Capt. Buttface and the Lake Waco Moon Cricket

Call me Ishmael.

Put Muddy Waters on the stereo.

Throw in about 900 cases of Pearl beer, Lake Waco, and the yellow Moon Cricket.

And our sailing story can begin.

It was the early 1980s, and I was the new $185-a-week, night-side police reporter for the Waco Tribune-Herald.

After a few months on a mediocre paper in a butt-ugly town, I had about lost the will to live. Thankfully, two slightly more senior staff at the paper — who must have made at least $275 a week — bought the Moon Cricket for many hundreds of dollars.

The price was low because she was a bit rough. Her owner had died from a heart attack while sailing her on Lake Waco. The “death boat” washed up on the shore and sat abandoned for a year or two. No one wanted her. Seems there is bad karma related to boats that kill their captains.

But young journalists have no fear. So when my mentors took me under their wings, I was “delighted” to spend countless miserable scorching hot days under the Moon Cricket’s belly, as she rested out of the water on a huge sling, using a razor blade to poke holes in thousands of hull blisters to release trapped water. Phase two was re-fiberglassing her hull – a miserably hot, smelly, painstaking process that had to be done perfectly if she were ever to speed through the filthy brown waters of Lake Waco.

My new friend (who shall be called Capt. Buttface to protect his good name, ahem) was nothing if not a perfectionist. Worse, he actually knew how to sail, owned the boat and outranked me at the paper, so I had to do his bidding.

Also, he bought most of the beer.

Eventually, the Moon Cricket was seaworthy. Seaworthy in the sense that the re-fiberglassing work done by Capt. Buttface was best practice perfect. I can boast that the small, hidden part of the hull that I was responsible for had no globs of excess fiberglass larger than, say, a baseball.

According to Capt. Buttface, who STILL lovingly remembers these details: “She was a flat top, 22-foot racer. With a 7/8th fractional rig and adjustable swinging keel … Foot-and-a-half shoal draft downwind, but capable of five-and-a-half feet when heading upwind. Big advantage in speed on downwind legs and angle to the win when beating. She had a V-berth up front and two 3/4 berths in the stern, but sleeping was better above decks in the 7-foot cockpit. She carried a spinnaker, main and a 150 genoa. Most of all, she was fun. A party barge to be sure.”

So in 1981, if there was moonlight and even a puff of wind, after putting the paper to bed at maybe 1 a.m., Capt Buttface and I would grab a bachelor’s ice chest (a Hefty bag filled with ice from the No-Tell Motel), fill it with critical sailing gear (Pearl, Brown Label or whatever beer was on sale, plus pretzels), and drive to Lake Waco, listening to the Blues.

Then, somehow, Capt. Buttface would sail her out of the slip, into the lake, silently, which was no mean feat on a “moonlighter”.

We’d sail awhile across the 7000-acre lake which had been created by the Army Corps of Engineers, then drop anchor and spend hours discussing how we’d someday be famous writers but, in the meanwhile, we should pretend to be interns at the hospital and try to bed nurses. With enough beer, plus the occasional belly-flop into the Lake, these plans seemed highly plausible. And they took our minds off the fact we were working for a putz newspaper in the Heart of Texas.

Ahoy landlubber!

“A rope is a rope, except when it’s on a boat. Then it’s a sheet.” Capt. Buttface drilled me on key sailing lessons that he’d learned as a child, all of which I was totally keen to absorb, after just one more brew, thank you so much.

It was the morning after after just such a moonlighter. Capt. Buttface was editing the weather, which called for a big blow to hammer Central Texas, and he got a gleam in his eye. I’d seen it many times before, usually when he was plotting to  kick other Waco media’s butts on a big story, or he’d thought up a terrible assignment to give one of the female reporters who hated him.

But on this morning, the gleam in his eye was not of journalism. It was that of a weathered old salt with a cunning plan for a sailing feat.

Capt. Buttface planned to sail the Moon Cricket on a “broad reach”, driven by the bad weather and his adrenaline.  In his mind’s eye, the captain could see the Cricket flying down the inlet and then, in one magnificent motion, come about into the gale, which would slow us to a crawl. We’d drop the mainsail, gently come to rest against the dock, and ever-so-casually step off, right in front of Elmer, who was at least 1,000 years old and owned the wharf.

At least that was the plan. When we got to the lake, we realized that the weather was more hurricane-like than gale. Even so, Capt. Buttface exuded confidence. Even at 23, he was a man you’d follow into battle, or hustle pool with in a biker bar.  (Don’t ask). He was a great sailor.

