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.

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Location: Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, United States

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 34

The tea party continues

I apologize for being remiss in posting chapters. I didn’t get an episode up at all last week, and this week’s episode is late, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m also running out of chapters to post, since I haven’t been working on this lately. There’s some more adventure ahead, and then I have a huge gap, and then I have the first few chapters of Book 3. I may end up writing the rest of Book 2 on the fly … we’ll have to see what happens.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 34

“Now, Pierre,” Grace said, “you must tell us how you found this treasure, and how you managed to win her over.”

“Well, finding her was easy,” Pierre said. “Actually, she found me. Showed up at the docks one morning when I was getting ready to go out sailing and asked what sailing was like. I took her out on my boat with me, and next thing I knew, she had borrowed a boat just like mine and was asking for lessons.”

“Pierre was just a wonderful teacher,” I added. “Always willing to spend so much time with me …”

“You’re definitely worth spending time with,” Pierre said. “Anyway, we discovered that we had a lot in common. You wouldn’t think it, with our different ages and backgrounds and all, but we’re soul mates. At one point, I even thought she might be my daughter, Eliza, but she’s not – she’s my partner for life.”

“Well, I’m glad for you two,” Grace said. “It’s good to see life back in your face. I never thought I’d see you really happy again after Dora died.”

“I never thought I’d be happy again.”

“So, Sarah, dear,” Grace said, “where did you come from, and how did you end up at Pierre’s dock?”

“I had a less than happy childhood in the midwest, and then my parents were killed in a car crash when I was sixteen,” I replied. “And then, once I could move, I felt compelled to find someplace near the sea to go to college, and then I just had to go to the marina and look at what was going on. And there he was, and, well, you know the rest.” Well, actually not all the rest, I thought, but at least the rest of the public story.

“I don’t know about you,” Grace said, “but I definitely believe there is something – call it fate, or karma, or whatever you will – that leads two people together like that. I had that with my Edmund, too. He was a young flier in the RAF during the war, and one afternoon he quite literally fell from the sky into my life. He was coming back from Germany when he ran out of fuel, and he crash-landed on my father’s estate in Kent. It was love at first sight. My parents didn’t approve, but we kept seeing each other, in secret in the horse barn, until they had a choice of permitting our wedding or shipping me off in shame to a home for unwed mothers. Anyhow, Edmund and I had many very happy years together, and I’ve never regretted what I did for a minute.”

“Ah, Grace,” Hattie put in, “you’ve always had a way of getting your way, haven’t you? Way back when we were in boarding school together, Grace would face up to the headmistress herself, and win.”

“Well, not every time, you know,” Grace said. “There was the time she caught me with a too-revealing bathing suit in my dresser.”

“Ah,” Hattie replied, “but what about the incident with the orphan kitten? You turned Mistress Lurch into a cat lover on the spot.”

I laughed. “Mistress Lurch?”

“Oh, that wasn’t her real name,” Maude said. “We just called her that behind her back.”

Peter and Sally had been seated together on a love seat, with the obvious intention that they should take a liking to each other, a prospect about which they had clearly been nervous. Now that nervousness had been replaced by open-mouthed surprise, that these old ladies might once upon a time have been young and spirited. “Gran,” Peter said to Grace, “do you really mean to say that Uncle George was … was …”

“Conceived out of wedlock?” Grace completed the question. “Happened a lot back then, actually. Lots of girls never knew when their men might come back, or whether they’d come back at all.” Pierre and I exchanged glances; we’d both experienced similar feelings. He squeezed my hand.

“So did all five of you go to boarding school together?” I asked.

“Just Hattie, Maude, and myself,” Grace said. “Leticia’s and Estelle’s husbands were in the RAF with my Edmund.”

“How did you all end up in Paris together?” I asked.

“Well, after he left the RAF, Edmund went to work for an international banking house, which sent him here. When he died, I stayed on here. Then when each of the others’ husbands died, I invited them for a visit – to take their minds off things, you know, just for a short while. But they all ended up moving here.”

I realized that the teapot alone wouldn’t have been able to accomplish that major a feat, but with the clear friendship that already existed between these women, the teapot might have been just the catalyst to draw them all together. Instead of the loneliness of widowhood, these women were blessed to have each other. I reached out to rest a finger on the gracefully curved handle of the teapot, feeling its magic tingle again.

“How long did you know Dora?” Pierre asked.

“Are you sure you want to talk about her, dear?” Grace asked. “You haven’t wanted to even hear her name mentioned since she died. And you, Sarah, are you all right talking about your predecessor?”

“I’m fine,” I said.

