Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Saturday’s “Sailing”

Not much wind, but we got stuff done.

Winds Saturday ranged from light to nonexistent. We spent the morning and the early part of the afternoon learning more about weather from Dan, and we also discussed safety issues. Vicky, for example, has been reading up on hypothermia (Gee, I wonder why). Eventually we gave up waiting for wind and went down to the boats.

Vicky, Maureen, and I were with Ken on one of the J-24s, while Sue, Sharon, and Jo Ann went with Dan on Kachina. There still wasn’t much wind; the folks on Kachina raised sail but really weren’t going anywhere. Meanwhile, we sat around waiting for wind, and Ken discussed some of the finer points of sail trim. Eventually, there was a bit of wind, and we put the sails up, only to have the wind die again. Our mainsail also seemed to be attracting all of the mosquitoes on the lake; it still had a bit of O Negative residue from last weekend. Well, at least I got in some good experience running the motor.

Pat and I decided to go to a nice restaurant for dinner, and we ran into Mike and Cheryl, a couple who have recently joined the sailing club. We had a very enjoyable dinner, and then Pat and I headed to our motel.

This morning, there is still no wind, and I’m still feeling tired from the past week. The prediction is for a bit of wind to show up around noon, and when Larry gets here, he, Braxton, and I can go out on the Etchells. Meanwhile, Pat’s helping Braxton do some work on Cranky Wench, refinishing some teak.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Message delayed

I had planned to make a new blog post this evening, but Pat has other plans ...

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Rainy Night

Moisture in the desert is precious.

I got to the Butte about noon. Rich and Sue were at the compound, but nobody else was there yet. Rich was working on various boat-repair tasks, and Sue was doing cleaning. We went to lunch at the Big Food Express, and then Rich went back to the compound to continue working on boats, while Sue and I went shopping. Yes, that’s right, shopping. Sue and I had different favorite thrift shops around town, so with our combined knowledge, we had a lot of information to share. Unfortunately, most of the thrift shops were closed, so we didn’t accomplish much. Of the two shops that were open, neither had a suitable replacement for my lucky Aussie hat.

In addition to the thrift shops, we visited two discount stores, and we replenished first-aid supplies that got depleted last weekend. Then we went to the grocery store and got ingredients for tacos for supper.

By the time we got back to the compound, Braxton and Jo Ann had arrived. Ken and Sharon arrived in Ken’s brand-new Prius (he just took delivery on it today) just in time for supper.

After supper, Ken brought in his sewing machine – it’s not an ordinary sewing machine, but one designed for working on sails. Rich and Sue needed some work done on the sails for Kachina, and so the pool table and the area around it became a sail loft. There were some major repairs needed to the jib, and also some work on the spinnaker and mainsail.

One idea Sue and I had at lunch was that either the sailing club or Rich and Sue (they already have a business license) could operate a sailboat chandlery, offering spare parts and accessories specifically for sailboats. The three marinas at the Butte do offer a lot of boat parts, but they are almost exclusively for powerboats. Of course, as Rich pointed out, that means that somebody (i.e., Rich) would have to spend a lot of time working on the enterprise.

Meanwhile, back at the sail loft, we discovered why the pros charge such a high hourly rate. It’s really hard to jockey those sails around, even if there’s a lot of room and a sewing machine designed for working on sails.

Another money-making idea … operate a sail loft and charge $50 an hour for the work. Of course, again, that means that someone (Rich again?) would have to manage the business. I get a feeling he doesn’t appreciate all of the work Sue and I are coming up with for him.

Meanwhile, it’s been raining this evening. It’s nice. The rain itself smells very sweet, and it brings out the spicy aroma of the greasewood trees. Rain in the desert is such a special event, especially in a year of drought. It’s to be appreciated.

A Very Dark Place

I don’t want to go there

Sixteen years ago, I was in a very dark place, and this week, I discovered I was on the brink of it again. Two-lane road, big truck oncoming, just a twitch on the steering wheel to the left … NO! I have a new boat, and a lot of friends, and a husband and son – how many teenagers do you know who brag to their buddies about their moms?

I don’t want to go back on medication again – the side effects are devastating, especially the inability to write. I need to get back out on the lake.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 20

A Regatta

Yes, I’m posting the Wizards episode early this week. Reality has been rather sucky lately, and an escape into fiction is a welcome diversion. Of course, in fiction, one can have a regatta in which nothing goes wrong, right? Not!

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 20

On my way back to the room, as I passed one of the laboratory classrooms, class was just getting out. I looked in the door, and I saw the students gathering up their materials in preparation to leave. Most of the class was sitting together in a large group, but Betsy was sitting off to the side, alone. I remembered how she had been shunned at breakfast; apparently that coolness toward her also extended to classroom interactions. I wondered whether magic lab was like chemistry lab had been back in high school, and whether the instructor had trouble finding someone to be Betsy’s lab partner. For that matter, maybe the school had had trouble finding someone to be her roommate – and thus she was available to become mine when I arrived. I waited by the door for Betsy to come out, and then we walked together to our room.

When we returned to the room, Betsy picked up a hull that she was carving. I recognized the slim, javelin-like shape and the knife-like keel. She was making an exact replica of my boat, even though she had never seen it. “Here, take a look,” she said, handing it to me. “It’s not finished yet, but it’s a good start.”

I took the boat in my hands, and I could feel the magic resonate beneath the smooth grain of the wood, just as my real boat resonated. But there was something more to the resonance, a harmonic that wasn’t mine but that was closely tuned to mine. Pierre’s? His boat was like mine, after all. “Beautiful,” I said.

The next morning, I returned to Jackson’s office. “Yesterday, we looked at divining, which is receiving information,” he said. “Now, let’s look at sending it, in the form of illusion or of telepathy.” He gestured to me to sit down. “First, there’s illusion – which isn’t just about vision. We use that term to refer to affecting any of the senses in a way that isn’t real. We can, for instance, use it to inflict or to relieve pain.”

“I think I know about that,” I said. “Pierre used to say that he added a little magic when he applied physical therapy. I haven’t tried that before …” I reached out and touched Jackson’s wrist. “Pierre’s hands had a halo of warmth around them…”

“Ahh …” Jackson sighed. “You say you’ve never tried this before? I wonder why you just pinpointed major relief on that wrist – an old football injury, where arthritis is building up. I’ve never had relief that instant before, or that thorough. We’ll want to enroll you in more training for illusion skills, just because you haven’t had practice, but clearly, you have talent in that area. Illusion is also one of the areas in which control is essential. Deception is tricky to handle, and it easily can play into the Others’ agenda.”

“I can understand that.”

“Meanwhile, let’s look at your telepathy skills,” Jackson said, flipping through his large book. “We already saw this morning that you can receive sensations although apparently not thoughts. Can you send anything?”

I wondered whether it would be safe to try to send something to Pierre, and then I realized that just the thought was causing an attempt at the action. I saw myself, through him, in his kitchen, using my coffee maker to brew himself a pot. I love you, I thought as intensely as I could. I felt Pierre smiling, a much bigger smile than I could attribute to the rich aroma of the coffee. “I don’t know if I got through,” I said. “I got a feeling like I just lobbed a big blob of intense emotion at him, but I don’t think he got any words.”

“I’ll say you did,” Jackson said, wiping sweat off his forehead. “We definitely need to be getting you lessons in controlling that talent. I’ll put you down for courses in illusion and telepathy, and I think I need to take a break for a while. I can assess the rest of your talents in a couple of days.”

The next day at breakfast, Rhonda introduced me to an athletic older man. “This is Howard, our sailing coach,” she said.

“We’re having racing today,” Howard said. “It’s just intramural, just our own students, but it’s an important part of their training. Before you can be a true wizard of winds and waves, you must have an understanding of the winds and waves. I understand you do, Sarah, but many of our students arrive with little or no formal knowledge. For them, the sailing and racing are as important as the spells.”

