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, November 28, 2006

I have made it!

50,000 words and still going

Well, I have done it for the third year in a row. I have completed 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days or less.

Of course, the novel, Murder at the Yacht Club, is far from finished. There are a whole lot of things still very much up in the air.

My race committee chairman (who is innocent) is still in jail. My earnest, hard working student, who is going straight after a rocky youth, is about to get arrested. My commodore is slowly losing his mind. The victim's wife is making whoopee with just about everybody (or at least every hunky male) in sight. And my main characters have just discovered an organized crime figure lurking in the background.

That all is going to take at least another 50,000 words to take care of.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving summary

Working on keeping word count up elsewhere, so being brief here

Wednesday: Gave class the day off – told them if they sent me email about their portfolios, I’d count that as both attendance and homework for the day. Packed up cats and headed for the apartment near the lake.

Thursday: Cooked Thanksgiving dinner in the small, primitive kitchen in the apartment. Explained to Tadpole that this was what college living would be like.

Friday: Went to lake. Got there just after Zorro. Set sail just after Zorro did. Tuned with Zorro. Got phone call from Mother Superior and Dumbledore that they were waiting for Zorro to pick them up. While Zorro was picking them up, got phone call from Cornhusker that she and GI Jane wanted to join us. Picked them up. Tuned more with Zorro. Wind came up sharp. Good to have GI Jane for rail meat.

Saturday: Aching all over. Got up slowly. Went to lake. Wind went from nearly dead to fierce very quickly. Decided to work on boat instead of sailing. Cornhusker joined us, agreed that wind was too fierce for sailing. Watched houseboats with big engines and thrusters having difficulty docking.

Sunday: Got to lake relatively early. No wind. Started working on boat things; discovered some tools had been left at the apartment. Sent Pat back for tools; started work on other projects. Wind came up nice while boat was all taken apart. Got boat put together, but then the wind was screaming, and nobody was dumb enough to go out in it, even the folks in the houseboats.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The weekend in brief

A whirlwind account of a whirlwind weekend

Friday, Pat and I dropped off the cats at the apartment and got to the lake early enough to do some boat work. A new gooseneck fitting had arrived by express the day before, so we could put it on the boat. Plus we had some other miscellaneous things to work on. Originally, Zorro was going to join us, but was deterred by the combination of almost non-existent wind and spending all day, as he put it, bailing a couple of his cats out of jail. (One of them is going to become an indoor-only cat; the other will be moving up to T or C to live with Cornhusker.)

Saturday, we joined Zorro at the boat early and got the new gooseneck fitting installed on the mast. It uses a bigger pin than currently fits through the part on the front of the boom; we didn’t have time to drill that out, so we temporarily used a bolt to hold things together; conditions were predicted to be light enough that there wouldn’t be too much of a strain. We did suffer one injury when Pat sliced his thumb with a bit of metal shaving from drilling out the old pop rivets. Then we rushed off to the skippers’ meeting for the Commodore’s Cup, where we met our crew for the day, Cornhusker and Seattle. After the skippers’ meeting, we got to the boat even before Zorro got to his, and we set up with light-air sails based on the weather prediction of 5 to 10 knots.

The wind remained lighter than predicted, so we managed to have two verrrryyy slloooow races that afternoon. We made a few bad decisions on the course, and we ended up finishing fifth (on corrected time) in the first race and third in the second, out of a fleet of eight boats.

Saturday night was a sailing club dinner at what is probably the nicest restaurant in T or C, especially for carnivores. I discovered I was famished after the day’s racing, and I thoroughly enjoyed a nice-sized slab of the most tender and juicy prime rib imaginable. Pat left the dinner early to return to Albuquerque and fetch Tadpole, who had had a music festival that day.

Sunday the prediction was for somewhat more wind, and that looked promising – we would be able to go faster, and we might get in three races, in which we could do better than the day before and improve our standing. We had a crew change; Seattle wasn’t available, but Tadpole was. But the weather didn’t do what was predicted. It was windy down at the south end of the lake when we and Zorro set out to the race course, and by the time we got to the race course, there were whitecaps and wind gusts to 30. Zorro decided it would be wisest to cancel the races for the day, since even his boat, with main but no jib, was regularly dipping the chainplates in the waves. Both of our front crews were wearing blue jeans, getting hypothermic, as well. So we surfed back to the marina, where soggy crew members changed clothes, and then we did some tuning in the sheltered part of the lake near the marina. Then we did some more boat work, put the boat away, picked up the cats, and headed home.