“It’s because of Sarah that I need to know more about Dora,” Pierre said. “I can get over some of the pain now, and there’s also Eliza …”

“I see,” Grace said. “Maybe knowing more about Dora will help you find your daughter.” She paused. “Well … let me think … I had known Dora’s family since just after the war, and we socialized quite a bit. Then suddenly, the family disappeared, all but her. I heard all sorts of rumors, that one of them had gone insane and killed all the others off, or that some financial disaster had ruined the family – but that clearly wasn’t the case, since Dora still had tons of money, and she still did the high-society globetrotting thing. I asked her what had happened several times, but she just clammed up. Clearly it upset her.”

“When would that have been?” Pierre asked.

“Well, it was about five years before she married you,” Grace said. “That was so good for her, by the way; you brought back her old cheerful self. But she still wouldn’t talk about her family.”

“What were they like?” I asked. “You knew them before they … uh … disappeared.”

“Well, they were thoroughly and completely rich,” Grace said. “The family had made piles and piles of money investing in just about anything that could be invested in – stocks, commodities, inventions, startup businesses, you name it. Everything they touched turned to gold – and had done so since the 1880s, if not earlier. Funny thing is, you never hear the family name mentioned along with all of the other Gilded Age tycoons; they liked to lie low, I guess. And they kept making money hand over fist well into the 20th century, right up until they disappeared. There were multiple homes, yachts – Dora was always a hotshot at sailing, even as a small child – world travel, all of that.”

Pierre and I exchanged glances. Were Dora’s family ancestral Others? What Grace described certainly seemed to fit the selfish use of magic for personal gain. “What about the family members you knew?” I asked.

“There were two daughters, Dora and an older sister; I don’t remember her name. There was also a half-brother considerably older. I never did much trust him – if someone went insane and killed all the rest, that’s the one who would do it. There was something, well, not quite right about him. Dora’s father was all right, if a bit distant; her mother was an especially gentle soul, and awfully lonely at times. We spent many hours at tea together; when she died – cancer, the same as later killed Dora – I thought it was especially beautiful of Dora to give me her teapot.”

“It is quite a treasure,” I said, touching it again.

All of the other guests at the tea party had been listening in rapt attention. I noticed that Peter and Sally were leaning forward eagerly – and they were holding hands, apparently totally unaware of the fact. Pierre noticed me noticing them, and we exchanged glances. I remembered the first time I discovered I’d been holding hands with him unawares.

Back at the flat, Pierre and I discussed what we had learned. “I imagine Dora’s mother wasn’t magic, just her father,” Pierre said.

“So sad that she inherited magic from the Others, and cancer from her mother.”

“So could your mother be Dora’s older sister?”

“Better that than my father being the freaky half-brother. Ugh.” I shivered.

“Well, when we get back to the States, maybe now we have enough to go on that we can research the family.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Update

Things are looking better now

Since Sunday night, things have improved, although there were some ups and downs on the way.

I woke up Monday morning with an upset stomach after getting very little sleep. Part of the reason Dumbledore had been in such a big hurry to get my boat onto the trailer the night before had been that he had a whole lot of boat launching and retrieving to do Monday, so he hoped to get some of it out of the way ahead of time. To start with, he and Mother had agreed to use their big boat’s trailer to take Magnum’s big boat to Cabo San Lucas, which meant they needed to get their big boat off the trailer, take it to the marina at the other end of the lake, where Magnum and Mrs. Magnum kept their boat, swap boats, and bring Magnum’s boat back and put it on the big trailer. Also, Big K and Esther Williams wanted to go sailing on Mother’s boat, which meant launching it as well, and then retrieving it at the end of the day. And, of course, it being a holiday weekend, the scene at the boat ramp would be a zoo, with gazillions of fishermen and powerboaters and jet-skiers launching and retrieving, often without a clue as to the special needs of sailboats with keels and how they need to run the trailer out into the water on a rope to get enough depth.

Dumbledore had gotten up early and added lengths of pipe to the supports for the rear pads and front bunk of my trailer, so it would be ready for another test fitting. Then he, Mother, Tadpole, and some other people helped to launch the big boat, and Mother took off for the other end of the lake. Next, we took my trailer to the ramp; Tadpole and I went to fetch the boat, while Dumbledore, Yoda, and Uncle Jesse got the trailer into the water. We got the boat onto the trailer, but it wasn’t sitting right, so we pulled it off to make a straighter shot at it; because the trailer’s aft end extended beyond the bow of the boat, I had to back up to get clear and then go forward. At this point, Tadpole decided I didn’t know what I was doing, and so when I called for him to turn the motor around to go forward, all I got was back talk. Uncle Jesse was holding the bow line, and as Tadpole continued to balk, the boat swung more and more to the side, more and more out of line with the trailer. I had to repeat, louder and louder, “FORWARD! We don’t have time to argue; turn it around FORWARD! FORWARD!” Finally, he did turn the motor around, and we got the boat onto the trailer.