His tragic flaw was being an extremely poor judge of young sailors, e.g., yours truly. He should have know that you can take the boy out of Oklahoma but … he will always sail like a likkered up plowboy.

So there we were, heavy winds and white caps all around us, mainsail about to shred, and the Cricket was absolutely flying.

Capt. Buttface was making approximately the same number of calculations as Neil Armstrong when he landed on the moon. He’d already given me my orders. I only had to do one thing — drop the mainsail when he gave me the signal. And the signal was when he said, “Billy, put down your beer and drop the mainsail.”

No problem for an Okie.

The first part of the plan went brilliantly. Elmer and other old sea dogs were watching as we flew past on the opposite side of the inlet.  We were going so fast that we could have pulled a skier.

Capt. Buttface came about. When the howling wind hit the mainsail, it was as if the Moon Cricket had slammed on her brakes as we approached the dock. Truly, it was a beautiful thing to see.  Then Capt. Buttface gave me the signal, knowing that his sailing prowess was about to become legend at Lake Waco. And I dropped the mainsail as ordered.

Well, not exactly.

In my defense, I should point out there were two ropes, I mean sheets, at the base of the mast. I untied one of them. Unfortunately, it was not the one that dropped the mainsail. It was the one that released the boom from the mast, causing the long, aluminum boom that held the bottom of the mainsail to wildly thrash about in the 60 mph shifting winds, risking our lives and forcing the boat to horribly list.

Thirty years later, I can still see the horrified look on Capt. Buttface’s face, as he realized that an Okie had in one fell swoop sunk his sailing legacy and pert near scuttle his sailboat.

His eyes got HUGE. His hairy nostrils flared. He inhaled an entire Marlboro in a single breath and put down his beer, not spilling a drop. He tightened his grip on the rudder, as his super computer brain crunched drag coefficients, wind velocity, keel and rudder settings. And how many ways he would kill me, if we survived.

Realizing I had done something very bad, and keen to make amends, I fell onto the deck, gasping for air, and emitting a loud, “BWAHAHAHA” as we headed straight toward Elmer’s dock. I was nothing if not helpful.

What happened next remains a mystery to this day.

Either by sheer force of will, or by dipping his butt into the water and inhaling 10 million gallons of Lake Waco like a jet boat motor, the Moon Cricket miraculously slowed, and ever so gently, came to rest against the dock.

Damnedest thing I ever saw! All I could think to do was put on some Muddy Waters, very loud, and give the captain a very cold beer.


Click HERE for more Waco stories, frequently featuring Capt. Buttface.

14 Responses to “Capt. Buttface and the Lake Waco Moon Cricket”

  1. Lillian L. says:

    On a wild guess, the captain’s intial’s are * * and he lives on the coast???
    ROTHFLMBO! Excellent, little brother!

    • hams says:

      Ahoy Sis! Nice to see yo face around the place. But, due to agreed protocols, I can neither confirm nor deny Capt. Buttface’s initials or locale. Ahem.

  2. Oh my, that was hilarious!

    Kris sent me and I’m glad she did. That was AWESOME.

    And Buttface is such a good nickname 😉

    • hams says:

      Anything coming from Kris just HAS to be awesome. It is the law. And, yes, buttface is the perfect nickname, especially for an ex-journalist who tragically is tall and has movie star good looks. Not that I am jealous or anything.

  3. J-P says:


    Love that you were a “likkered up plowboy”. And also LOVE that Kris and you are so very much alike. Thanks to you, I have started reading her blog. You could very much be separated at birth.

    And I was unaware of your short (but brilliant) sailing past, now I have to come up with salty sailing nautical terms to use in conversation.

    Just FYI.

    Love you!


    • hams says:

      Harrrrrrrr J-P.

      There are many, many things from of old which you know little, ahem.

      I was delighted to introduce you to Kris who, as you noted, must have been separated from me at birth.


  4. Kris says:

    Seriously, babe.

    I could read your stories of the past forever.

    Just lovely.

    And “Moon Cricket” is the best boat name ever.

    Just awesome, Billy.




    • hams says:

      Kris, Only friends and family got away with that. Especially Capt. Buttface. “Billy”

      • Kris says:

        Uh oh.

        Would like to make clear here that the only vision conjured up for me by the phrase “moon cricket” was a small lustful insect called to song in the moonlight.

        I have now been informed that there are other less lovely interpretations.


        My bad.



        • hams says:

          Kris and others, working nightside for a bad newspaper Down South was akin to slavery. The Moon Cricket set us free. At night. At least until the beer ran out. Or the Lake Rangers said, “Who let you in?”

  5. malm says:

    Great read……….


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