Howard led me down the corridor that led to the outer door, but just before he got there, he went out a side door into a stairway leading upward. “This is the way to the spectators’ gallery,” he said as we emerged into the lower level of the abandoned yacht club. The garage door entrance was to our left, and in front of us were windows, boarded up, facing the water. Howard pressed a spot on the wall, and the boards hinged up, revealing intact windows looking out from beneath the upper deck at the fleet circling around beyond the docks. As the windows let in light, I could see that the room was fairly well maintained, and not abandoned at all. It was set up as a snack bar, with casual tables and a food counter in the back. The tables and chairs were all set up to face the action. Howard led me through the snack bar to a door leading out to the lower deck, which also had tables and chairs set up, as well as a gangway to the docks. There we sat to watch the races.

Out on the water, dozens of dinghies were swirling around in a steady breeze, about eight or ten knots. The sun was shining, making the fleet look like a swarm of glittering white butterflies. I noticed that the sailors came in all shapes, sizes, and ages, from small children to middle-aged, from athletically trim to pudgy. “This is our novice fleet,” Howard explained. “These are students who didn’t have any sailing experience when they arrived here, most of them in the big fall enrollment, but a few more recently.”

I remembered my own early lessons. Handling a small boat is an excellent way to understand the winds and waves – the contact with both is very intimate; getting wet is a given, and you have to be very much in tune with both the boat and the conditions to keep from capsizing. I now realized that my own tuning was more than standard human intuition, and it was probably honed by just such exercises as I was now watching.

The starting countdown began, and the fleet’s swirling became concentrated, focusing on the invisible line between the committee boat and the starting pin. As the five minutes counted down, the fleet converged on the line, working to be just at the line, and not across, when the starting horn sounded and the small boats surged across the line on the upwind leg of the race. Already, I could see some differences in skills – clearly some sailors picked up the skills faster than others. Those who were first across the line quickly pulled ahead, and then they split into two main groups, about two thirds on starboard tack and one third on port, to begin tacking toward the turning mark. The rest of the fleet lagged behind, in a less coherent mass. Some were having trouble getting their sails sheeted in; some were trying to point too high into the wind; some had equipment problems such as tangled up lines. I remembered my own early days, when I learned the hard way how to avoid such mishaps as “foot cleat” – accidentally stepping on a line, such as a mainsheet, and keeping it from running as it should. I saw a couple of boats going in circles, and one capsize.

“I’m afraid we’re a bit short on coaching staff,” Howard was saying. “Perhaps you could come out when we practice, to help some of the novices. It gets worse this time of year for some of them; they’re beginning to learn spells, and they will accidentally add a spell to a sailing mistake and make things worse.”

“I don’t know if I can help with the spells,” I said, “but I can certainly help out on the boat-handling issues.” I also remembered my own first teacher, Pierre, and I hoped I could be as good a teacher as he had been.

Meanwhile, the leading boats had tacked and were converging on the turning mark. The sailors who had gone to the right side of the course, on port tack, now seemed to have an edge on the others – those few, I surmised, had sensed enough about the weather to know where the wind would be better. In a flurry of sails, the two flocks of butterflies converged around the mark, with much splashing, and sheeted out to begin the downwind run. As the fleet approached, I could clearly recognize the lead sailor, her scarred face red and purple from the fresh wind. It was Betsy. “Your roommate’s a great sailor, too,” Howard commented. “She’s more of a teacher than a learner now, even after just a few months. If I get you on board to help, too, then I think we can get this whole fleet into shape by summer.”

After the lead boats finished, I went out on the pier to meet Betsy and congratulate her, and we stood together watching the stragglers complete the race. I was itching to get out on the water – here was something I could do to help. “I feel the same way,” Betsy said.

Had I said something? I didn’t think I had.

“Didn’t you just tell me you wanted to get out there and help?” Betsy asked.

Time to let Jackson know that, at least at short ranges, telepathy does work for me, I realized.

“Another talent, Sarah?” Betsy teased. “Is there anything magic that you can’t do?” She gave me a quick hug.

“Now for the day’s second event,” Howard said. “We have our more advanced sailors sailing on two of our larger boats in a match race. They’ll start and finish at the mouth of this cove, but most of the race will be out in the open water. The view will be better from up there.” He pointed toward the top of the roof of the yacht club.

We went into the yacht club and up three flights of stairs, eventually coming out onto a large patio on the roof, hidden from below by the angle of the roof itself. Howard handed binoculars to me, and to Betsy and a couple of others of the novice sailors who joined us there. I noticed that here, unlike in the classrooms and dining room, Betsy was treated with respect. What mattered most was her sailing, not her scarred face or scandalous enrollment. She smiled at me. “I’m glad you think so,” she said. Howard and the others looked at us in puzzlement, and I realized that I was communicating only with Betsy, and not with anyone else. Nice to know I could focus my messages – I could imagine some embarrassment that might occur if I couldn’t. Betsy giggled in response to that thought.

The boats in the match race were keelboats, bigger than dinghies, but still small as ocean-going sailboats go. Each had a crew of six advanced wizardry students, and the boats were closely matched. They sailed a more complicated course, a combination of a triangle and an upwind-downwind run. The addition of the triangle would allow the boats to sail a couple of legs of the course on a reach, with the wind coming from the side of the boat, the most efficient point of sail, where all-out speed could be tested and neither tacking nor jibing would be required.

The two boats were so closely matched that they were just about even with each other for the entire course. They swapped leads often, and each one was ahead for about half of the mark roundings. They completed the initial triangle at a blistering pace, which would have put professional yachtsmen to shame, and they ran a fierce tacking duel on the upwind part of the final upwind-downwind course. They rounded the mark nearly even with each other and began the jibing duel down to the finish line. As they came toward us, I could see a wall of black clouds rising toward us at what seemed to be an unnatural pace. I was reminded of the unusual storm that had occurred the night I was killed, and I wondered what level of protections had been placed on the race course. Certainly, there would be the standard protections for when wizards raced, to prevent cheating by skippers using magic to make unfair changes in the weather. And there would be some protections associated with the school, to protect the most vulnerable of the young wizards as they learned their craft. But how far out did the school’s protection extend? It couldn’t cover the whole ocean; could it cover the area of that ocean race course? Or would the protection be weaker out there, because it was farther from the core of the school? I was getting a very bad feeling about the whole thing.

“I feel it, too,” Betsy said. “Howard, there’s something wrong out there!”

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Captain Courageous and the Pirates

It’s a good thing I have red hair!

This is a joke I heard a couple of years back, involving a sea captain named Captain Courageous (not to be mistaken for Captain Outrageous who owns most of the eastern shore of Elephant Butte Lake but has never shown up for any of our regattas).

He was sailing his ship one day, when a pirate ship appeared on the horizon. “Bring me my red shirt,” he ordered his cabin boy. The boy brought the shirt, Captain Courageous put it on, and he did battle with the pirates and defeated them.

The first mate was puzzled. “Why did you have the boy bring you your red shirt?” he asked.

“Well, when I’m wearing my red shirt, if I get injured, the blood won’t show,” Captain Courageous said. “If the crew doesn’t know I’m injured, they won’t lose heart, and they will continue to fight fiercely.”

The first mate nodded at the wisdom of this reasoning.

Some months later, Captain Courageous was again out at sea, when on the horizon appeared not one, but five pirate ships.

“Cabin boy, bring me my brown pants!”


Honey, I forgot to duck.

Well, today things got worse. The wind was already stiff at ten when we started racing. One crew member had gone home, so there was just one remaining crew member and myself with Ken as coach. We got a good start on the race, and we managed to get the mainsail to stay up by tying a slipknot to keep it from slipping out of the cleat – so that, in theory, if we needed to drop the main quickly, we could release that knot. In theory.

We were right up with the rest of the fleet nearing the windward mark, passing a couple of the other contenders. We were making a tack toward the mark, when we got struck by swirling winds off Horse Island that knocked the boat down. We had a major broach when the mainsheet cleat jammed and I couldn’t unsheet it. With my crew and Ken calling out “Unsheet the main!” I kicked repeatedly at that cam cleat until it finally released and the boat came upright.

