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, October 02, 2006

We be road warriors

As long as we have obligations at two (or more) lakes, two large-ish boats to deal with, and a cat who needs medication, we’re probably going to keep racking up the miles

The original plan for the weekend was something like this: Friday afternoon, go up to Heron Lake, work on the MacGregor, Syzygy, and, weather permitting, sail some. Saturday, depending on whether storage is to be had for Syzygy at Cochiti Lake, either trailer her there or haul a Sunfish or two to Albuquerque. Sunday, go to Elephant Butte, with Sunfish if applicable, sail on Black Magic, find someplace to park Sunfish if needed.

But Friday the “Service Engine Soon” light came on in Babe, the truck, so Pat made an appointment with the dealer for service first thing Monday morning and we revised our weekend plans to accommodate El Caballero, the little car.

We did go north Friday afternoon, stopping first at Cochiti Lake, where several sailing club members were helping out with the West Mesa High School Navy JROTC and Los Alamos High School NJROTC, who are just beginning a sailing program with four Lasers, a J/24, and a Cal 20. It was a hot day with very little wind, and a couple of the kids on the Lasers were having loads of fun capsizing the boat on purpose just so they could get wet.

We then visited with a member of the NMSC who lives at Cochiti Lake and talked about the prospects of keeping Syzygy there. Cochiti Pueblo runs most things at the lake, and the pueblo does have a boat-storage lot, but even though there are a lot of empty spaces in the lot, the administrators told us that those spaces are paid for, so they aren’t really vacant. Cochiti used to have a marina, but the pueblo refused to maintain it in a safe condition, so the Army Corps of Engineers, who maintain the lake, condemned it and made the pueblo remove it.

We then looked into the idea of keeping the boat elsewhere in the town. At least originally, it seems to have been designed with sailors in mind – all utilities are underground, so there are no overhead lines. The entire town is potential mast-up storage. But the powers-that-be are much less friendly, and they frown even on their own residents having boats parked on their property, much less having outsiders’ boats around. Our friend at the lake is on friendly terms with the administrators, so he’ll talk to them about what might be do-able. But I’m not optimistic. As much as Cochiti seems to be the perfect place for Syzygy, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

So we proceeded north to Five O’Clock Somewhere. We got there too late to do anything with boats.

Saturday morning, we went to the marina, where we pumped a lot of rainwater out of Syzygy’s cockpit (we still need to work on unclogging the drain line). There was no wind, so we didn’t go sailing. Instead, we chose to take a scenic drive on the way back to Albuquerque: the fall colors were at their peak in northern New Mexico this weekend, and we were driving fuel-efficient El Caballero.

It was glorious. The aspen weren’t as bright as usual, since they had suffered from a caterpillar infestation this summer. But the Gambel oaks counteracted the aspen’s lack of gold with a brilliant vermillion red – a departure from the oaks’ usual dull orangey brown. In the river bottoms, the willows and cottonwoods also showed brilliant gold, although many of them seem to have suffered from the caterpillars as well. And even among the aspen, some stands were nearly bare while others were untouched, so we saw a whole lot of glorious color. In the meadows, green grass had mostly been replaced by gold, and we frequently saw cowboys rounding up the herds from the mountain pastures to take them to lower altitudes and warmer climates for the winter – normally, the cattle would already have been taken out, but this summer’s heavy rains meant the high-country grass was especially rich, so the ranchers kept the cattle on it as long as they could. We also saw elk gathering themselves in similar herds, but without human intervention, preparing also to move to lower pastures. And, oh, yes, even though it was still September, there was snow on the ground. Not a lot, and only in the shady spots, but it was there.

Yes, we got pictures, but I can’t find the camera. Stay tuned either here or at Desert Sea. If you think New Mexico is nothing but desert, this alpine scenery will educate you.

Sunday, we headed down to the Butte, where we met up with a new prospective crew member – in keeping with the recent trend of giving blog-nicknames based on where someone comes from, this one will be known as “Boston.” He has sailed extensively in Lasers, and he has also been on J/22s and J/24s. He has also been on an Etchells a couple of times, and so he knows at least a little bit about the boat. We also expected Zorro to show up, although we weren’t sure exactly when.

To start, the winds were very light. Boston was impressed with how the boat would actually move even when the winds were barely perceptible. I let Boston have the helm, and I liked what I saw – he did seem to have a touch, which is something I’m guessing he has from his Laser experience. When the wind came up from aft, we put up the spinnaker, and that worked well, although the wind got dicey enough that we did end up taking down the chute.

About that time, we saw Zorro had come out to play, so we went over to play with him. The wind also came up some, so we could actually do some meaningful tuning with him. We could run a parallel course and say, “He’s going faster than we are; what’s different between his trim and ours?”

Alas, that didn’t last as long as I would have wished. One of Black Magic’s shortcomings has been the flimsy structure of the floor and barney post, and Sunday afternoon, that structure disintegrated. We had to return to the marina, with Tadpole holding the mainsheet dinghy-style.

We did some basic assessment of the damage to the floor of Black Magic, and then Zorro wanted to get out sailing again on his boat. Boston had to get back home, but Pat, Tadpole, and I had a great late-afternoon sail with Zorro. Tadpole, in particular, earned points in Zorro’s book by being a super-efficient jib trimmer and always on the ball. Pat, um, still has some things to learn.

We put the boats away, and we headed home. On the way back to Albuquerque, we had an important stop – Socorro Springs – but not just because we like it. October 1 is our anniversary, and so the dinner we had there was celebrating 23 years of “for better or for worse.” And we’ve had a whole lot of “worse,” and we’re looking forward to more “better.”


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