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.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mucho boat time

OK, so it wasn’t all sailing …

For a very large portion of the day Thursday, I was on a boat. Starting mid-morning, I went and spent a couple of hours on Black Magic, where the most important task I accomplished was installing the end stops on the traveler track. There was little to no wind, and the day was getting hot, so I took a break about 1 p.m. to go to the extremely air-conditioned computer lab and check up on email and other matters, and then I got some groceries for the house, including sandwich fixings for my lunch.

By the time I had finished eating, it had clouded up, with small thundershowers all over the place, accompanied by gusty winds. Most of these clouds were producing virga, which is rain that evaporates before it gets to the ground. The evaporation causes a major cooling of the air, leading in turn to sudden, sharp, swirling downdrafts – not good for sailing in. When I got back to the marina, Zorro had arrived, and he was working on the boat currently known as Black Swan. I helped him work on some things on his boat, particularly making the mast-moving system work the way it should, until the storms mostly dispersed and we could go out sailing.

Since Zorro is getting into practice to go out racing with the Etchells fleet in San Diego, he did most of the driving, and I handled trim, which is what I may be doing if I go out there with him. We spent more than three hours out on the lake, starting in light air, then in very light air, then light to moderate, then, as we were heading back to the marina, stiffer air as a stray thunderstorm approached. For the most part, we had perfect conditions, and we were able to work on perfecting tacks and gybes, as well as simply making the boat go fast. At the end, Zorro turned the helm over to me and we did a couple of mock mark roundings while the wind got stiffer. There was one other sailboat out on the lake, and it was interesting which one it was: Ándale, the Catalina 25 that John B sold to one of his crew just before he died. He may be gone, but his boat goes on.

When we got back to the marina, there was more work to do on Black Swan, mostly to deal with problems that we discovered while we were sailing, such as a jib cunningham and jib fine-tune lines that weren’t working right. We also worked on setting up the fraculator (a line that bends the top of the mast forward for improved spinnaker performance), and while we were doing that, we discovered that some components of the backstay were the wrong length, which kept the mast from going as far forward as it should when the boat is going downwind. Zorro’s figuring out what to do about that.

By the time we finished, it was dark and nearly 9 p.m. – so, after subtracting the lunch-and-computer break, I had spent somewhere between 9 and 10 hours on one boat or another. Zorro took me out for pizza, and then we made plans to sail in the morning, before he headed up to Albuquerque for some business he needed to tend to.

This morning, I met Zorro at the marina. There wasn’t any wind, so we did more boat work, this time on Black Magic, most notably drilling a hole in the deck and repositioning the boom vang to keep it more out of the way of the mast-moving system. Eventually, we got out sailing, but we didn’t stay out very long, because those little thunderstorms that had showed up the previous day returned, and one of them was threatening. Total boat time today (so far): 4 hours.


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