Then Ken took the helm, and said, “Let’s stop a moment for a breather and collect our wits.” That was welcome. We were just beginning to catch our breath, with the wind off the port beam and the boom extended out to starboard. Next thing I knew, I was lying on my back in the cockpit with a nasty ache on the side of my head, missing my hat and glasses, and my crew member was screaming at me, “Carol Anne! Get up! Get up!” Ken’s face and the front of his life jacket were covered in blood.

Ken wasn’t in great shape, and my crew member was panicking. We got the motor started and the jib lowered, although we still couldn’t get the mainsail down … remember that slip knot? We powered on a broad reach to a wider part of the lake where I could turn the bow upwind and give my crew and Ken time to take that mainsail down. I found my glasses in the cockpit, but my lucky Aussie hat was nowhere to be found. Alas, I fear it will never be found.

Once we got the sail down, I took over the helm. Ken wasn’t in such good shape, and my crew was stressed out, so I didn’t let on that I had been clobbered too – all of the blood was on the side away from my crew and Ken. I took the boat back to the marina, where Larry had just arrived after giving up on the racing himself. Larry and another person from the marina helped bring the boat in, and the other person found a paramedic who was on his boat in the marina, and he looked at both Ken and me and said we should go to the emergency room.

At the emergency room, I got cleaned up and had my lacerated scalp stapled back together. Ken got stitches in his forehead and got a CAT scan to make sure he was all right, and then he was also released.

We rejoined each other at the Strasia compound, where Pat explained why Syzygy wasn’t on committee boat duty – it had a broken fuel line and ran aground near the Dam Site, so Windependent was pressed into duty as committee boat (about what it’s good for, as far as Larry is concerned). Gerald, meanwhile, ended up not sailing, but geocaching with the owners of Cultural Infidel.

Not exactly the best day on the water, and now I have a splitting headache – literally. I think the staples hurt worse than the original injury. And my lucky Aussie hat is lost and gone forever.

A Rough Day, Part 2

Oh, no, not another “learning experience”!

By this time, most of the rest of the fleet was getting way ahead of us. The only boats near us were Windependent and a couple of the other boats that were using only one sail. The boat's owner and I were both cursing that main halyard; we had gotten the hang of sailing in the heavy wind, and we could really have been hauling if we could only have gotten that sail up.

After we had rounded the upwind mark (this was a distance course, so it was about two miles from the start), we noticed that one of the other Adams Cup teams, on board Cranky Wench, was doing an unusual maneuver, turning sharply and flogging the main. We figured they were having some sort of equipment problem; later we learned that one crew member had gone overboard, and they had come about to retrieve her. In some sort of karma, Ken had given the boat's owner a Lifesling as a boat-warming gift the night before – nobody had any idea it would be used the very next day!

Meanwhile, Gerald was having a great race on Cultural Infidel, dueling with the C&C 30 Luna C for the lead position in the fleet. He had started out on foredeck, but with the conditions, nobody was about to fly a spinnaker, and so he instead ended up as a grinder, along with about six other people. The big boat was really moving. Then, 50 yards from the finish, something gave way and the boat lost steering, veering out of control away from the line and failing to cross.

Back at the trailing end of the fleet, we were keeping ahead of Windependent, but otherwise we weren’t doing so well. Our starboard jib car wouldn’t stay put, so we just couldn’t sail all that well on port tack. Cranky Wench was running both sails and was able to pass us before the windward mark, and the rest of the fleet was waaaayyy out ahead of us. We headed for what we thought was the finish line – a boat without sails up that appeared in the conditions not to be moving, and as we approached, we looked and looked and looked for the pin, only to realize that this wasn’t the committee boat; it was Cultural Infidel, which, at the time, was limping back to the marina with crippled steering. Syzygy, and the finish line, was a half-mile farther along.

We and Cranky Wench returned to our home port, Rock Canyon Marina, while Windependent headed south to Dam Site Marina, where it and Syzygy live. Pat was left struggling to hoist that wonderful, very heavy, super-duty anchor with all of its chain. Syzygy just isn’t equipped to handle such a big anchor, so it took a long time, and by the time he was done, he had some aches in muscles he didn’t know he had.

Back at Rock Canyon, most of the other boats’ crews finished putting them away just as we were beginning. Gerald, being the slenderest, most nimble crew member on Cultural Infidel, was delegated to do some gymnastics down below to repair the steering gear, and he incurred some minor injuries in the process. Eventually, battered and bruised, we all limped up to the Strasia compound – everybody but Pat. Vicky joked that he was probably still out on the lake, trying to pull up that big anchor; she wasn’t that far off the truth.

In the after-race analysis, Larry was not happy for multiple reasons. First, he was angry with Windependent’s lousy handling – it’s not pleasant to come in behind a boat running only a jib, handled by novice racers. He was also angry with himself as race committee chair for not calling the race off; since he had come from Dam Site, he was unaware how heavy conditions were on the race course, and if he had known, he would have called the race off. He was angry that the committee boat had only one person on it, when in those conditions, it should have had three. He was also angry that the crew of Cranky Wench, after rescuing Vicky, had continued to race instead of heading to the nearest marina – she had been about 20 minutes in 43-degree water.

All in all, we had a pretty good day – sure, we came in nearly last, but we coped with equipment failures, and we actually finished the race. We all got good at dealing with heavy air. It was exhilarating smashing through the waves upwind and surfing atop them downwind, knowing we had a good, solid boat under us. We even beat Larry, sort of – it doesn’t really count, though, since he was driving a boat that, as a racing yacht, makes a great hotel room, and it was someone else at the helm, not me.

Meanwhile, Pat, Gerald, and I were all applying ice packs to various body parts. It was a good thing Pat had bought a big bag of ice that morning.

Today’s weather prediction is fairly similar to yesterday’s – but given how far off yesterday’s prediction was from what actually happened, Larry could well call things off. In that case, the Adams Cup sailors will have a day of “book learnin’” at the Strasia compound. Ken has a lesson on foul-weather gear and proper attire for changing conditions on the race course, complete with a fashion show.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Rough Day

Weather, equipment failures, and other disasters

We’re all three using ice packs this evening. I’m still working on that tennis elbow, and Gerald and Pat have sustained injuries, too.

The weather prediction for today was breezy, but not unmanageable – winds between 10 and 20 knots. The actual wind was nothing like that; it was much higher. Part of the problem was a stationary front directly over us that was making everything unpredictable.

I was mid/tactician one of the boats with other crew members on helm and at trim, and with Ken as coach/trim. Starting out, we had a problem – the brand-new main halyard wasn’t compatible with the old halyard cleats, so we couldn’t keep the mainsail up. We found out the hard way when the boom came down, leaving a nice crease in the top of my lucky Aussie hat. Being troupers, we decided to press on anyway under jib alone. Maybe we wouldn’t win, but we could at least complete the course. And the winds were high enough that only one sail was enough to make the boat go reasonably well – one other boat chose to sail under jib alone, and two others chose mainsail alone, without an equipment failure.

Pat, meanwhile, was solo on Syzygy as committee boat. He had just gotten a big, heavy anchor, just for such an occasion, since on a previous blustery day, we had discovered that a water-ballasted boat with the usual lightweight anchor doesn’t stay put the way a committee boat should. Well, that big anchor did keep the boat from moving, at least in position. It was, however, still bucking up and down like crazy. That made it hard for Pat to keep the clock, raise and lower flags, honk the horn, and write down race statistics all at the same time. Come to think of it, it’s hard to do all of that at the same time even when the weather isn’t rough … got any suggestions for what the perpetual committee boat guy should do when his usual assistant takes up racing?

Gerald, meanwhile, had a fairly cushy posting, crew on the big boat Cultural Infidel. At 34 feet, it’s the Rio Grande Sailing Club equivalent of a maxi.

Even without a mainsail, and even with a very green helmswoman, we got a pretty good start – better than I got in the Frostbite. Because we weren’t sailing under full sail, we lagged most of the fleet. We more-or-less kept up with a couple of the other boats that were running only one sail, and we were actually ahead of one boat, the 34-foot Hunter Windependent, with, of all people, Larry at the helm. Windedpendent’s owner is a friend of Larry’s who also crews on Constellation frequently, so for this race Larry was returning a favor.