Zorro phoned that night as we were on the way home to let us know that we had finished third overall in the Commodore’s Cup – there had been a three-way tie for third, then the first tie breaker had eliminated one of the boats, then the second tie breaker gave Team Black Magic third place. Later, after we got home, Zorro phoned again, and we had a very long conversation about race tactics, boat tuning, team management, and a bit about cats.

I started the weekend about a day behind on my NaNo word count; I finished the weekend two days behind. I’ve got some catching up to do.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Need vs. Merit

Scholarships and grades aren’t the same thing.

In the world of college scholarships, there are two main types of scholarships: need-based and merit-based. Need-based scholarships are awarded according to a formula that takes into account the student’s financial resources, or lack thereof, without regard to how well the student does academically, aside from some fairly minimal standards. Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on the student’s academic accomplishment, with no or little regard for financial matters.

In the world of grades, there is (or at least, in an ideal world there should be) only one criterion: merit. A grade should reflect the student’s accomplishments in the class, and not anything else. Unfortunately, a lot of the students I get, especially the younger ones just out of high school, don’t seem to understand the concept. I hear the argument all the time: “But I really need to pass this class, or I can’t continue with my major.”

Here is my response to such students: You have chosen to attend class only sporadically, and you have chosen not to complete much of the homework. You have chosen not to revise your work when revision is in order. Therefore, you have chosen not to get a passing grade in this class. I can not give you a passing grade simply because you need it. In fact, I never give anybody any sort of grade; you get the grade that you earn. If a passing grade is critical to your future career path, it is your responsibility, not mine, to make sure that you get a passing grade. I am perfectly willing to sit down with you and go over your papers and help you to improve them. Or you can go to the tutoring center and get help there. But when you do neither, and then you continue not to take the class seriously, there is nothing I can do at the end of the term other than to record the failing grade you have earned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Some rules questions

Yeah, I’m supposed to be working on my word count, so why am I getting hung up on sailing racing rules?

My two starts Sunday were really bad – on the first, I was late getting to the line, and on the second, I hit the pin and did a penalty turn. But probably both were someone else’s fault.

Zorro was upset with me when I didn’t cross the starting line until more than 30 seconds after the start of the first race. He thought my timing to the line was bad. But really, one of the other boats got in the way. I was on starboard, and so was the other boat; it was to my right. I tried to head up, and I hailed the other boat that I was heading up; I was leeward and had the right of way. But the other boat just wouldn’t get out of my way. Yeah, I could have protested that other boat, but I don’t want to start my racing career as somebody who’s quick to put up the protest flag. I ended up 30 seconds late for the line because the other boat held me back.

In Sunday’s second race, things were more serious. Part of the problem was dissent among the crew – my main trimmer and jib trimmer were arguing about the distance and timing of the line, and my foredeck crew, instead of keeping a lookout for traffic, got drawn into the argument. We were approaching the line, and suddenly Mother Superior’s boat appeared, from starboard, careening at us, and I hadn’t had the least warning. Yes, we were to leeward and therefore had the right of way, and Mother Superior had the burden. But I was taken by surprise and I instinctively pulled the tiller over hard to avoid a collision – yeah, that was Rule 14, but really, I just wanted to save my boat. If Mother Superior had hit Black Magic, at the speed she was going, she would have lopped the bow right off the boat, and we would have sunk.

So we hit the pin, and because we hit the pin, we did a penalty turn before taking off on the race course. Again, probably we could have flown the protest flag. We probably would have a very good case against Mother Superior – the only argument she might be able to raise would be that I had inadequate watch on my boat to avoid collision. But I did avoid collision even so.

It’s now too late for me to protest Sunday’s races. But I’m wondering what I should do to make sure that the rest of the racers know that from now on, I’m not going to let them walk all over me. I don’t want to become the annoying racer who flashes the protest flag at every regatta. But I also don’t want to become the fleet doormat.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Zorro said don’t quit

Is baling wire class legal?

Friday night we had done some work on the boat, but we still had more to do Saturday morning. At the skippers’ meeting we even joked that we might still be making repairs as we raced. We got the floorboards screwed down to their temporary supports, and we ran the main halyard temporarily to a cleat on the console since its cleat had been mounted on the floor frame that had disintegrated.

