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.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Time on the water …

is time well spent

The day started slowly, because we were still working on trailer repairs. We had bought a replacement jack for the trailer, but it turned out that the jack we had bought wouldn’t work, so we took it back. When we bought the new jack, the clerk at the auto parts store had asked whether we wanted the box – I wanted to keep it, but in a rare departure from his pack-rat habits, Pat said that we didn’t want the box. So when we went back to the store to get a refund, we found that the store won’t accept returns unless they are in the original box. We did end up persuading the manager to give us a refund, although we did have to pay a 10-percent restocking fee.

That store didn’t have the right kind of jack, and the two others in the area that might were closed on Sundays, so the trailer repair will have to wait until Monday or later.

So we got to the marina to think about maybe sailing about 11 a.m. The winds had been gentle all morning, but they came up and were beginning to howl just when we got to the lake. But, in case the winds abated later, we decided to rig up the sails. We put on our second-best mainsail, saving the really good one for the big regatta, and we set up our ratty, beat-up jib. While the rest of our sails have been kept at the cabin or on board our other boat, Syzygy, those two sails have been lying in the bottom of Black Magic, exposed to dust from all of the grinding involved in boat repairs, as well as rain and mud tracked in from the path to the Heron Marina. So those sails were filthy. Given that the winds on the lake were howling, we decided to wash the sails while waiting to see whether the winds would abate.

We started by unrolling the mainsail on top of the boat and cleaning it by dumping buckets of water on it and scrubbing it with one of the new long-handled bathroom scrubbers. That worked, sort of. The wind kept picking the sail up and turning it around and twisting it about, so we couldn’t really get it clean, and a couple of buckets of water that were intended to clean the sail ended up missing the sail and drenching me instead.

So we went to Plan B. We made sure the boat was securely moored, and then I slowly raised the mainsail, while Pat with the bucket and Tadpole with the bathroom scrubber cleaned it. By the time we were done, the sail was much cleaner, and I was drenched. While the mainsail dried, we repeated the process with the jib.

Then I used the bilge pump to pump the wash-water out of the boat, so the inside of the boat is also much cleaner, and Pat and Tadpole washed and scrubbed the deck.

At this point, the wind was still pretty stiff, but we wanted to get out on the water. We went out under jib alone, and for us, that seemed to be about right. Several of the local J/24s, who, we assume, are familiar with local conditions, also went out with only one sail up, usually the main. I chose to use the jib rather than the main because in an Etchells, the jib is significantly smaller than the main, and in a place that I’m not familiar with, and that is notorious for sudden, unpredictable changes in conditions, I wanted less power.

For the next two hours, that proved to be an excellent choice. We repeatedly saw boats slammed down, as if they’d been hit by an invisible fly swatter, including a couple of the J/24s running under mainsail alone. The Snipe regatta seemed to escape the fly swatter, but those sailors still had some challenging conditions to deal with. Yeah, with only the jib, which on an Etchells is very small, we weren’t going as fast as this boat can go. But we also weren’t knocked horizontal – we probably only heeled 45 degrees or so in the strongest gusts.

We sailed past the Snipe regatta, and we took a few pictures as we went by. Then we decided to sail to Frisco on the other side of the lake, to try to get a feel for the lake’s wind and weather conditions.

The only thing that’s constant about weather on this lake is that it’s constantly changing. As we sailed today, the general trend was that the wind was slackening, but every time we thought about raising the mainsail, the wind would sharpen, or we’d see a nearby boat get hit by that giant fly swatter.

At this point, I’m even wondering whether I have any business even thinking about being in the Dillon Open Regatta. How in the world can anybody sail someplace where a giant invisible fly swatter can slam someone’s mainsail into the water without any advance clues? No, I don’t have any worries whatsoever about capsizing – I know that more than 60% of this boat’s weight is in the keel, so the only way it’s going to turn turtle is if the keel falls off. My big worry is falling off the boat. On an Etchells, there’s not a lot to hold on to, so if Black Magic gets hit by one of those fly swatters, I could end up violating the Dillon Lake “no swimming” rule.

So we’re going to continue to sail for the next few days to learn more about local conditions. Most of the sailing today, especially later in the day, we would not have had a problem with having both sails up. We’re going to look at when and where the fly swatter is likely to show up. We’re going to look for where the winds are, and where the holes in the winds are.

We arrived back at the marina under gathering rain clouds. We discovered what is probably the greatest discovery of our trip so far – during happy hour, the bar at the marina has a really sweet deal: $2 pints of excellent microbrew.

For supper this evening, we had pork chops grilled on the barbecue grill that comes with this condo, and for dessert, bananas stuffed with chocolate chips, wrapped in foil, and also grilled. As we were putting the bananas on the grill, the rain began.

A side note: The hat that I have been using, advertising a yacht club I have never even visited, has gone missing. I found a new one at Target in nearby Silverthorne. The manufacturer of the hat was at least honest enough not to label the hat “One Size Fits All” – instead, it’s “One Size Fits Most.” Well, I don’t qualify as “most.” But I just had to have this hat. The way that this hat fits most is that the hat’s band and also its fabric contain a hefty dose of Spandex. But my head is so small that the Spandex isn’t stretched, so the hat wouldn’t fit.

I solved the problem by using a stitching awl to make a tuck in the band of the hat. I suppose if I were smarter, I could change the hatband to make it adjustable and make a hole through which I could pull my hair to prevent the hat from getting lost. This hat, the way it is now, I couldn’t wear in anything but light air – it doesn’t have the ponytail security system (a conventional adjustable hat leaves a hole at the back, and if I run my hair through it, the only way the hat gets lost is if I lose my hair), and that pewter plate on the front of this new hat means that if it goes overboard, it’s gone forever. But still, it’s a fun hat to have.


Anonymous Adrift At Sea said...

Try to stay on the boat... staying on the boat is good...especially if your crew isn't good at COB drills. :D Like the new hat, at least they're honest about it.

Mon Jul 31, 05:57:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

Actually we kept the boat nice and flat on our Sunday sail.

Mon Jul 31, 10:22:00 AM MDT  

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