Just after we crossed the starting line, there was a guy in a small boat fishing right in the path of the entire fleet. He apparently had gotten the right-of-way rule backward; he kept yelling, “I have my motor on, I have my motor on.” Ken yelled back to him, “We’re racing.”

On the upwind leg, we had one tactical encounter with Windependent; we were on starboard tack, and it was on port, and it was coming across our bow. We hollered “Starboard,” and Larry hollered back “Constrained course.” Over the past three weeks, we have been intimidated by people who try to outbluff us on course issues, and we interpreted this as another such attempt, and the helmswoman, who most definitely doesn’t usually use such language, shouted back to Larry, “Bullshit!” Great in theory, but we later learned that this time Larry was right – there were rocks that a clumsy boat such as Windependent couldn’t avoid except by taking the course that it did.

It’s getting late, so I’ll have to finish this episode tomorrow …

OK, the secret’s out

The boat’s name is Black Magic

I had been planning on keeping my new boat’s name a secret until after I got it back to New Mexico. But Larry guessed it right off. If the Etchells fleet in New Mexico is named after America’s Cup winners, given the hull color of this one, the name was fairly obvious, I guess. Of course, there are interesting connotations as the challenger that took the Cup Down Under for the second time and actually kept it for a second term. (Hey, I’ll take the saucer, too!)

The current plan for getting the boat home is that Larry, Braxton, and I will head out to California with Braxton’s truck and Larry’s trailer. Pat doesn’t have enough time off work to join us on the road trip, but he can fly out to join us to take a test sail and close the deal, as well as learn how to take the boat apart for traveling. This could be an interesting trip – a thousand miles each way, with two guys who seldom stop talking. Actually, with this Adams Cup stuff, I haven’t had so much time for my writing, so maybe I’ll get a chance to catch up on that while those two talk.

Pat, Gerald, and I all traveled down together to the lake yesterday afternoon. The weather was windy, so windy that even Larry found conditions too rough to sail. A few of the Adams Cup sailors – Sue, Margaret, and Kari – were at the Strasia compound, where Ken was giving a comprehensive discussion of the responsibilities of the positions on the boat. Jo Ann arrived later, and we had supper (I contributed macaroni and cheese – yes, that recipe), and then we had a nice evening swapping sailing stories and other yarns. Rich had some, um, interesting tales of his days in the Navy.

Larry checked on my elbow, which he confirmed as a case of tennis elbow from working at the helm. Apparently pole-vaulters are also prone to tennis elbow. He recommended putting ice on it (gee, so did Wilbur …), and he has a band to put around the arm near the elbow, and some other athletic-trainer techniques to try.

Pat, Gerald, and I are staying at the Charles Motel this weekend; we have our favorite room. The computer picked up a wireless signal, but it was very faint, too faint to make a connection. I wonder whether the other end of the motel has a better signal, or a worse one. Fortunately, the room has a telephone (the older rooms at the other end don’t), so I can at least file blog posts via dialup, even if our Internet provider’s T or C bandwidth seems to be a bit overburdened.

This weekend, we’re scheduled to have the Valentine’s Chute-Out, and things are likely to be interesting. Winds are predicted to be fairly strong, which will challenge some of the less experienced Adams Cup sailors, including my crew (hereafter to be known as Team Black Magic). We’ll have to see what happens.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 19

Aptitude testing

For those of you who have only just joined in watching this blog, this is a work of fiction. In this world, great sailors aren’t ordinary humans; they’re wizards. Our heroine, Sarah, has recently discovered her own talents, and she has just enrolled in a wizard school to hone those skills.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 19

“I, uh, hello,” I said. “Uh, sorry …”

“Oh, please, I understand,” Betsy said. “I’m used to the reactions. My appearance is rather startling. I just try to be as inconspicuous as I can, although I’ve had some embarrassing moments.”

“Yes, I guess you could call your enrollment ceremony embarrassing,” Rhonda said.

“It was the big ceremony in the fall,” Betsy said. “Because of my face, I was trying to hide at the back of the stage. But then both my parents’ ropes burst into flame, and suddenly I was the focus of all the attention. I’ve been leery of fire ever since … this …,” she indicated her scarred face, “and this fire took me so completely by surprise that I screamed my head off. Not being raised in a wizard household, I’d never heard about that parent test and its meaning. Neither had my so-called parents, or they probably would have found some way around it. Up until then, I had no idea they weren’t really my parents, although I should have had a clue – what mother would do this to her child?”

“Your mother burned you?”

“Yes. She and my dad managed to convince the authorities that it was an accident, but it wasn’t. She was in a screaming rage one day, saying nobody had a right to be as pretty as I was, and she threw me down, and my face landed in the fireplace.”

“My God, that’s awful. I think the worst my mother ever did was force me to go for two days without food. But mostly she would just do this wishful thinking that maybe I’d go away.”

“Anyhow, Jackson and Rhonda became my parents and I got enrolled about midnight that night, after everybody else had been sent away,” she said, pausing for a moment. “You know, I think we’re going to be great roommates. Let me show you to our room.”

Our dormitory was right around the corner from the library, which I considered to be an excellent location. It was small, but wonderfully homey, with two beds, two desks, a small sofa, and various student-type furnishings. What made it unlike a typical dorm room was the large collection of wooden models of sailboats that occupied nearly every horizontal surface. I reached out toward one. “May I?” I asked.

“Yes, go ahead. You might guess, that’s my hobby; I carve model boats. More than that, I carve people’s souls into boats, a magic I didn’t even know I was applying. I just thought that when I carved a boat for someone specific, I was good at guessing what they were like, but really, I was focusing that person into that boat.”

“So your boats resonate with their owners?”

“Yes, and more. They work like good-luck charms, but only for the person they’re made for. That’s how the wizards discovered my talent; they detected the magic in one of my boats and tracked me down through the owner.”

“My talent is racing boats. I almost never lose, even to another wizard.”

“That’s a good one. I already know what boat I’m going to carve for you – a racing dinghy.”

We went to lunch in the dining hall, and I noticed that many of the other students gave Betsy a wide berth. I wondered whether her appearance made them uncomfortable, or whether the unfortunate event at the enrollment ceremony had made them leery of getting too close to her. Perhaps it was some of both.

After lunch, I had my first class, a basic orientation to the world of wizardry. Because I had only just enrolled, I was the only student, and Jackson was the teacher, and the class took place in Jackson’s office. “We’ll work on getting you up to speed so you can join the regular class as soon as possible,” he said. “But first, we’ll need to figure out what your skills are. You have been subconsciously using some magic that goes beyond what some of us believed possible, and now we want to work on figuring out exactly what you can do, as well as how much control you have. I suspect that control is going to be your biggest problem, and until you do learn it, you may be a danger to yourself or others.”

“I can see that,” I said. “I know what I do, but not until after I do it.”

“Fortunately, this school is well shielded. Magic from outside can’t get in, and magic from inside can’t get out to alert the Others what’s going on here. In addition, parts of the school are sealed off from each other, especially places such as this office and the laboratories where the students are learning the spells. Magic in an untrained person is purely subconscious,” he said. “It can get out of control readily and have grievous results. Spells are a way of consciously invoking our inner magic, and making it do what we want. We must also be sure that we’re using our magic for the good of the world. If we get selfish, we can easily be turned by the Others.”

“Just who are the Others, anyway?”

“They’re wizards, like us, but they have been corrupted. They work for themselves, not for the world. Wherever you see great suffering and oppression, that’s probably the Others at work. There aren’t many of them, but it doesn’t take many of them to have a devastating effect. One dictator – or one advisor to a dictator, which is how most of them work – can destroy the lives of millions of people. They’re behind corporate greed, too, and terrorism …”

“Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion?”

“You might put it that way. Why?”

“I’m just remembering old James Bond movies, where he was fighting against SPECTRE, the Special Executive Committee for Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion. You make the Others sound an awful lot like Bond’s old enemies.”

“You know, you may be right. They do have a lot to do with those sorts of activities.”