But when we tried to pull out of the water, we discovered that the rear pads were still too low – the boat didn’t do the dramatic tipping-over of the previous night, but it did lean. So it was back to the slip for the boat and back to the welding shop for the trailer. When Tadpole and I got the boat into the slip, I told him to secure the port bow line, but then he took his time and tied up the starboard spring line instead. By this time, I found myself repeating, “Stop being a teenager and start being crew!” All I got from him was an argument about why what he was doing was better than what I had ordered, both just then and earlier. By the time Tadpole and I got back to the boat ramp, Dumbledore and the others had already taken the truck and trailer back to the compound, leaving the two of us to walk back. Fortunately, as we were walking up the ramp, we met Mrs. Magnum, who was driving down to meet Mother and Magnum, and she gave us a ride back to the compound, where we found Dumbledore and Uncle Jesse working on adding more length to the supports for the aft pads and also bending them inward to provide better support for the narrow aft end of the boat.

Meanwhile, Mother and Magnum had arrived, and after a brief incident in which they tried to go through a channel that was too shallow for its keel, they got the boat tied up to the courtesy dock to wait their turn for retrieval. Dumbledore brought my trailer down to the ramp, this time hitched to the front end of the truck for better control, and let the trailer into the water next to Magnum’s boat, while Tadpole and I again went to fetch Black Magic. This time, we got lined up onto the trailer nicely, and when the trailer was pulled up out of the water, the boat rested securely on the bunk and pads. But then the front end of the trailer reared up, and Tadpole and I had to run up to the bow to hold it down; the position of the boat’s center of gravity is too far aft on the trailer, in spite of our preliminary calculations that it should have been just forward of the axle. But at least we got the boat onto the trailer and the trailer up to the compound so the center pads can be added, and a keel stop can be put in, a bit forward of where we’d originally planned, to bring the weight of the boat forward to where it should be. This will mean the forward bulkhead won’t be resting exactly on the forward bunk, but it will still be close. Also to be added are ladders on the support posts of the bunk, so we can climb up onto the boat while it’s on the trailer, rings to attach tie-downs, and more bracing, especially for the aft pad supports with their extensions.

The boat now looks very nice on its trailer – the trailer is much prettier than the one Black Magic arrived at the lake on, with its construction of duct tape and pole-vault poles. There are some nasty gouges on the keel from Sunday night’s mishaps, but those are primarily cosmetic and easily filled in.

Pat arrived just as we got Black Magic to the compound, and so he joined us in helping to retrieve Magnum’s boat (we briefly saw Cornhusker and Bassmaster retrieving their boat and waved to them); meanwhile, Uncle Jesse used his truck to launch Mother’s boat so she, Esther Williams, and Big K could go out sailing. The rest of us then went to lunch; after lunch, Pat and I did a bit of shopping, while the others went to de-rig Magnum’s boat at the mast-raising pole. We joined them as they were finishing up.

The wind was coming up, and Mother’s boat returned to the dock; Pat and I used our truck to take Mother’s trailer to the ramp while Dumbledore parked Magnum’s boat at the compound. After we retrieved Mother’s boat, the three who had been out sailing were hungry, since they hadn’t had lunch, so we all went out to eat – again. Late in the day, as the sun was going down, Pat and I decided to return to Albuquerque for some much-needed time together; we left Tadpole there to help Dumbledore in the morning with the finishing touches on the trailer, and we left my car there too, so Mother could borrow it if she needed (she doesn’t like Dumbledore’s truck). Before heading back to Albuquerque, we stopped for a brief visit with Cornhusker and Bassmaster.

This evening, we’ll be returning to the lake to retrieve Tadpole and the car, and possibly to help tow one of Mother and Dumbledore’s boats northward – there are two that they want to take up to Heron Lake for the summer, and they have only one truck.

Coming soon: more pictures.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Trailer Building Photos

Lots of sparks, and the smell of hot metal


Pieces of steel pipe are cut into short sections. Note how the sparks swirl.

Dumbledore uses the arc welder to fuse pieces of steel together to make the keel pan. That's even more fun than a hot-melt glue gun! Move over, Martha Stewart.

Tadpole tries his hand at arc welding. It's not as easy as Dumbledore makes it look.

Hardware still life: the artistic shot from Day 1. This is just how things happened to end up on the keel pan -- the tools just laid down, with the drill debris right in there, and the arc-welding cable in the background. It just looked cool.

Dumbledore uses the acetylene torch to work on the forward bunk support. The acetylene torch is actually a subtle tool, which can be sharp to melt or cut metal, or gentler to soften it so that it will bend to shape.

All surfaces of the trailer that come into contact with the boat's hull are covered in carpet.