The prediction was for stiff winds, the sort that in the past I haven’t been up to sailing in, and Zorro admonished me at the docks before we (Pat, Tadpole, Cornhusker, and I) set off: “Don’t quit. Do NOT quit.” I assured him I wouldn’t.

The first race Saturday went well: We got a good start, and we kept ahead of everybody but Zorro. Winds were stiff, but not frightening, and the full G course went rapidly. We weren’t far behind Zorro, and the rest of the fleet was far behind us.

Then things started to go wrong. Just as we finished the first race, our gooseneck gave way and our tiller began to splinter. We’ve had lots of problems with that gooseneck – it’s flimsier than the one on our MacGregor, and it repeatedly breaks pins. We found a bolt to fit the gooseneck and hold it together, and even as we maneuvered during the pre-race countdown, Tadpole was splinting the tiller with duct tape. We didn’t exactly get a good start. But on the way to the upwind mark, we passed several of the other boats, lee-bowing one of them for good measure. Downwind, it took a while for us to get our spinnaker up, and then when the time came for the spinnaker to be taken down, the jaws of the spinnaker pole jammed, so we ended up sailing a half mile past the mark while struggling with it. On the next upwind leg, we again passed a large number of the other boats in the fleet. Once again, we lee-bowed a couple of them. We rounded the upwind mark in good shape, and then, thunk. The gooseneck gave way again, this time not just the bolt, but the metal of the fitting on the mast had been bent downward and was cracked at its base. As the waves were whitecapping around us, I thought briefly about quitting, but then Tadpole and Cornhusker were quick to Jerry-rig a lashing to hold the boom to the mast with a dock line – Tadpole’s a Boy Scout, so he was able to make quite a serviceable join. Besides, Zorro had told me not to quit.

By this time, all of the fleet had passed us by, but we got underway again, and even though we finished DFL, that was better than DNF. The Jerry-rigged gooseneck was holding up well, so we started the third race. We were over early, but so were two of the other boats, and we all turned quickly back to restart. Without a good gooseneck, our sail trim wasn’t exactly good, but we did once again lee-bow a couple of the other boats, including Dumbledore’s, on the way to finishing second over the line. However, a lot of the rest of the fleet was right behind us, so we will probably be third or fourth on corrected time. Still, we didn’t quit. Zorro told me not to.

We learned a lot, sailing this boat for the first time in tougher conditions. Black Magic’s an older boat, and some of its previous owners have definitely cut corners in maintenance and repairs – that gooseneck was definitely not original Etchells equipment, and the tiller had had holes bored in it to cut weight. Combine that lack of proper maintenance, a lifetime in salt water, and yee-haw desert lake winds, and things give way. We also learned that it’s good to have a Boy Scout on board. And we hope the rest of the fleet learns that when they start yelling “starboard” at Black Magic, they’re about to get lee-bowed.

Today, the racing started in very light conditions. The first race was a short upwind-downwind course. We had gotten another bolt to hold the gooseneck together, although with only one of the two flanges of the fitting, and that one threatening to break as well, we kept a spool of baling wire on hand, just in case. The wind was from an unusual direction, and even Zorro had a momentary question of which buoy was the right one. Around the mark, the wind died out, but then it came in from aft, carrying the rear-most boats forward. The entire fleet finished close together; we were third over the line, but again, we’ll probably do worse on corrected time.

Just as that race was finishing, the wind picked up, so the committee declared a longer course. That was a mistake. Almost immediately after the race started, the wind faded, and then it started doing really weird things. At one point, we were about 50 feet away from one of the other boats, which was on a beam reach toward the supposedly windward mark, while we had wind from about 120 degrees in different direction, and much less of it. It was almost as if each boat on the lake was on a different lake, with totally different wind conditions. Some boats had nice winds that lifted them exactly where they wanted to go; others had almost no wind, and when some wind hit them, it was from the wrong direction. We were in that latter group. When we got the spinnaker going, suddenly we found it behind us, because the wind had shifted 180 degrees in a half second. Aarrrgh. Then to compound the weirdness, on the final supposedly upwind leg of the course, the wind filled in from aft again, on and off, and many of the boats ended up finishing together in a crowd.