“And the Others are out to destroy me?”

“You’re a very special case. Even without training, you have powers that are far greater than most wizards can even dream of. With training, you will be a mighty weapon against them.”

“And if I don’t want to fight?”

“You really don’t have a choice. You are who you are, or what you are, and the Others are after you whether you like it or not.” Jackson opened a large book on his desk. “Meanwhile, let’s figure out where you are. Our magic comes from within our minds, and not from outside sources, although physical objects can be used to focus the magic – this is often the case with ceremonial magic, such as the enrollment ceremony in which the magic of all those present can be focused through the ropes and sailcloth, to make the spell stronger. Words and music can also be used to similar effect. The most basic class of spells are those of divination, which involves finding things, determining their condition, reading minds – animals are easier than humans, but both are hard – and, at an especially advanced level, predicting the future.”

“Well, I’ve always been good at finding things.”

“This should be easy, then.” Jackson handed me a slip of paper with the beginning of a shopping list written on it. “Find the pencil that wrote this list.”

“It’s in your center desk drawer,” I said. “There are two pencils in there; you want the one on the right.”

“I think we can skip to more advanced lessons,” Jackson said. “I’m guessing you can also do weather – I’ve heard about your sailing skills and how you always take the course with the best wind. What about people?”

“Pierre,” I said.

“No, you aren’t going to be able to find him,” Jackson said. “He’s supposed to be in his apartment, and that’s shielded – it took a full attack of the Others to get in the other night, and no single individual is going to be able to get through.”

But even as Jackson said this, I sensed him. He was in the bedroom of his apartment; a sheet of plywood had been nailed over the broken window, so it was gloomy. I realized that big nose of his was really sensitive; I could smell the seawater smell of the wet furniture, salty, a little bit fishy, and beginning to smell moldy. Some major refurbishing would be in order. He went to the clothes hamper and took out the clothes I had worn the day I had moved into the apartment – how odd, I thought, that I had only spent two nights there – and he held them to his face; I could smell the vanilla scent I had worn that day. He went into the “guest” closet and passed my clothes over all those in there; I could feel the magic tingle as he executed the spell to make them all my size. Then I could feel the magic shut off – this was no longer the guest closet; it was my closet now. He did the same for the clothes in the guest dresser. “He’s getting ready for me to move in,” I said.

Jackson looked startled. “That’s not possible. You shouldn’t be able to find him. Unless … unless his shields are down …” Jackson paused a moment to concentrate. “No, he’s shielded all right. This could be a problem – if he’s not shielded from you, the Others could attack him through you. Or they could get at you through him. Can you read his mind?”

“No, or at least, I can’t tell exactly what he’s thinking,” I said. I realized that I could feel his physical reactions to those thoughts, however, as he continued to hold my clothes. And then there was that vision again, that Pierre had called a premonition last time I saw it – his hand on my back, me in his bed – there was something a little odd about the vision, although I couldn’t place it. Then the doorbell rang, Pierre went to answer it, and I lost contact. “I’ve lost him now,” I said. “Maybe his shields are open to me only when he’s thinking of me.”

“Well, Pierre’s a special case, anyway,” Jackson said. “How are you with ordinary people – ones that don’t have any particular tie to you?”

I tried to think of an ordinary person to locate, and the only one I could think of was the delivery boy who had brought the Chinese takeout to Pierre’s place. Yes, there he was, in an elevator, going down, grumbling under his breath about how the higher up in the building, the lower the tips. I wasn’t too surprised when the elevator doors opened to reveal the lobby of Pierre’s building. “Well, there’s this Chinese food delivery boy who thinks the world of Pierre!”

“Well, I guess that’s not as directly connected to you …”

“Wait a minute … If I can find people, I wonder … What about Pierre’s daughter, Eliza?” I spread my thoughts out and felt a glimmering. “She’s alive … that’s all I can tell. Wherever she is, it must be very thoroughly shielded. Maybe far away, too.”

“Well, that’s more than anyone has found out before,” Jackson said. “We did try, once, many of us pooling our power to find her, a few years back when Pierre had just joined us. We couldn’t even find out whether she was alive. Pierre will be glad to hear your news. But if she’s in a shielded place, she may be in the hands of the Others, and that wouldn’t be good.”

“Knowing what I know about Pierre’s second wife, she could well have something to do with the Others,” I agreed. “Poor Pierre.”

“Meanwhile, I think we’ve covered quite enough ground for now,” Jackson said. “Let’s break until tomorrow, and then we’ll see how you rate on the next sets of skills, illusion and telepathy.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Much Better than Chocolate or Flowers

A super Valentine’s gift

No, Pat didn’t get me any chocolates or flowers or jewelry or a card or anything like that for Valentine’s Day. He’s getting me a boat. As I got home this evening, he was on the phone negotiating with the seller, and he has just now gone to the post office to mail a check and a written offer to buy the boat.

Now it’s a matter of finding a time when Larry and his trailer are available so we can go pick it up.

Adams Cup Press Release

Sailors from the Rio Grande and New Mexico sailing clubs practice for the Women’s Adams Cup Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006, at Elephant Butte Lake. (Pat Byrnes photo)

For Immediate Release 2/13/2006

The Rio Grande Sailing Club will host the quarterfinal round of the U.S. Women’s Adams Cup sailing championships at Elephant Butte Lake April 22-23, 2006. Teams from New Mexico and West Texas will be competing with other teams from the Sailing Association of Intermountain Lakes, which covers New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and western Nebraska.

The top two teams from the quarterfinal will advance to the semifinal, which will be held May 6-7, 2006, in Austin, Texas. The national championship will be Sept. 13-17, 2006, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Women from the Rio Grande Sailing Club and the New Mexico Sailing Club have been training for this event since mid-January at Elephant Butte. Training will continue, primarily on weekends, from now until the quarterfinal. The hope is that the Adams Cup competition will lead to an increase in interest and participation in women’s sailing in New Mexico and West Texas that will continue beyond the event itself.

The U.S. Women’s Sailing Championship originated in 1924 and is believed to be “the first women’s championship ever held in the world,” according to U.S. Sailing, the governing body of sailboat racing in the United States. The purpose of the Adams Cup is “promoting the sport of yachting by encouraging proficiency in seamanship and sportsmanlike conduct in sail yacht racing on the part of yachtswomen.”

For further information, contact Pat and Carol Anne Byrnes at 505-xxx-xxxx, or Rich and Sue Strasia at 505-xxx-xxxx.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Poetry Corner: T. S. Eliot

Cats, boats, cars … the principle is the same

Much conversation this weekend has involved the naming of boats. It’s not such a trivial concept, because in naming something, we take some sort of power over it, and in some way, that which is named also takes power. Take, for example, our own boat, Syzygy. The word is an astronomical term for when three or more bodies line up perfectly, as happens during an eclipse. At the time we acquired the boat, we had been experiencing a series of events during which things did indeed line up perfectly, and since then, things have continued to line up perfectly just when we have needed them to.

Sometimes, names for boats can be related, especially in fleets. Thus, in addition to our larger boat, we have the dinghies Eclipse, Occultation, Transit, and Conjunction. Or a fleet might have a historical theme, such as being named after America’s Cup boats.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, naming a boat shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is rather an insult to the boat, for example, if its name is to be changed according to which girlfriend is on the scene at the moment. The name should be carefully thought out; even if the name sounds silly, if the name has a good reason behind it, it’s a good name for the boat.

Now, not everyone names automobiles, but cars can earn names too. We currently have Babe (the big blue ox) and El Caballero (the model name sounds better in Spanish). Other cars I know or have known have included Grane, Hotelsmobile, The Tank, and The Heap.

The ultimate guide in naming comes from T. S. Eliot, who applied naming theory to cats. In our household, we currently have Dulce and Tres, and in the past there was Shere Khan (Kipling’s a good source of names). Of course, it’s not unheard of for boats to be named after cats – take Pyewacket, for example.

