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 19, 2006

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.


Anonymous Adrift at Sea said...

I'd have to agree with Larry about the Cranky Wench and that they really should have headed in after getting Vicky back aboard. Hypothermia is a nasty thing and can sneak up on you... and I don't know what the temperature was like, but with the winds you described, wind chill was probably an issue too.

Sun Feb 19, 11:05:00 AM MST  

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