As the race was ending, the wind finally came up and stayed up. But it was too late in the day to start another race. So we sailed back to the marina at the south end of the lake, and when we got there, the wind was blowing fiercely. It was a challenge to dock, especially since we couldn’t get the mainsail unlatched to drop it (turns out Tadpole forgot to take off the cunningham first).

We returned home by way of Socorro Springs, and now I’m beginning to discover some achy muscles, especially the front of my thighs, which apparently haven’t been affected by my work on the treadmill and which apparently were worked hard in the blustery conditions Saturday. I’m also going to have to put stinky ointment on my left elbow, which really got a workout on starboard tack.

Update: Zorro just phoned with the corrected results: In a fleet of seven boats, we got second, fifth, fifth, sixth, and sixth. Ugh. But at least there were no DNFs. Zorro told me not to quit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

At the lake again

Boat work never ends ...

We got to the Butte with maybe a half hour of daylight left, but we still got some stuff done on the boat, such as re-running the boom vang control line, putting new line on the backstay control, putting in some planks as temporary floor supports until we have time and money to build a permanent frame, replacing the tiller-extension clip on the tiller, installing the compass, and a couple of other little things. We still have a few more things to deal with in the morning, such as installing new line for the mainsheet. Between racing this weekend, building up my word count, and not being near Web access for most of the time, this blog will be pretty quiet over the weekend, but I'll try to get a report up Monday.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fleet 31 in Development

As if life weren't already too busy ...

In addition to all of my work duties and sailing and working on the boat, I have yet another time consuming pursuit to compete with my NaNo effort: Fleet Secretary for Etchells Fleet 31 (in development).

Zorro has long dreamed of having an Etchells Fleet in West Texas and New Mexico, and in order to have a fleet, we need, among other things, five boats. There were already three in the area when I bought Black Magic, and so Zorro's dream was coming closer.

A couple of days ago, we discovered that one of the sailors up at Dillon, in Colorado, who had been admiring our boat when we took it up there for the Dillon Open, has bought an Etchells and brought it to Colorado. So I suggested to Zorro that if we expand the area served by our fleet to include Colorado, we have our five boats. Eventually, there may be enough boats around to make two fleets, one in Colorado and the other in New Mexico and West Texas, but for the time being, we can still have fleet regattas and other fun activities.

This afternoon, I found a big, heavy package in the mail: a whole lot of Etchells stuff designed as a fleet building kit: yearbooks, newsletters, reprints of articles about the origin of the Etchells and about fleet building, bumper stickers, and more. Yep, I'm the fleet secretary, appointed so by Zorro. So now there will not only be sailing in the desert; there will be an Etchells Fleet, too. Time to get out there and recruit.

Boat work, word counts and sailing

This was a weekend of ups and downs

Not much time, and lots to tell … I’m beginning to wish I had some canned episodes the way I did last year with installments of the Wizards to keep my fans occupied while I did the NaNo thing. This year, I also have a lot more boat things.

Friday: Set the video recorder to catch my soap. The boat place in El Paso was going to be finished reattaching the console of Black Magic by that afternoon, and we needed to pick the boat up before the shop closed at 5, since it would not be open over the weekend. We left Tadpole in Albuquerque – his school wouldn’t count picking up his mother’s racing yacht as an excused absence – and we headed south. We dropped off more stuff in the apartment in T or C along the way, and just as we were leaving Dino arrived with his friend – we’ll call him Sammy. They were planning on spending most of the weekend fixing up a couple of the rental places Dino owns, and doing some work on the place we have, and on working on Dino’s non-sail boats, but they hoped they would get some time to sail as well.

We got to the boat place in El Paso about 3:30. Their fiberglass guy did a fantastic job reinstalling the console of the boat, far better than the original installation that had probably been done by some previous owner of the boat. That console is NOT going to come loose, ever again. It cost a lot, but it looks like it’s going to be worth it. When we arrived, the fiberglass guy was polishing the boat, and the shine was almost blinding. Man, that boat is gorgeous.

We returned to the apartment with the boat, and we parked it alongside a couple of Dino’s boats that he had pulled out of the shed to winterize. Dino and Sammy had already had supper, but they were planning to go out later; Pat and I went to get supper, and Dino and Sammy were gone when we got back. Tired from all the driving, Pat conked out early, but we had the laptop, so I got in some work on my NaNo novel, reaching 5003 words at 11:57, taking a short break, and then getting in another 500+ words before Dino and Sammy got back. I had just opened a bottle of wine, and they helped me to finish it off.