The Naming of Cats

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lakeside update

Less achy all over, but there’s something with my left elbow

Got to the lake early yesterday for an afternoon workout with Larry and Braxton. At the beginning it wasn’t much of a workout; there was almost no wind. Braxton and I were on Constellation, while Larry was on the boat formerly known as Intrepid, and as the wind began to pick up, we started mock races. First, we went southeast to mark 8, which we ran as a beam reach under spinnaker; Braxton and I got around the mark well ahead of Larry. Then Larry announced the next mark would be number 6, to the northeast. Braxton and I were pulling way ahead, leaving Larry vanishing on the horizon behind us. Then Larry tacked off westward into some wind, while Braxton and I were sitting in a dead calm. “Hey, he’s got some wind,” I commented. “Yeah, but he’s going the wrong way,” Braxton said.

A few minutes later, Larry was still going “the wrong way.” Braxton commented, “He’s heading for the marina. Maybe he got frustrated at us being so far ahead of him, he’s giving up.”

Braxton and I continued to make almost no progress, while Larry sailed around the entire western perimeter of the lake. “I think he pulled a dirty trick on us,” I said. “He sent us out here where there’s no wind, and he’s having fun where it is.”

Larry got near the marina, but he didn’t go in; he turned to the east. Before too long he was crossing a half-mile ahead of us, headed for the mark. As Larry approached, the wind came back, from aft, so we put up the spinnaker and tried to catch up. We made some progress, but not enough. As I said in an earlier post, nobody beats Larry.

Then the wind really started in to blow, so we ran upwind to mark 3, to the west, where we had a nice little tacking duel, then we rounded the mark and headed in under spinnaker to the marina, where we put Constellation away. Pat and Gerald were rigging Syzygy at the boat ramp, so I joined them while Braxton and Larry went out for a moonlight sail. Eventually, we all ended up at the Strasias’ for supper. I noticed my left elbow was a bit sore.

Pat and I left Gerald and Syzygy at the Strasias’ and had a pleasant night alone together at the Elephant Butte Inn. But when I got up this morning, my left elbow was really hurting. It wasn’t a particularly strenuous day yesterday, so it’s a bit surprising how much that elbow hurts. I must have done something to it at some point.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My next boat?

I hear it calling …

It’s an Etchells, USA 125, and it’s for sale. According to the seller, it needs “some help,” whatever that means. Pat, ever the optimist, did note one point about the boat’s condition based on the photo – it floats. Not all old boats do.

It does look rather forlorn, dwarfed by the tugboat and the larger sailboat and whatever that thing is in the background. I can almost hear it whispering, “Get me out of here. Take me home … take me home …”

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Change of schedule

The learning curve just got one heck of a lot steeper!

News flash: The Adams Cup semifinals in Texas have been scheduled for May 6, which was the date we had originally scheduled for our first-round race. We’re now looking at April 1-2 for our race, so we have a month less to prepare. We’re going to have to get our crew rosters set immediately, and we’re going to have to be sailing without coaches on board very soon. Zoiks!

Sailboat Racing Queen

with apologies to Jim Croce

Gonna tell you a story that you won’t believe
But I fell in love last friday evenin’
With a girl I saw on a speeding j-twenty-four

Well I was just gettin’ ready to head for home
When she caught my eye and I turned around
And I went on through a couple o’ more tacks and gybes

The day that I fell in love with a sailboat racing queen
Round and round, oh round and round
The surest-sailin’ woman
That anybody ever seen
Down in the marina

She was all concentration at five foot two
A boat drivin’ mama
Who knew all the rules
She knew how to point
And she knew how to round them race buoys

And the sailing club race committee said
That there weren’t nothin’ stoppin’ her from gettin’ ahead
Her crew calls her cap’n
But all her buddies called her sue

You know that I fell in love with a sailboat racing queen
Round and round, oh round and round
The surest-sailin’ woman
That anybody ever seen
Down in the marina

Round and round, go round and round
Round and round, go round and round
Round and round

Well I could not help it
But to fall in love
With this seaworthy woman
I been speakin’ of
Things looked kind of bad
Until the day she sailed right into my life

Well she might be cunning
She might be fast
But I never met a person
Who would tell her that
She’s my keelboat hauler
My tiller-holdin’ round-the-mark mama

You know that I fell in love with a sailboat racing queen
Round and round, oh round and round
The surest-sailin’ woman
That anybody ever seen
Down in the marina

Round and round, go round and round
Round and round, go round and round
Round and round

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 18

Well, duh!

OK, things will look better now when our main characters figure out what was obvious all along … but how long until the next calamity strikes?

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 18

Back in the guest quarters, the mood was glum. Pierre shut himself in the bedroom, and nobody else said much of anything. I had dropped a bombshell that nobody was particularly happy with, but I knew that if the ceremony had gone ahead as planned with Pierre, the consequences would have been bad. I didn’t know what those consequences would be, but I knew disaster would come. I knocked on the bedroom door. “Pierre, let me talk to you.” I heard a moan from inside and let myself in. Pierre was face-down on the bed, the pillow damp with tears.

“How could you just rip my soul to shreds?” he asked.

“I had no choice. The forces wouldn’t let me do otherwise.” I approached the bed and sat down in the chair next to it. “Look at me. I’m crushed, too. I was so happy to have a father like you, so devoted, so full of life, so totally different from the man I grew up thinking was my father.” He turned his head toward me, and I reached out and stroked his cheek. “Now it looks like that other one, the one who hated me, really was my father. And even when the rope burned up, I was so glad that you could still choose to be my father. Having to stop the ceremony was about the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

“Harder than coming back from the dead?”

“Yes, harder than that. That, I did because I love you. This, I had to do in spite of how much I love you.” I reached for his face with both of my hands and looked into his eyes, which were swollen, with heavy, dark bags underneath. His face was so deeply creased, I wondered whether it might crack. His skin, for all its weathered appearance, was surprisingly soft and smooth beneath the dampness of tears.

Suddenly, he leaned forward and took my face in his hands, pulling my face to his. Before I knew it, our mouths were locked together, and he was kissing me fiercely. I was kissing back, in more complete joy than I’d felt in a long time. Pierre pulled me onto the bed, and we rolled together, arms around each other, stroking each other’s bodies, faces, hair, pressing against each other as hard as we could. That tingling feeling in my lower parts was back, stronger than that night Pierre nearly took me, stronger than ever.

“Oh,” I gasped. “So this was what the magic forces wanted.”

“Yes,” Pierre puffed. “And this time, we know it’s us, not the Others pushing us to destructive action.”

“Speaking of which,” I said, pulling back slightly, “I assume it still is potentially destructive.”

“Yes. We need a proper joining ceremony first, and before that, you have to pass the training. Without the joining ceremony, you’d be almost certain to lose all of your powers, or if you didn’t lose them all, you’d lose most. And without the training, the joining ceremony doesn’t work.”

“Oh, and one other thing I’m guessing. If you had become my surrogate father, sex would be incest, right?”

“You are right. It would have destroyed us both. A chosen parenthood is just as strong as a hereditary one, for that purpose.”

“So there really was a good reason for not having you as my father.”

“Well, at least I now have a whole lot to look forward to.” Pierre leaned his head forward and kissed me again.

After a while we went out to the sitting room, hand in hand. “I see you two have kissed and made up,” Runyon commented.

Jackson came to the door. “Since the ceremonies were, uh, delayed, you have missed dinner in the dining hall. However, Rhonda did manage to save some food for you.” He pushed a cart full of covered dishes into the room. “It’s not much, since we weren’t expecting company, but I hope it suits you.” We set the table and uncovered the dishes.

“Macaroni and cheese!” Pierre exclaimed, before tearing into the dish with gusto. “Hmm, tastes like somebody’s secret family recipe,” he added, winking at me. Sure enough, it was very much like my own. I wondered whether that meant some relative of mine was working in the kitchen.

The next day, I saw everyone to the parking garage. “I’ll be back soon,” Edna said. “I’ll be enrolling on the next big enrollment day – Jackson has my name on the list. I wonder if I’m the oldest person ever to come to school.”

Pierre gave me one final, deep kiss. “I won’t be away long, either. I want to do the joining as soon as possible.”

