Boat lost in storm gets second life
When the floodwaters of Hurricane Ike had receded and the city was reopened to returning refugees, Laurence Wall quickly made his way to the Galveston Yacht Basin to see how his boat, Serious Moonlight, had weathered the storm.
The boat wasn’t there.
“We looked for her for months,” Wall said. “On Bolivar, on Pelican Island … she could have been anywhere. Even if she sank in the flats somewhere, we would have seen her mast.”
Finally, he gave up hope. Even in the chaos after the September 2008 storm, a 42-foot, deep-draft cruising sailboat should be hard to miss. He began to think that she had just been carried out to sea and lost.
He started making plans for his next boat. Still, it was hard for him to accept. He had owned the boat since 1995.
“This boat was intended to be my mate,” he said.
But then Wall got a call from an insurance adjuster he had been working with who had heard from another adjuster.
Serious Moonlight had been found, high and dry on her side atop a large container dock not half a mile from her home berth at the Galveston Yacht Basin.
“Aside from bad scrapes and bruises on her topsides and rail, where she had dragged along the concrete pier, she was in pretty good shape,” Wall said. “She’s a blue-water boat and strong. She’s designed for heavy weather.”
He hired a crane barge to come alongside and lift her onto a truck bed, and delivered her to a boatyard in the Clear Lake area.
There followed a lengthy period of “refurbishment,” which became more involved and thorough than he had at first intended. The topsides were not hard to repair and repaint, but refastening the steel toe rail, which serves to anchor the headsail sheets, required removing much of the interior cabinetry to get at the bolts that hold it in place.
Once the cabinetry was removed, it was sanded down and given many meticulous coats of varnish by Wall’s wife, Phyllis Hand, a photographer. The boat needed other improvements, including the replacement of the chain plates that connect to the shrouds holding the mast in place with more robust fittings in stainless steel, and the addition of more finished woodwork below.
Other improvements on the sailing rig included fitting a traveler on the cabin top to improve the adjustability of the mainsheet. Wall also replaced the engine with a 50 horsepower Beta Marine diesel.
“With all the repairs and improvements I’ve done over the years, I’ve bought this boat four times over,” Wall said.
Serious Moonlight is named for a lyric in the 1983 hit song by David Bowie, “Let’s Dance.” She is a 42-foot Tayana, built in 1983 in the Taiwanese Ta Yang boatyard to a design by the well-known yacht designer Robert Harris. She is cutter rigged, with a sail area of about 1,000 square feet, a beam of 12 feet 6 inches and a draft of 5 feet 10 inches.
Today, Serious Moonlight is “90 percent ready” for extended ocean cruises, Wall said. But he has no immediate plans to go far from home in her.
A Texas native, Wall grew up in Austin, Galveston and Houston, and has spent much of his adult life working on boats. He operated hydrographic survey boats in the Gulf, pleasure craft here and in the Mediterranean, and dive boats here and in Mexico.
“I added it up one time, and for a 20-year period of my life, I spent more nights sleeping on the water than on land,” he said.
Wall finally settled down in Galveston in the mid 1990s, buying the historic East End house he had once lived in as his father attended medical school. He established a title-surveying business here, and for the first time bought a boat of his own: Serious Moonlight.
But Wall’s business keeps him far busier than he had planned, and he has settled in to making a living ashore. The three or four weeks away from his business that it would take to sail Serious Moonlight to Vera Cruz or Jamaica, with some time to explore the destination, are more than he wants to spend away.
“She’s a lot of boat for day sailing, but I enjoy taking her out on the bay and the Gulf,” he said. “And I love Galveston — the water and the climate, and you can actually afford to live here. What’s not to like?”