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, September 03, 2006

So much to tell ...

So little time …

Well, part of the current lack of posts on my part is because, this past week, classes have resumed at the community college where I teach. The usual chaos of beginning-of-term getting organized eats up a lot of time. So does the beginning-of-term paperwork, which nowadays, thank TPTB, is actually mostly done online. Another factor in this week being especially busy for me was that, while I usually teach three classes during the fall term, this term I’m teaching four, and I learned about that fourth class at the last minute – the administrator who schedules classes phoned to say the instructor for this class had become unavailable and asked whether I could take it. Normally, I don’t teach four classes in a term, and normally, I don’t teach daytime classes (evening classes have way more motivated students with whom I love working). But this class did fit well into my schedule, and the extra money could be well spent on boat stuff. So I took the extra class.

So far, I’m glad I did. This looks to be a reasonably mature bunch of students, and I’ve taken a liking to the way they aren’t scared of expressing an opinion for fear I won’t like it. My other three classes are also great; as always, there’s a lot of talent that, for some reason, these students’ high-school teachers never recognized. Of course, some of them were in high school 30 years ago, and teachers back then might not have known how to see talent. The very fact that they’ve come back to school indicates they’re ready to unlearn the “you’re stupid” message they may have picked up back then.

So, so far, the school year seems to have gotten off to a good start.

Meanwhile, back at the lake … We came up Friday afternoon, stopping briefly in Española for a few groceries and fast food. We quickly stowed the groceries at Five O’Clock Somewhere, and then we got to the lake while there was still at least a little bit of daylight available, and we had a very quick sunset sail around the marina cove.

Saturday morning, we got to the marina in time for the sailing club meeting. At the meeting, decisions were made about improvements to B Dock and about changes to the way slip rentals would be handled … I’m not going to go into details, but Pat at Desert Sea probably will, and anybody who wants to know more can send Pat email asking for additional information. The basic idea is to penalize those who don’t pay their fees on time by giving them last choice of slips and last choice of dockmaster duty dates.

Following the club meeting, we served up ice cream plus a lot of fixings for anyone who was around. That included some new members and a couple of visitors who were interested in joining the club. We ended up offering to take the visitors out on Black Magic. Specs has a whole lot of sailing experience, mostly on bigger cruising boats. His girlfriend, Y-Woman, had never been on a sailboat before, but she is an accomplished swimmer and is otherwise very athletic.

Tadpole at that point was having a lot of fun sailing around the marina with another kid in a Sunfish, so Pat and I took off with Specs and Y-Woman. As we tacked out the Narrows, Y-Woman got a feel for the rhythm of tacking. Once we got out into the min body of the lake, Specs was ecstatic, and Y-Woman was definitely enjoying herself. The wind was changing randomly, both in direction and speed, and especially when the wind picked up, both of them were getting a charge from the way Black Magic flew.

Alas, the ideal conditions weren’t to last. First, the wind totally died, and then it existed, but only on a very light and shifty basis. I have already learned from experience that when the winds die and/or turn shifty, especially when there are dark thunderclouds nearby, the weather is about to turn “interesting.” We saw a squall approaching. We dropped the main – since the jib on an Etchells is only a third the area of the mainsail, that would make the boat far more controllable. The squall hit. The boat was still controllable, but there was a lot of lightning in the area, so we decided it would be best to get back to the marina quickly, so we dropped the jib and fired up the motor.

We got back to the marina just in time. As we were coming into our slip, the wind changed direction by nearly 180 degrees, and it got a whole lot stiffer. According to the weather station at the dockhouse, in 5 minutes the temperature went from 83 degrees Fahrenheit to 59, and in 5 more minutes, the temperature went to 54. The wind whipped up to 20 mph, gusting to 34. The direction of the wind went from south-southeast to due north. Even within the protection of the marina cove, whitecaps were surging through the marina.

Specs and Y-Woman had to go home, but before they left, they assured us that they’d enjoyed their sail with us immensely. This is good; Specs wants Y-Woman to get interested in sailing as something they can do together. Before they actually buy a boat, Specs wants to make sure Y-Woman tests other boats, in case she likes cruising-type boats better. But as much fun as Y-Woman had today, I think she’s going to want to get something that goes fast.

Back at the marina, we heard on the radio about two possible boats in distress. Because there didn’t appear to be any lives in danger, the State Parks people didn’t see a need to launch their rescue boat (which still, according to the New Mexico Sailing Club Bylaws, has a reserved slip in the marina, but which TPTB have chosen not to use). So the Vice Commodore, Highlander, got his boat ready to go on a rescue mission, and Pat and several other club members went along. Tadpole and I got a kettle of water on to boil, in case we would need to treat hypothermic rescuees.

While waiting to hear word from the rescue operation on the lake, I learned more about a new member of the club and potential crew member for Black Magic. Doc has a whole lot of sailing and racing experience, including San Diego. He was a team doctor on the 1987 “bring it back” team. He knows a lot of the San Diego Etchells people. Right now, he’s volunteering to be crew on an Etchells, to find out how well he likes the boat. For the short term, I hope he thinks he likes it, but he has to sail it a bit more to be sure. In the long term, if he likes the boat, he says he’s likely to buy his own, which means he isn’t available as crew for me. But if he adds his boat to the New Mexico-West Texas Etchells Fleet, Zorro will be really happy.

Back to the stranded sailors out on the lake … Pat and Highlander found one boat that had been slammed by high winds and run aground in a very shallow part of the lake – the boat had a retractable keel, but its rudder wasn’t, and the rudder had grounded. After some effort, the crew on Highlander got that boat afloat and towed it back to the marina/boat ramp area. The husband remains reasonably upbeat, but the wife found the experience traumatic – the husband’s assessment is that she will never sail again. I hope that’s not the case, but I can’t really blame her if she is scared.

The other boat that was reported as being potentially in distress, we aren’t so worried about. It’s a retractable-keel daysailer, and it was beached on a sandy shore right near where the owners were camping. Our guess is that, instead of returning to the marina when conditions got hairy, the owners beached the boat and went to their campsite.

Pat had weather predictions that said there was a 20% chance of scattered thundershowers. Instead, we had a major front come through, with a dramatic change of temperature and wind.

Once we got back to Five O’Clock Somewhere, I was very glad to get rid of my sodden clothes (I actually had better foulies on hand than the rest of my crew) and bask in front of the fireplace in the den. Some of you folks might wonder why we got the fireplace going so early – after all, it’s only the beginning of September. But at this high altitude, it’s getting cold.

It’s not summer any more up here. These rains have a definite feel of fall.


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