I returned to the office, where Rhonda came to greet me. “First, let me give you a short tour of the place, and then I can introduce you to your new roommate.”

“Before we can do that, I have some loose ends to tie up,” I said. “Is there a telephone around here?”

Rhonda showed me one in the outer office, and I called my instructors and the university office. “I’m sorry, Professor Jones, something’s come up … Yes, that was my apartment that burned down last night … Can you give me an incomplete and let me finish the course in the fall term?” Since I had been a model student with a high grade-point average and no troubles so far, all of my instructors were glad to give me incompletes for the spring term, provided I promised to return to finish things up in the fall. I gave the school registrar Pierre’s address and telephone number as my new residence.

“Now,” I said, hanging up the phone and turning to Rhonda, “let’s have that tour.”

Rhonda showed me around, taking me to the large ceremonial hall, the dining room, various classrooms, and the gym. Near the gym, she showed me a passage that went to an exit onto the beach near the cove, used when students went out for recreation, especially sailing. She explained that water wizardry was the specialty of this school, but that other schools had other specialties; for example, there was a school in Kentucky for horse wizards, and one in Michigan for automotive wizards. “I’ll have to remember that one next time my car breaks down,” I commented.

Finally, we entered the library. “Now it’s time to meet your new roommate,” Rhonda said, approaching a girl seated at a table with her back to me. The girl turned around, and I couldn’t help flinching. Her face was covered with hideous burn scars, a pink-streaked mess. “Sarah, meet Betsy.”

Monday, February 06, 2006

Home is the Sailor

That was one loooonnng weekend

OK, I’m now back in Albuquerque, after three days without Internet access. Rich and Sue are going to have to talk their neighbors into getting wireless high-speed Internet so I can piggyback on their system during the weekends. We can’t keep going to Big Food Express, much as I like the food. (Rich and Sue don’t even have a phone, so I can’t even get dialup at their place.)

I hope you all didn’t miss me too much while I was gone.

Team building?

Still some things to work out

I recently had this dream in which I got shipped off to Uruguay to take over the helm of a racing sailboat full of women amid a storm of controversy and contentiousness among the crew, the management, and just about everybody else involved …

No, wait, that’s someone else’s story. All I have to deal with is Elephant Butte Lake, not the Southern Ocean. And the metaphorical storm isn’t a major clash between personnel played out in the media as a question of whether, really, women are capable of sailing anything more than dinghies. But there are some issues.

Much has to do with conflicts in style, especially gender issues; we sailors are all women, and nearly all of the coaches are men, and there are some men-from-Mars-women-from-Venus conflicts. There is the question, for example, of how to select teams – on the one hand, we want to encourage participation and get as many women as possible to come out and sail and train, so we want to have women working on various positions and not select the teams too soon and exclude people; on the other hand, we have less than three months left to train, and having teams fairly solidly selected is important so that whichever women do end up sailing in the race have time to work together as a team and get coordinated with each other.

There are personality conflicts as well. Some of the coaches have worked out better than others. Some have come across as arrogant (OK, there may be some truth to that in one or two cases), while others just seem to have been out of tune with the team, or not good at seeing the whole picture. There’s a challenge involved in aggressively training the sailors while not bashing their self-esteem. We want to win, and to do so, we are going to have to take some punishment. I don’t like what I’ve seen in some youth sports, in which, to protect the children’s fragile self-esteem, nobody wins in order that nobody loses. Face it, that’s not the way life is. However, especially with women who may not be experienced sailors, or experienced racers, or accustomed to being independent of someone telling them what to do, there’s a learning curve that has to be taken into account. We don’t need coddling, but we do need patience among our coaching staff.

Meanwhile … I suppose I ought to get around to telling about Sunday’s training. We were all out on J/24s today. Margaret, Lisa, and I were with Rich on Kachina, while Sue took JoAnn, Vicky, and Cheryl on JoAnn’s boat, and Larry, Braxton, and Mike were on Alter Ego, observing. I wasn’t at my best; I was exhausted from the day before, and I hadn’t slept well that night. But we did have a good day on the water; Rich had us working on mark roundings and spinnaker sets and the like. For most of the day, the wind was flaky, light, and coming in puffs from all directions; this is what the wind does on Elephant Butte just before it really starts howling, which is what it did for the last part of the day. We took a real pounding on the way back to the dock, and we came in under jib alone. Rich did a lot of letting us make our own mistakes, which was good if a bit disconcerting. We aren’t going to have coaches on board for the big race, so we have to learn to sail without constant advice; starting in April, we’re going to be on our own when we’re on the water.

Because of the wind and the poor condition of one of the trailers, it took some time to get the boats put away, but we got back to the Strasia compound about halfway through the second quarter of the football game. We had a fairly low-key Super Bowl party (takeout chicken and Budweiser), but that was OK since everybody was pretty well worn out. As is typical, most of the conversation was about sailing and what we did today and what’s next. One good idea that came out was having a spouse-and-boyfriend boat on hand during events and maybe even practices so the men don’t feel so left out and they can show support for us women. Pat doesn’t know it yet, but I have volunteered our MacGregor, Syzygy, for this duty.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Oh, those aching muscles

Now I know which ones to work on!

The sky was overcast this morning, so there was no gorgeous sunrise among the boat masts. Last night’s forecast for tonight was breezy in the morning, getting downright windy in the afternoon. That means we’ll probably be off the water before the football game, or at least in time for the halftime show, which seems nowadays to be the part that people don’t want to miss. As far as I’m concerned, I still like the commercials best.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s overworked muscles have turned into today’s heavy-duty aches, showing me exactly which ones I need to work on: the tops of the forearms, both front and back of the upper arms, the backs of the thighs, the outside of the calves, the lower back, the abs … OK, well, really, just about everything. I hope today’s workout isn’t quite so strenuous.

Another long day at the lake … ooh, what fun!

Some intensive workouts on the water

As planned, I got my first workout on an Etchells today. Braxton and I were on Larry’s boat, while Larry and JoAnn were on the boat that up until last week had belonged to the other Etchells guy that I beat last week, but that is now Braxton’s. Oh, boy, is that a nice boat. We started in very light air, but later, the wind came up, and then that boat was flying. We ran a few mock races with the other Etchells, and just generally had a great time, while also getting thoroughly exhausted.

I discovered that I really, really like that boat. There’s a heck of a lot I still need to learn, but I found myself more at home on that Etchells than I’ve ever felt on any other boat. I can walk about on the foredeck, which I can’t do even on a whole lot of big cruising boats. Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to be learning to sail a J/24, but at least the basics of helming apply to any boat. And if, in the future, the Adams Cup is ever held on Etchells, I’ll be ready.

We have a full house here tonight, with the arrival of Sue, Lisa, Margaret, Vicky, JoAnn, and Jacob. Braxton, JoAnn, and Jacob have their own house in town, but all the rest of us are bunking in the crew quarters.

Gotta sign off for now … Larry has to go to bed. Sue says so.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

At the lake once again

Same song, third verse

I’m currently sitting in what seems to have become my room in the “Strasia Compound,” watching the sun rise. This is probably just about the only place in New Mexico where one can watch the sun rise behind an array of rigged sailboat masts, unless one is actually sleeping on a boat in a marina. There are no overhead power lines between here and the boat ramp, so boats can be stored here with the masts up. In addition to Rich and Sue’s boats, there are several others, especially the J/24s that are to be used for the Adams Cup.

We had the same cast of characters here as last Friday night, with much the same energy level, aside from now all of the members of Team Constellation have discovered this blog, and they had a ball responding to various comments on it about such things as the overall tone of last weekend’s gathering and a certain regular commenter here … Tillerman, were your ears burning? Over the course of the evening, several gauntlets were thrown down … I lost count of how many … by “that Larry character.” And “Hmmm…” seems to have become a catchword of sorts.