Artistic shot from Day 2: These little pale-pink flowers were carried into the workshop on the wind. When Tadpole picked one up, I was struck by the contrast between his sooty hands and the delicate blossom.

Nearly no progress

Sometimes I wonder whether all this effort is worth it

This morning, while Mother and Dumbledore went to church, Tadpole and I snuck off to find Internet access. After clearing the spam out of my email inbox, I was able to put up the previous two posts, although I still didn’t have time to check up on the rest of the blogosphere.

Then Tadpole and I continued to work on the trailer, putting carpet on the keel guides and front bunk, and assembling the two center pads. Some of the others considered going out sailing, but the wind was high, and they bagged that plan.

Zorro arrived in the early afternoon, along with Blondie, one of his track athletes. We went down to the boats, where Zorro and I did boat work while Blondie tanned, in true Hollywood style, in a bikini on the aft deck of Zorro’s boat. There was far too much wind to even think of sailing – it was about 40 mph, gusting higher; even though it was a holiday, there were almost no boats out on the water of any sort, and one powerboater who was foolish enough to go out capsized near the marina. It was certainly too windy to try to get Black Magic onto the trailer for a test fitting.

When we got back to the compound, we found that, even though it was early, everyone else had already eaten dinner, and since the idea of warmed-over enchiladas didn’t thrill me, I went out to eat with Zorro and Blondie. Dumbledore wanted to test-load the trailer, but Zorro first said it was too windy, and then he said he’d come back after dinner to help. Then at dinner he said that it was going to continue to be too windy to try to put the boat onto a trailer for the first time, with the aft pads not yet adjusted and the center pads not in place yet, on a crowded boat ramp on a holiday weekend – there was too much danger of the boat slipping on the trailer and damaging the keel. Since Blondie needed to get back to El Paso, Zorro wasn’t going to stick around waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen.

But when I got back to the compound, the wind had let up some, and Dumbledore insisted that we immediately get the boat onto the trailer. So we took the truck to the boat ramp, and while Dumbledore and Yoda got the trailer into the water, Tadpole and I took the motor to the boat to prepare to take it around to the ramp. I asked Tadpole whether there was gas in the tank; without looking, he said, “Yes,” and then when I asked again, he did look, and since he’d already committed himself to saying “Yes,” that’s what he said again. Meanwhile, Cheech, an experienced sailor in the club, was on his big boat nearby, and we invited him to come along to help with the loading.

As it turns out, that was a good thing, because the motor had just enough gas to get us mostly out of the marina but then left us drifting toward the floating tire breakwater in front of the marina in what was still a fairly stiff wind. Cheech and Tadpole quickly bent on a jib (it was our good light-air racing jib, but that was the one that was on top of the stack), but we still found ourselves fending off the tires. Fortunately, Dumbledore and Yoda saw what was happening and sent a nearby powerboater to give us a tow to the courtesy dock and ramp.

From the courtesy dock, Dumbledore, Yoda, Big K and Cheech used ropes to attempt to guide the boat onto the trailer. I could immediately tell the boat had missed the aft end of the trailer, and I tried to tell people that, but they kept pulling the boat forward. I knew it had missed the keel guide, but nobody paid attention to me. Everybody was concerned about getting the boat positioned so that the forward bulkhead would be on the forward bunk of the trailer. All the while, I kept saying, “That doesn’t matter! The boat’s not in the keel guide!” Sometimes I was told that I was mistaken; other times, I was ignored.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of fiddling around with the forward position of the boat, Dumbledore got into the truck and started pulling the boat out. As the boat began to rise out of the water, Yoda shouted in a panic, “STOP! The boat’s not in the keel guide!” Dumbledore quickly backed up, and after some maneuvering with the lines, the guys pulled the boat apart from the trailer.

By this time, the sun had gone down and it was getting dark. Dumbledore got a can of gas, and Tadpole filled the tank, in case the motor would be needed. Then the guys again lined the boat onto the trailer, this time allowing me to tell them what direction to pull the lines to get the boat lined up with the trailer before pulling the boat forward. I could feel the boat smoothly line itself up as the keel entered the keel guide, and the bow settled neatly into the forward bunk, where we were able to position the forward bulkhead without too much trouble (when the trailer is finished, there will be a keel stop that will make positioning the bulkhead in the right place automatic).

As Dumbledore began to pull the trailer out of the water, everything went well at first. Then, suddenly, the boat fell over, listing sharply to port. The aft pads were far too low and were not supporting the boat at all – apparently either Zorro didn’t give Dumbledore the right measurements, or Dumbledore misunderstood, or something. The pads were so low that Dumbledore will need to weld extensions on the upright pipes. So again, we got the boat pulled off the trailer. By this time, it was dark, and it was time to give up. Tadpole started the motor, which now ran fine, and we headed back to the slip.