Saturday morning, Pat went back to Albuquerque to retrieve Tadpole and the cats. I wasn’t exactly moving fast, but at least I was moving faster than Dino and Sammy. The big thing for me was to work on getting Black Magic back into sailing shape. Yes, the boat place in El Paso did a fantastic job of reattaching the console, but the guys there don’t know anything about sailboats, so there was still a heck of a lot of work to do, reattaching blocks and lines and connecting this to that to that other … and I looked at the lines and the blocks and the console, and I was totally lost. Pat and Tadpole arrived, with the cats, and with Tadpole’s help, we figured out the positions of a bunch of turning blocks within the bottom portion of the console and re-drilled holes that had been glassed over in the process of remounting the console. I put in several phone calls to Zorro, and left messages, hoping to hear from him, without results. Dino took a look at the setup, but he wasn’t able to tell us much. By then, it was getting too dark to do much of anything anyway, even with the work lights that Pat bought. And Dino and Sammy had to return to El Paso, so they couldn’t stick around to muddle things out.

That night, I was really feeling low. Getting the boat console fixed was such a great thing, but then not really having a clue how to re-rig the boat and not being able to find help with the re-rigging was really depressing. At least it was good to have the cats around. Dulce found the apartment exciting, although Tres spent a lot of time hiding in the bathroom before deciding the place was safe enough to come out. I was feeling exhausted, but I toiled at the laptop, and at 11:50, I had exactly 6700 words. I shut down the computer and collapsed into bed.

Sunday morning, I was really feeling tired and dragged out. Sure, I got to bed at midnight, and I fell asleep immediately, and so I should have had my full 8 hours of sleep by 8 a.m. But I was still tired, and so Pat let me sleep some more. But even at 10 a.m. I continued to feel totally drained. I got up, moving slowly. We had an idea: Even if Zorro wasn’t available, we could look at the other Etchells in the area and see how their lines were run, and that could give us some clues how to run our lines. First, the boat formerly known as Intrepid is sitting on a trailer next to Dino’s boat shed. But when we looked at that boat, we discovered that the rigging we needed to know about wasn’t there – it had apparently been taken apart after the boat was taken out of the water. So we decided to look at the other Etchells available to us, Zorro’s boat in the marina slip next to where Black Magic normally lives.

I have no idea whether to call it karma or universal coincidence, but as we were headed to the marina, we saw Zorro’s car just ahead of us. We ended up with a plan: Zorro and I would sail up to a boat ramp that also had a mast-raising crane, and Pat and Tadpole would bring Black Magic, and put the mast up and meet us there, and then Zorro could help us with all of the details. And then we could all sail back to the marina.

It did mostly work that way, with a couple of glitches. I got in some great time sailing with Zorro up to the boat ramp area and then sailing in the part of the lake nearby until Pat and Tadpole arrived. And then later in the day, while Pat went to put our MacGregor, Syzygy, onto its trailer so Black Magic could have the marina slip, Tadpole and I took Black Magic out to sail alongside Constellation. That was special. The sun was going down, making that special golden glow that it seems to do better in autumn than any other time of the year. We were sailing together, sometimes diverging, sometimes converging, sometimes parallel, almost like a dance. And then, as the sun was vanishing behind the hills to the west, we dropped sails almost simultaneously, and we came into our slips in unison, turning at the same time, coming into our slips together.

As we were finishing putting the boats away, the moon came up, full, brilliant orange amid trailing purple tongues of clouds. Tadpole had the camera, and he got some good shots. I hope to get them up soon.

Meanwhile, for Sunday, the word count remains unchanged from Saturday’s total. I have some catching-up to do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Well begun …

… may be only 5 percent done, but it still feels good!

So … in the first 24 hours of my NaNo project this year, I’m up to 2404 words. Not bad, given that an average of 1667 words per day is what’s needed to get up to the requisite 50,000 by the end of the month. However, I know that Tuesdays and Thursdays are already busy in my schedule, so I won’t be able to write so much on those days. I’ll have to crank out extra wordage on Mondays and Wednesdays to make up for that. So far, so good.