Today’s plan is to separate helmswomen from crews, so green crews and green helms don’t foul each other up. The crews will go out on the J/24s with experienced helmspeople, to learn trim, while JoAnn and I will go out on Etchells with individual coaches to work on our skills – she gets Larry, while I get Braxton. Winds are predicted to be light, but we’ll see what happens.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 17


Yeah, let’s enroll wizard kids in wizard school. The problem is that it isn’t as simple as all that.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 17

Pierre was still holding my hand when I woke up several hours later. “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Why is it I get a feeling we’ve gone through this before?”

“It does seem to be turning into a habit, now, doesn’t it? You knock yourself out fighting the Others, and all I do is watch you sleep it off afterward.”

“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. Watching me sleep can’t be the easiest task in the world.”

“For me, it is. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to looking at an angel. Meanwhile, we need to get ready for the ceremonies. You can have the bathroom first.”

When Pierre and I got to the small ceremonial room, everybody else was already there. The room itself was like a small chapel, with a small seating area for an audience, and a raised area at the front of the room with a table at the center. The seating area was empty, and I gathered that was on purpose. Even in as protected a place as the school, it was a good idea to have as few people as possible aware of what was happening, in case the Others somehow found out.

First, Sylvia stood at the center of the raised area and drew Edna and me toward her, while Pierre, Runyon, and Jackson sat in chairs to the side. Sylvia placed a small, pale-blue cube into a golden bowl in the center of the table, and then tapped the cube with her finger, creating a bright spark of light, after which a thin trail of smoke arose from the cube, which I realized was some sort of incense. “Here today, we create motherhood. Edna, you have pledged to be a mother, and to nurture and care for Sarah as your daughter. Sarah, you have pledged to be a daughter to Edna, and to do your duties to her as a parent.” She lifted the bowl and walked around me and Edna, creating a wreath of smoke around the two of us.

“Since neither of you has been through training, neither of you will have a letter spell yet, but the ceremony requires that I ask: Do either of you have a letter spell?”

“I don’t know what that is, so I guess I don’t,” Edna said.

“I don’t have one either,” I said.

“No, wait!” Pierre said. “You do. Last night, when you died, I heard it. I was using it when you came back.”

Jackson and Runyon looked at each other, startled. “You must be mistaken,” Jackson said. “Letter spells come to the individual, and not to anyone else, not even the person’s parents.”

“But I do know it. And I used it. It’s – ”

“Stop!” Jackson shouted. “Don’t say it out loud. Whisper it in her ear. If it’s hers, she’ll know it, and she can say it for the ceremony.”

Pierre got up, came to me and took hold of my hand, brushing my cheek with a light kiss before whispering in my ear, “K-V-E-F.” Instantly, a shockwave went through me, and I knew that was my code.

“It is mine,” I said.

“Because you do have a letter spell, the ceremony requires an extra step,” Sylvia said. “I’ve never done it before, and I’ve never heard of it being done before, but then, Sarah, there’s a lot about you that’s never happened before, so I guess this isn’t too far out of line.” She turned to the table and picked up a small, pale-green piece of thin paper and a dark-green crayon, which she then handed to me. The paper and crayon had a tangy scent, and I realized that they were either made out of herbs or infused with them. “Write your letter spell on the paper.” I did so, then handed the paper and crayon back to Sylvia. She laid the paper on top of the incense, and it burst into flame, the ashes quickly falling around the incense cube, which by now was almost gone. She took a small, golden pitcher and poured a white liquid from it into the bowl, extinguishing the incense. She then handed the bowl to Edna, motioning her to take a sip, and then passed it to me. I tasted the liquid; it was milk, flavored by the incense and by the herbs, sweet and a bit minty.

Sylvia then set the bowl on the table and brought Edna’s and my hands together. “You are now mother and daughter,” she said.

Next, Pierre and Jackson came up to join Edna and me while Sylvia went to sit down next to Runyon. Jackson had Pierre and Edna stand behind me to either side as my parents, and he picked up two lengths of rope from the table, and a triangle of sailcloth. “As a learner aspiring to become one of the wizards of winds and waves, you must be released from your parents to become part of the school.” He handed the sailcloth to me and the ropes to Pierre and Edna. “First, your parents must tie a stopper knot in one end of each rope.” Pierre rapidly tied a figure-eight knot in his rope and then turned to help Edna tie one in hers, only to be surprised that she had already accomplished the task neatly.

“I used to sail myself, you know,” she commented at his look of surprise.

“Now, Sarah, you must take the ropes, and the sailcloth …”
At as Edna and Pierre were handing me their ropes, the unexpected happened: Pierre’s rope burst into flames, and I dropped it to the floor, where it was quickly consumed until nothing remained but a thin line of ashes. “I take it that’s not supposed to happen,” I said.

“No, that’s not supposed to happen,” Jackson said. “It is the magic’s way of keeping children from being entered into the program without their parents’ consent. It works even with adult children, when the person acting as a parent isn’t one and hasn’t been confirmed as a surrogate. Pierre, you aren’t Sarah’s father.”

“If I’m not her father, then what am I?” Pierre asked. “Why are we so much like each other? Why has the magic power drawn us together?”

“I can’t answer those questions. But before we can finish the induction, we’ll have to confirm a surrogate.”

“So we’ll go back to the original plan, then,” Pierre said. “Runyon wanted me to stand in for Sarah’s father even before we knew – er, we thought we knew – that I was really her father. I’ll take the confirmation.”

“The ceremony will take some time to set up. You three can return to the guest quarters while we work on it.”

Pierre, Edna, and I went back to the guest quarters and sat down in the sitting room, Pierre and I on a couch and Edna in an armchair. Pierre leaned forward, elbows on knees, head in hands. “How could it happen?” he moaned. “You’re so much like me, and like Dora, and – and you came back from the dead for me!”

I took one of his hands in mine. “I don’t know either,” I said. “But I don’t love you any less. I would still do the same for you. And I do know that, whatever the case, we are indeed meant to be together. That’s been true all along.”

“Besides,” Edna said, “now you have an extra daughter. You’ve gained Sarah, or you will once the surrogate confirmation is over, and Eliza is still out there somewhere. The two of you working together should be able to find her where just you alone couldn’t, especially if her magic is so powerful.”

“Edna, you may be right,” Pierre said. “But it really has hit me hard. I was just so happy to have Sarah as my daughter – she was everything I could have ever wanted in a daughter – and now she’s not my daughter. It’s like getting kicked in the gut.”

“But you’re choosing to have her as your daughter now.”

I spotted a chess set in a corner of the room and brought it over. “How about a round while we wait for the ceremony preparations?”

“No, thanks,” Pierre said. “I’m tired. Let me go rest.” He went into the bedroom.

“Poor thing,” Edna said. “He really is taking this hard.”

Eventually, Sylvia came to lead us back to the ceremonial room. It was set up similarly to the way it had been before, complete with the bowl and the pitcher. Jackson and Sylvia sat down, and Runyon stood by the table to begin the ceremony. Suddenly, something felt very wrong – there was a serious knot in my stomach, and I felt myself shaking. “Stop!” I said. “Something’s not right.”

Pierre looked at me, stunned. “What’s not right?”

“Well, it isn’t the Others; it’s not that kind of feel. But something we’re doing here is just wrong!”

“How can it be wrong?”

“I don’t know. It just is. Runyon, you have to be my father, not Pierre.”

“Sarah!” Pierre exclaimed. “Whatever happened to us belonging together? What about the magic forces?”

“We do still belong together. But you can’t be my father. Not even by choice.”

Pierre turned and started to leave the room. But then he turned back. “I can’t watch this,” he said. “But I can’t not watch it either. What happened earlier was like getting kicked in the gut. This is more like getting my guts torn out. This is worse than losing Eliza.” He finally took a seat in the audience area while Jackson conducted the ceremony to confirm Runyon as my father, nearly identical to the one that had made Edna my mother, except that the liquid involved was beer rather than milk. It went without a hitch, as did the enrollment ceremony, which involved taking the knotted ropes, tying the un-knotted end of each to the sailcloth, and then unknotting the ends.

“Sarah, you are now officially enrolled,” Jackson said. “You will have the rest of tonight in the guest quarters with your family and friends, and then tomorrow they will have to leave and you will have to move into the dormitory. Make the most of the evening.”