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.

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 …


Anonymous Adrift at Sea said...

Ouch... hope you weren't wearing your lucky hat when it got creased. Sounds like an exciting day, challenging, but not so fun. Hope your arm feels better soon.

Sun Feb 19, 08:46:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Actually, I was wearing it ... but even worse happened today. Stay tuned.

Sun Feb 19, 03:47:00 PM MST  

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