportunity.

“This is the best beach in Texas, in my opinion,” Tippit said about SPI.

Tippit isn’t the only one pleased for the event to be on SPI.

“We’re honored to host Texas’ largest saltwater fishing tournament year after year, and invite fishing enthusiasts to join us and compete in one of two divisions — bay and offshore — to experience a fun, family-friendly tournament like no other,” said Keith Arnold, Director of the South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau.

TIFT’s economic impact on the South Padre Island area is considerable, with an estimated $1.5 million spent by tournament participants in 2016.

TIFT also grants scholarships to eligible undergraduates each year, and has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships since the program’s inception.

TIFT most recently gave out 21 $2,000 scholarships to area students to use in their college studies. The organization also provided $50,000 for the Friends of the RGV Reef project.


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Safer for Pedestrians

Construction workers will continue to pave the 5.3-mile stretch of sidewalk on both sides of Padre Boulevard.

The improvement project is expected to be finished by August of next year.

“We’re right on schedule,” said Dennis Stahl, SPI mayoral candidate. “Right now we are going at a pretty good pace.”

For four months now, construction crews have been working around the Island visitors as they replace the sidewalks in areas of the city with less traffic.

Both sides of Padre Boulevard starting at Isla Blanca Park and going north all the way to The Shores will be paved for walkers.

The sidewalks are going to be 6 feet wide and on the edges of the sidewalk there will be room for beatification with flowers along the strip for monarch butterflies to take advantage of.

“There will be butterfly and other types of succulent plants that will make sidewalks even prettier,” Stahl said.

Total cost of the sidewalk project is $3,452,509.

The contractor began April 24.

The work has been ongoing every day.

“Approximately one year from today, our Island is going to have a new look,” Stahl said. “We are very pleased 

By RAUL GARCIA Staff Writer

 


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SPI Seeking to Create Kayak Launch

The city of South Padre Island envisions itself as being a destination where people can travel by vehicle, bike or water.

To that end, the city wants to create a kayak launch behind the convention center.

City officials received the county’s support through a memorandum of understanding last week.

“It’s a very exciting project. We’re an island, a unique environment. It makes sense that part of our transportation system is on the water,” City Manager Susan Guthrie said.

The City Council will meet Wednesday to discuss the MOU and decide whether to move forward.

“We leased that property from the county, so, of course, we wanted to know that they felt supportive of the project before investing money into preliminary work,” Guthrie said. “It wasn’t something we needed to do, but something we wanted to do to make sure all parties are on board with it.”

The launch pad is also part of a larger project: a windsporting park, which would feature activities like windsailing and kite surfing, Guthrie said.

“On an island, the people who come to a convention will not necessarily sit in the conference room. They might be windsurfers or kayakers. We can hold events in this venue and really attract people if we have the infrastructure in place,” Guthrie said.

The city is in discussions with property owners about the windsporting park.

Also, city officials have issued a request for quotation for preliminary work to provide parking at the South Padre Island Convention Centre and to extend the boardwalks.

The boardwalk improvements would connect the convention center to other popular destinations, such as the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

The projects are paid for through a 2 percent venue tax on hotel and condo rentals. The venue tax raises between $1.7 million to $2 million per year.

As the Island creates more attractions, it will see a more consistent flow of tourists throughout the year, Guthrie said.

“Our objective, ultimately, would be to put heads in beds. We’re very busy in March and pretty busy in the summer, but attracting people is critical and it stabilizes our economy to have visitors in equal amounts all year long,” Guthrie said. “A lot of times, some of the other windsports are attractive during non-peak seasons, so it’s a win for the hotels and all the businesses on the Island.”

There will not be a timeframe for the project until after the city agrees to move forward with it and award a design contract.

“The City Council is so committed to really making South Padre Island the crown jewel, and projects like this just add to that and make it the place anyone in the world would want to come visit,” Guthrie said.

By FRANK GARZA Staff Writer


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From the Valley to the Mountains

 The animals of Laguna Madre are making their way to Colorado.

