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, 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.


Anonymous AdriftAtSea said...

Carol Anne-

You also didn't finish last in any race. Given the handicap of the makeshift tiller and the wonky gooseneck, I'd say that was quite an accopmplishment.

Mon Nov 13, 05:07:00 AM MST  
Blogger Tillerman said...

Well done. Aaah ... duct tape .... can't beat it.

Mon Nov 13, 08:06:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

In the races that I finished fifth, there were two DNSs. In the races that I finished sixth, there was one DNF.

Mon Nov 13, 10:25:00 AM MST  
Blogger Pat said...

Those were also the corrected-time finishes; Carol Anne did catch up with, pass, and beat some other boats across the line but wasn't able to beat them on time allowance. Lots of things were happening and it would take some sorting out to figure which were the biggest culprits ... equipment problems, bad timing on the starts, other boats fouling us, bad luck or bad judgment in finding wind patches, crew unclear on who does what, distraction of re-rigging the boat, etc.

Tue Nov 14, 04:14:00 PM MST  

Post a Comment

<< Home