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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Monday at the lake

Spring Break doesn’t seem to mean anything here

This has been a good day. It had just about the right blend of relaxing quiet time, productive getting-work-done time, and fun-on-the-water time, with only a minimum of pursuit-of-undomesticated-waterfowl time.

We started with a great breakfast. Sue did scrambled eggs with interesting stuff mixed in, such as crabmeat she and Rich caught on their last sailing voyage in the Pacific Northwest. Margaret did potato chunks sautéed with onions, mushrooms, and green chile. That was a most satisfying meal.

For the morning, Rich took Margaret, Vicki, and Gerald out on Goat Rodeo, while Sue, who is a certified instructor, had paying customers – Art and Shari, who have had a boat and have been members of the club for a couple of years but who haven’t had any formal sailing training, and their teenage granddaughter Dana. Braxton and Larry were “planning” on coming back up from El Paso to work on Black Magic, and I still had a pile of papers to grade – if I didn’t get those papers graded, I would not be able to stay at the lake until tomorrow. So the plan was that I would grade papers until Larry and Braxton showed up.

After grading about half of the papers, I needed a break. So I left a note on the door for Larry and Braxton, and I went in search of the proper bureaucratic paperwork to get the boat registered. The boat needs to be registered with the state Motor Vehicle Department, and in order to be registered, the boat needs to have its Hull Identification Number inspected and certified by a person officially certified by the MVD. Usually, that’s an MVD staffer, but two of the Elephant Butte State Parks boating safety officers are also certified, and since the boat is in the water and not on a trailer, I can’t exactly take it to the MVD office. So I went to the Boating Safety Center to seek out the officers, but the office was empty, so I went to the Visitor Center to ask to get in touch with the officers. The girl there hadn’t the foggiest notion what I was talking about, and she absolutely insisted that I would have to take the boat to the MVD office to get it registered, and if it was in the water and I didn’t have a trailer, that wasn’t her problem. I told her Pat had been talking to people on the phone last week, and I gave her the names of the officers; she told me one of them was off today, and the other was out doing something – she didn’t know what – and he wasn’t available.

So I returned to the compound and resumed grading papers. Because I had locked the door before I went out on the paperwork excursion, I was out on the front porch. The wind was practically nonexistent, so I didn’t have to worry about papers blowing around. It was a wonderfully soothing atmosphere – the quail and the doves and the roadrunners and the sparrows and juncos were all making their own sweet sounds (no, the roadrunner doesn’t go “beep-beep”; it sounds like a cuckoo clock on Prozac – coo … coo …….. coo … coo).

Before too long, Rich arrived with Vicky, Margaret, and Gerald. Vicky and Margaret needed to get back to Albuquerque, and there was very close to no wind on the lake at all anyway. Vicky and Margaret headed home.

After lunch, we got a message from Larry that he and Braxton wouldn’t be coming up to the lake. So Sue went out with her paying clients, while Rich took me and Gerald along with Rich and Sue’s neighbors, Evelyn and Clarence, who have bought a J/24 but who really want help in learning how to sail it.

The afternoon started in very close to dead air. To start with, the winds were light. Then the winds went totally screwy – shifting like crazy, clocking around, totally driving a sailboat helmsperson batty. (Note to Litoralis: Often the wind at the masthead fly was opposite the wind on the surface of the lake. Also, I think I might know who was in that Olson 30.) But then – this seems to be a very consistent pattern at this lake – after about an hour of this screwy light nearly-non-existent stuff, the stiffer winds just slammed down onto the lake, like instantly, like BAM!

Almost instantly, we were at hull speed, and we were heeling. With Rich’s instruction, Gerald, Clarence and I were able to depower the main while still keeping the boat going. We charged ahead, and we made a mark rounding, setting the spinnaker on a bear-away set. It was probably the best spinnaker set I’ve ever had at the helm – Rich is a great coach, and Gerald is fantastic on foredeck. Clarence isn’t too bad either; he has a lot to learn, but he has promise, and he showed a lot of willingness to learn today.

Riding that spinnaker up the lake was exhilarating. Normally, when you’re flying a kite, the kite’s up in the air, and you’re on the ground, and you’re not moving. When you’re flying a spinnaker, you are moving, and the kite’s what’s pulling you. Clarence did a good job of flying that kite, even though the wind was shifting.

Before we got back to the marina, the winds stiffened even more. We dropped the chute. We had already adjusted the backstay, vang, and several other lines. For fun, or to add to our excitement, or possibly maybe to add to our education, Rich had me do an emergency crash 360-degree short stop, to simulate what I would do if a crew member went overboard. Ironically my hat – the Tilley that I don’t particularly like – did try to go overboard, but I snagged it and sat on it until Clarence had a free hand to toss it down into the cabin. (Since losing my lucky Aussie hat, I’m still looking for a hat with which I can have a meaningful relationship.)

When we got back to the marina, Clarence was pretty charged up. Evelyn had her game face on, but it looks to me like she’s not so sure about this whole sailing thing. She’s going to need a day or two on the water, probably without Clarence, with consistent moderate air and a patient instructor or companion. There are a whole lot of patient instructors around; the real challenge is that in New Mexico, especially in the spring, there really is no such thing as moderate air, let alone consistent moderate air.

Later on, we were all too tired to think about either cooking supper or going out for it; instead we had take-out pizza at Evelyn and Clarence’s place next door to the Strasia compound. Evelyn put Santana on the stereo, and we had a pleasant evening.

Tomorrow, I work on the boat paperwork, and then I have to return to work in Albuquerque. What a letdown.


Blogger Pat said...

Oh how wonderful! Boy do I wish I could have been there. Too bad Larry & Braxton seem to have vanished but at least you got a great ride.

Tue Mar 28, 03:25:00 PM MST  
Anonymous Adrift At Sea said...

Ahh, boat paperwork... so much fun... I went the USCG Documentation route rather than the state registration route. Sounds like a pretty fun day of sailing.

Wed Mar 29, 04:59:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Documentation is definitely the way to go, if your boat is big enough.

Wed Mar 29, 05:07:00 PM MST  

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