I was left frustrated and angry with a lot of people: Zorro for bugging out when he was still needed, Dumbledore for rushing everything in spite of still stiff winds, Tadpole for lying about the fuel in the tank, everybody for ignoring me about the boat not being in the keel guide, and whoever blew the communication about the height of the trailer pads. All of these actions jeopardized my boat and could have led to disaster. I’m tired and depressed and suffering a severe case of “With friends like these …”

At least the evening ended on a positive note, when I trounced Tadpole and Esther Williams in a game of gin rummy.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Barn raising

A break from trailer building

After two solid days of working on the trailer, it felt good to take a break, although at the end of the day I’m feeling restless and dissatisfied. The Rio Grande Sailing Club has acquired the franchise to run the mast-up storage lot near the main boat ramp at Elephant Butte, and we have been making improvements to the facility, including resurfacing the lot and acquiring a mule – a motorized device to move boats around the lot more safely and conveniently than having people drive cars and trucks around. To prevent theft and vandalism, we got a storage shed, henceforth to be known as the “mule barn,” and today, we had the barn raising.

Overall, the day was a success. We got the barn put together, and afterward we gathered at the Fleet 141 Compound for food and social activity, and there was a lot of laughter and some poetry and even a bit of song.

But still, I feel, well, sort of flat. Partly it may have to do with the holiday weekend, which has great noisy crowds of people descending on the lake. Partly it may have to do with feeling extremely out of touch, because I have now been four days without Internet access, not even email, and it will probably be two more before I am even able to post this or the previous blog post. I suppose I’m really in a sorry state if I so seriously miss the company of people whom I know only as electronic manifestations, but I do.

Still, it isn’t only the electronic world that I miss. There are people who are not here – and I can’t really blame them, given the horrific nature of the crowds this weekend – but I miss them, and there were other events that made it worse. I almost wish I’d gone back to Albuquerque today.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Trailer Building

You know, arc welding is even more fun than a hot-melt glue gun!

Pat and I have been working on getting a trailer for Black Magic. The challenge has been finding one that is in good condition, that we can afford, that also can be used to launch and retrieve the boat on a ramp rather than being designed for the boat being hoisted on and off. We finally decided on having one custom-built. We had the basic frame built at a factory that does boat trailers but not sailboat trailers, and Dumbledore’s adding the keel tray, uprights, and other pieces to make it into a sailboat trailer – with a hitch: We have to provide sweat equity by helping out with the construction.

So Tuesday, Dumbledore and I went shopping to a welding shop for supplies, and then to a steel mill for raw materials. The steel mill was especially fascinating. First, we went to the office, where Dumbledore ordered up the materials (20 feet of this size angle iron, 30 feet of that size pipe, and so forth, cut into 10-foot lengths to fit into the truck), I wrote the check, and we got a receipt for the materals. Then we drove around into the loading area of the warehouse. Compared to the brilliant sunshine outside, the place was dimly lit; the primary light source was the occasional translucent green or amber fiberglass panel in the corrugated metal roof, supplemented by orange sodium-vapor lamps, so the overall effect was much like a church, except that it was much bigger than most churches, bigger even than most cathedrals, so big that I couldn’t see to the far end.

It wasn’t quiet like a church, however. There was a constant wham, bang, clank … wham, bang, clank … from somewhere in the depths of the building, resounding off the metal walls, ceilings, and girders that held up the vaulted roof. Also echoing in that space were frequent additional clanks of large pieces of metal being stacked upon each other, and the hum of many forklifts scurrying about like ants on important colony business.

Permeating the atmosphere was the smell of hot metal. It’s a burning smell, but not sweet like burning wood; it’s sour, like an electric motor that’s gotten too hot, or a car engine that’s about to boil over. Dante could never have imagined it. The smell of the heat was actually more intense than the heat itself; a light breeze blew through the entrance and exit doors, carrying a hint of summer dust but not of heat, so in the shade of the building, I was sweating only slightly.

We handed our receipt to a worker who hopped into a forklift and buzzed off into the cavernous distance; after a quarter-hour or so, he returned with our materials, which he loaded into the truck, and we took off.

Wednesday, Tadpole and I headed down to the lake. Last we had heard, Zorro had been planning to be at the lake Wednesday and then do some business in Albuquerque Thursday, although we weren’t sure whether those plans were still valid, since we hadn’t heard from him. However, even if he didn’t show up, there was still work we could do on Black Magic, and we could go sailing. As it was, we got a few boat things done, but we didn’t have parts to get all done that we had originally planned. Also, there was very close to no wind, so sailing wasn’t possible either. We checked into a motel with plans to meet Dumbledore at his workshop in the morning to begin work on the trailer.

