March Beach Cleanups and Other Good Things

March Beach Cleanups and Other Good Things
Talk about a wide load!
Well, I wrote last month's article on the great late-December trip with the Hanson family of El Campo and if you liked it you'll likely also get a kick out of this as it shows just how lucky we really were. The following morning the suburban was going to the mechanic's to have that exhaust manifold leak repaired when two miles from the house the engine threw a rod. The vehicle had just turned two-and-a-half years on the beach and that is about the average amount of time a vehicle lasts me down there, so the decision to replace it was made. If drivers use good judgment they can get more time out of their vehicles than I ever will. The secret is not driving through the Big Shell on high tide. Years ago large cab over campers were the vehicle of choice but other than in an emergency they NEVER drove through Big Shell on anything but a low tide. They planned their trips that way. But as a guide I am usually day-tripping and that means I'll get one good crossing and one hateful one. The other side of the coin is the people I regularly see driving high-dollar late model vehicles at high speed with two and sometimes all four tires actually in the water. I have a photo album containing pictures of these flipped upside down in the surf with the cabs smashed flat and often passengers seriously injured. DO NOT DRIVE IN THE WATER... PERIOD!

Well my pals and big-time Big Shell Cleanup supporters, Stephen and Donna Gregory, gave me a suburban three years ago but they live in Oklahoma City and had been unable to get it down here for me. I was going to ride a bus up there to get it but my old pal, Clay Wernli, wouldn't have it and he and his son drove me to Oklahoma City. Talk about people being a blessing in your life. I got an excellent undercoating job done on it and it should be on the payroll in a couple of days. I'm going to try something different this go-round. I'm going to cover the entire exterior of the vehicle with roll on bed liner. My favorite color is of course baby blue and we'll see if undercoat and bed liner add to the life of this one. I honestly bet it makes a real difference.

I would like to offer a few tips for folks that do a lot of beach fishing/driving. No one ever thinks about it but if you park facing the Gulf all that salt air is steadily hitting your vehicle head-on and it will corrode holes in the radiator twice as fast than if you park opposite. Always carry an extra serpentine belt and know how to install it. Check it regularly for wear and replace at the first sign. You MUST regularly check external oil, gas and transmission lines and replace them immediately if you see they are beginning to rust badly. Carry a small copper tubing cutter and several short lengths of appropriately sized hoses as well as a variety of clamps. This will insure you can enjoy the unforgettable experience of lying in blowing sand for a couple of hours with transmission fluid running down your arms and onto your neck and face while you tediously try to cut a steel line with a small copper tubing cutter. I carry ten quarts of both transmission fluid and engine oil. Know why... because regularly I come upon folks needing one or the other to get back up the beach. If I carry less and I give them what they need I'm being unfair to my customers because we could yet have problems and then wouldn't have the reserve fluids we might need. Carefully check to ensure all your fuel and coolant lines are routed in manner that precludes rubbing against the frame of your vehicle. This has been the cause of a goodly portion of the lines I've had go bad. If a line is rubbing against the frame, cut a piece of garden hose and attach with zip ties to protect it. First time your automatic transmission slips it is low on fluid. No problem if you have a reserve supply along, but if you don't and you continue to drive, you will ruin the transmission and you better have some deep pockets. Always carry a few basic tools, some bailing wire and some Fix-a-Flat. You fish down there long enough and you will have the occasion to use them all.

The Billy Sandifer Big Shell Cleanup is Saturday, March 19, 2011. Admission to the park will be free to volunteers. We will be meeting at Malaquite pavilion. Please try to be there by 7:00 a.m. If you get there late but have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, just drive down the beach until you encounter a working crew and join them. Walking volunteers are welcome and will be transported into and out of the work area. We need workers and four-wheel-drive vehicles with trailers to haul trash out. Sturdy clothing and footwear are recommended as are gloves. All volunteers will be back at the Malaquite pavilion by 2:00 p.m. Bottled water and snacks will be available in the work area but feel free to bring a sandwich. Food and refreshments will be available upon your return to Malaquite pavilion. Sure hope to see you there. Do a bit of giving back to the environment and meet some really good folks while you are doing it.

The Port Mansfield Cleanup started by Miller and Kathie Bassler will be in its third year and has been doing a bang-up job. As its size has increased we've all decided this worthy event is ready to fly on its own. This event will take place on Saturday, March 26. They will be meeting at the Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce pavilion. Of course that doesn't keep folks from the Corpus Christi area from driving down to the jetties in their vehicles, helping out and then fishing on their way back North.

or a little over a month the NPS at PINS has been steadily hauling out buoys and other large debris off the beach. It has been miserable, backbreaking work day after day. Seems you always hear a whole lot about what people don't like about NPS staff on PINS but when they are busting their backsides to make it a better place you never hear a word about it other than some complaining, "They're taking all our land marks away." Funny but I never notice anything but a more natural appearing beach and for those requiring land marks there's a marker every five miles and it's relativity uncomplicated to set your odometer at one of the markers and know where you are every foot of the way. My hat's off to Facilities Manager, Larry Turk and his hardworking crew. Thank you very much. Those landmarks become a danger to vehicles as they rust away.

Won't be long until turtle nesting season so keep an eye out. Also won't be long until the blacktips and jack crevalle will hit the beach in mass. What a hoot. If we don't leave any there won't be any.

-Capt. Billy L. Sandifer