For a little more than a year, the Laguna Madre Humane Society has been receiving help with their crowding issue from some friends in Denver.

More than 1,000 dogs have made their way northwest in search of a forever home.

It all started when a Colorado resident adopted a dog that had previously been with the society.

After reading the dog’s history, he reached out to the people at the society to give updates on his new pet and keep in touch.

Soon, he connected the society with local shelters in his area.

Now, once a month, trucks carrying the dogs of the Valley are making their way to a new town.

MONEY TROUBLES

With their very limited budget, the society is only able to have three members of full-time staff: a veterinarian, a technician and an office manager.

The rest of their help comes from volunteers.

According to Beth Fedigan, president of the Humane Society, the monthly cost to transport the animals is estimated at $1,000, not including the medical expenses.

“Its so worth it when you see these people and they have smiles on their faces and the dogs have smiles on their faces,” Fedigan said.

All but one of the dogs that were transferred had been adopted.

Dogs being transferred are taken off of euthanasia lists.

“These are all animals that will die if we don’t help them,” Fedigan said.

Shelters like Port Isabel will give the society a two- week notice to remove the animals that will face being euthanized.

To help curb all the costs that the society endures, they maintain a resale shop called Whiskers, located next to the Humane Society.

“Every little bit helps,” Fedigan said.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE

The society doesn’t have a shelter and with the small space they have, they need people to foster or adopt animals.

Currently, there are only about 25 homes in the Valley that have been vetted and are able to foster animals.

While foster homes provide a space for the animals, the society takes on the financial responsibility including food, medicine and vet visits.


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New turtle digs

Allison, the famous one-flippered sea turtle who wears the world’s first sea turtle prosthesis, will be getting a larger holding tank by the end of the year, big enough for more people to gather around and see her swim.

Construction on Sea Turtle Inc.’s new facility, worth $4.5 million, is one month ahead of schedule, according to officials.

“People are going to see in the upcoming few weeks the roof going up,” said Jeff George, Sea Turtle Inc. executive director.

“We are on schedule to open to the public

in early December.”

George said the staff is very excited about the progress of construction.

The work has not stopped visitors from visiting Sea Turtle Inc. over the summer to check out the turtles swimming in the tanks and for the presentations about the endangered species — all while the new facility is in the making.

The first two phases of construction have been ongoing since the groundbreaking in February.

Phase one is the educational building. Plans are for the building to be fitted with a kiosk and a large,

beautiful aquarium

that people will be able to walk under to view the sea turtles.

George said the educational facility is going to have a lot more educational displays and a larger gift shop.

Phase two is the amphitheater, projected to seat 300 people with a view of the wetlands.

The amphitheater will have stadium seating and will be fitted with an audio-visual theater system to provide top-quality experiences for visitors.

“It’s going to be great for the arts foundation to have evening concerts,” George said. “We are very excited about that.”

A marine life touch tank will give people the opportunity to touch rays, sea stars and other non-endangered wildlife.

The large tanks will hold 150,000 gallons of water. The facility upgrade also will include a larger parking lot.

In 2015, Sea Turtle, Inc. welcomed more than 120,000 visitors. Of those, 8,000 were groups of school children and teachers.

Additionally, Sea Turtle, Inc. hosts countless children from Scouts, daycares, nature camps and children’s homes across the United States.

According to the Sea Turtle website, the current facilities limit the number of children they are able to take in each group and prohibit them from hosting many special programs.

“Fundraising is going really well,” George said. “But we are still out there seeking contributions going into the remaining balance,” George said. “We keep changing things and having a brand new world-class facility is going to draw in people.”

George said the educational team has an obligation to change the attraction.

“We do see a lot of family come year after year,” George said. “And entrance to the new facility will be free, but we still intend to ask for donations and will rely on gift shop sales.”

One of the new attractions may be a behind-the-scenes tour for visitors to see the clinical aspect of the facility at an added price.

“I hope it generates some excitement in the community,” George said.

By RAUL GARCIA Staff Writer


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