Thursday morning, we met Dumbledore at his workshop at the Fleet 141 Compound, and we found out that Zorro had gotten in about midnight the night before (he’d been delayed tending to a sick cat), and that he’d left early that morning for his business in Albuquerque.

We got to work on the trailer. Dumbledore did most of the work, but Tadpole and I did get to help. First, we worked on the uprights and pads that will support the hull of the boat. Dumbledore used an acetylene torch to cut 12-inch-wide flat steel into 18-inch lengths, and then he used a grinder to smooth out the edges. With a power saw, we sliced some pipe into short lengths, then drilled holes through the segments; this required two steps, first drilling a pilot hole, and then drilling the final ½ inch hole. We ground flat surfaces at the end of lengths of Acme rod (gigantic screws) and drilled ½ inch holes through that (again, in two steps).

Dumbledore got out the arc welder to attach the pipe sections to the plates. It’s a fascinating process. A transformer or generator is used to create a high-voltage potential; the ground is connected to a clamp that is attached to the item being welded. The other side of the circuit is clamped to the welding rod. When the tip of the rod is touched to the grounded item, it creates a spark that melts the rod into the molten metal that creates the weld. It’s a marvelously elegant system. Martha Stewart can keep her hot-melt glue gun; it’s arc welding that’s really hot!

Next, we bolted the Acme rods to the plates; the pipe sections will allow the plates to pivot some to accommodate the shape of the boat, but, unlike the more usual arrangement of bolting the rods between two flat pieces of metal, will keep the plates from flipping over backward when the trailer goes into the water. Then we got nuts that fit the Acme rods, drilled holes in the nuts, tapped those holes with screw threads for set screws, and then put the nuts onto the rods. These nuts will allow for height adjustment of the pads. Finally, we drilled holes into the plates (again in two stages, but using a punch first to steady the drill on the right spot), which will be used to attach wood, which will in turn be covered with carpet, to complete the pads.

Then we got to work on the keel tray. We measured and marked the center of the trailer. We welded two lengths of channel steel to a length of 12-inch-wide flat steel – Dumbledore let Tadpole try a bit of arc welding, although Tadpole reports that it’s harder than Dumbledore makes it look. Next, we turned that assembly over and welded it to the trailer frame. Then we drilled holes for mounting a wooden plank, then drilled matching holes in the wood and bolted it to the steel. This, too, will be covered with carpet.

By then it was fairly late in the day. Tadpole and I went down to the boat to make some measurements of the locations of bulkheads and such, to figure out exactly where on the trailer to put the uprights. While we were there, Zorro arrived back from Albuquerque; he’d been hoping to get some sailing in, but it was much too blustery. Then Pat arrived, too; he brought a small fender to replace one that had gone missing, which we used to keep the deck from being gouged by the end of the boom.

Back at Dumbledore’s workshop, we applied the measurements to the trailer and found that it won’t take much adjustment to make everything fit perfectly, with the center of weight of the boat just ahead of the axle of the trailer for just the right tongue weight to tow smoothly.

Mother prepared a spaghetti dinner for us all – Tadpole made the salad – and we all enjoyed the meal and some conversation before Pat headed back to Albuquerque and Zorro returned to El Paso to take care of his cat.

Friday, we started with breakfast of eggs (over easy, of course), toast, bacon, and calabacitas, and then we resumed work on the trailer, working on the vertical elements that keep the boat upright. As on Thursday, each piece required multiple, time-consuming steps. We started with the support for the bunk at the front of the trailer, tack-welding cylindrical uprights in place, then cutting and shaping a horizontal piece of angle iron across the top, then adding supports, then, after getting everything tacked into place, welding everything solidly.

At this point, Mother needed to go shopping, and since Dumbledore’s truck was serving as a repository for tools and materials, she wanted to borrow my car. I had some things I needed to buy, so I decided to join her shopping and leave Tadpole and Dumbledore to work on the trailer. When I returned, the two of them had completed the frame upon which the forward bunk was to be mounted, although they hadn’t yet attached the wood for the bunk – Dumbledore was missing his 5/16 inch drill bit, and my drill bits were with my drills – in my car. Meanwhile, Tadpole and Dumbledore had mounted the uprights for and installed the aft support pads. They had also installed a metal plate at the front of the keel rest, to protect the keel from road debris during travel.

Tadpole and I worked on cutting carpet scraps to cover the support pads and the keel tray, while Mother and Dumbledore went out to get pizza for lunch. After lunch, we mounted the front bunk and cut out the V shape to center the hull of the boat – this was tedious because we didn’t have a power saw that would work for the task, so we had to use a hand saw. Next, we worked on a keel guide that would help the boat to load onto the trailer; we used pipe for uprights and then added strips of channel iron on either side of the keel tray at a level that, according to the boat’s official measurements, will be just below where the keel joins the hull. At the aft end of the trailer, these strips flare out, providing a sort of funnel to guide the boat onto the trailer and the keel onto the keel tray. Then we drilled holes in the metal strips and began mounting two-by-fours to them; we had the right side of the trailer done when we ran out of carriage bolts – well after the hardware stores had closed for the day.

We had hoped to get the trailer mostly finished, to the point that we could test-load the boat and adjust the fit as well as add additional support pads and a keel stop that would allow precise fore-and-aft positioning of the boat on the trailer. But by that point, we were really too tired to care all that much. We had supper (beef stir-fry and rice), watched a video, and called it a night.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Pictures from the Anniversary Cup

Rather than edit the previous post, I decided it would be easier to create a new post with the pictures. For details about the race, see the previous post.


Black Magic sets sail on race day.


The fleet heads north between Kettle Top and channel marker 30. Yes, that's a Hunter 26 in the lead!


In the middle of the fleet, Black Magic leads Black Swan.


Black Magic under spinnaker in the channel south of Long Point.


Near channel marker 16: Black Magic, left, is catching up to Black Swan, center, with white spinnaker, and Kachina, right, with turquoise spinnaker. The weather overhead is virga, rain that evaporates before it reaches the ground, causing sudden, sharp, unpredictable bursts of wind.

The Anniversary Cup

Rather a drifter … mostly

Saturday was the Rio Grande Sailing Club’s Anniversary Cup distance race. The forecasts were mostly for light winds – generally about 10 mph, although one weather website had the winds up to about 15. Zorro had plotted out several courses, depending on the direction and speed of the wind (that’s what we had been doing two weeks ago when we dismasted) – long courses for higher wind, shorter ones if the wind was less, and with different starting and finishing legs so no matter the direction of the wind, there would be an upwind start and finish.

For crew on Black Magic, I had Tadpole, Cornhusker, and a sailor who had considerable Etchells experience as a member of Zorro’s crew, but whose home obligations had kept him from being able to show up reliably for races (we’ll call him Seymour). Pat and the camera stayed on shore to take pictures of Black Magic in action. After fixing a couple of problems (the new jib was missing a batten, and the shackle came loose at the base of the starboard lower shroud), and tuning with Zorro for a bit, we headed for the starting line.

Despite the light conditions, Zorro was optimistic that the wind would come up, so he called a long course of about 15 miles, upwind through the channel around Long Point, past Kettle Top to channel marker 30 near the entrance to Barney’s Cove; back down past Long Point around channel marker 16; south to the east of Rattlesnake Island to marker 10, and then back to where we started. We were a bit disorganized at the start, so we started dead last, well behind the rest of the fleet. However, we were able to overtake several of the other boats within the first mile or so. By the time we got to the channel around Long Point, the winds, already light, began to get fluky – and they would remain fluky for most of the rest of the race. We had been close-hauled upwind, then turned on a reach to enter the channel. Suddenly, we were dead downwind. A couple of the other boats tried to put up spinnakers, without much success. We just concentrated on sailing. Sometimes we were leading the fleet; other times either Zorro or Mother was.

Near the base of Kettle Top, things got weirder. Most of the fleet went east, toward Kettle Top, but a couple of the usually slower boats went toward the west, and suddenly they were out ahead of all of the Etchells and J/24s! The wind was from the north to start, but then it shifted east so we were on a beam reach. Closer to the eastern shore, the boats were on a run, and again, a few of them tried to fly spinnakers, with mixed results. Finally, our boat got enough of a wind shift aft that we tried our spinnaker, too, for the last mile to the supposedly windward mark.

Amazingly enough, the whole fleet rounded the mark in one big mob – unusual enough in a mixed-design fleet even on a standard around-the-buoys course. For that to happen six miles up the lake was especially unusual. We were in about the middle of the mob; the boat ahead of us made a sloppy rounding, so we were able to slip in beneath them.

After the mark rounding, Zorro and Mother headed for the west side of the lake. I would have liked to follow, but there was another boat on my quarter, so I couldn’t tack. I had to wait until that other boat tacked, and by then it was too late. Zorro and Mother were in a patch of wind, and, like a spotlight, it seemed to follow them. The rest of us were sitting in dead air, just watching those two disappear into the distance. Somebody on my boat made a comment about how Zorro always did seem to summon up the right wind just for himself.

Things got even weirder. What wind we had was from ahead; meanwhile, we saw Zorro and Mother put up spinnakers, and while they had the occasional collapse, they were able to make those chutes go. Meanwhile, we gradually pulled ahead of the rest of the fleet, so we were sailing by ourselves past Kettle Top. As we approached the channel around Long Point, we got into the wind that let us put up our spinnaker, and we began to catch up to Mother and Zorro. That was our most successful spinnaker run of the day; we were able to keep the chute up almost to the end of the channel. Then the wind shifted, so it was almost directly ahead of us, and we pulled the chute in, preparing to round channel marker 16, where we planned to launch it again.

Not such a great plan after all – we rounded the mark and launched the chute, and the wind shifted. To keep it flying, we would have had to sail into The Jungles, an area popular with fishermen because it’s full of calcified trees. So we took it down again and found ourselves on a close reach. Despite our problems with the spinnaker, however, we were gaining on Mother and Zorro. That was gratifying.

After hours of being light and fluky, the wind finally stiffened – a small wandering thunderstorm approached. We were on a beam reach approaching channel marker 10, finally making the sort of speed an Etchells is supposed to make, when first Zorro and then Mother rounded it and came out roaring close-hauled toward the finish. I planned our strategy accordingly: gybe around the mark, then tighten up to close-hauled and come tearing up the final two miles to the finish.

No such luck. We were 50 feet from the mark when the wind shifted 180 degrees and subsided. Instead of gybing in a breeze, we were tacking in a drifter. Well, at least when we got around the mark, we could get the spinnaker up again, right?

Well, sort of. We got it up, and it took us 100 yards or so, and then the wind came around and we had to take it down. Then the wind came up again, and we were able to go screaming close-hauled toward the finish; the wind increased to about 20 knots (after being about 3 most of the day) and shifted direction, so that our finish was on a reach. Seymour had been advised of my previous lack of self-confidence in stiffer conditions, and he made an extremely diplomatic (Seymour is extremely diplomatic) hint that I could let him take the helm if I wanted, but aside from asking him for advice about what strings to pull when to reduce weather helm and depower the boat, I felt pretty good about what I could do. That’s not to say I was totally fearless, but I’m beginning to get the feeling that I can handle things. Besides, after drifting for most of four hours in 96-degree heat with intense sun, the stiffer winds were refreshing, as was the water crashing over the bow, at least at first. Tadpole did complain later about how wet he got.

There’s more weirdness. The increased wind came to Zorro, Mother, and me when we were fairly close to the finish. The rest of the fleet were further back, so they sped up and nearly caught up. On corrected time, a couple of them did catch up. Mother crossed the line a few minutes behind Zorro, but on corrected time, they were only 6 seconds apart – after a race of more than four hours. I was third across the line, but 5th on corrected time, because the slower boats got that increase in wind that I only got a taste of.

Oh, well. I still had a good time, and Seymour’s a good coach. He knows tons about Etchells, and he has a subtle, understated style that is still effective. It’s a huge pity that his other obligations keep him away from the lake so much of the time. (Yeah, I still need to do that post about woman shadows, don’t I?)

At the awards banquet that night, I read “The Cremation of Sam McGee” in John B’s honor. I was amazed how many of the people there knew the poem and loved it from the time they were young. I did spot one or two crusty old sailors sneaking a napkin to the corner of their eye and hoping nobody noticed. Hey, even if you are crusty, it’s OK to get sentimental, if you get sentimental about the right thing. We all loved John.

Sunday morning, we had to get all of our stuff out of the house in T or C – Dino had sold the place, and the buyer wanted to move in Monday. We packed up all of our stuff, had breakfast with Mother and Dumbledore, tied up some loose ends on Black Magic, and then went to a Rio Grande Sailing Club board meeting. After a while, I realized a) Pat needed to be there, but Tadpole and I didn’t, and b) we were in two separate vehicles, so we didn’t have to all stick around until the end.

So Tadpole and I took off. At the rest area just north of T or C, I pulled in and turned the helm over to him – he’s passed the book-learning part of Driver’s Ed, but he needs a certain number of hours on the road before he can take the test to get his provisional license. Open road on a Sunday afternoon is a good start – not a lot of heavy truck traffic, just the occasional slow-moving RV to pass, and a good way to get the feel of the helm. He did great. His experience sailing (and racing sailboats) has already given him some practice in looking out for what’s going on around him, and so he was already good at looking around and checking his mirrors. He did have slight problems adjusting to a steering wheel after having so much experience with a tiller – what? You actually turn toward where you want to go?

Because he’d handled the freeway so well, I had Tadpole continue at the helm when we got to the city, taking him over lesser-traveled routes that would be yet lesser-traveled on a Sunday afternoon. We’re going to need more practice on precise maneuvers, getting used to the steering response of the car at low speed, taking corners without under-steering or over-steering. We’ll probably be spending a lot of Sundays in the parking lots of businesses that are closed on Sundays, and a lot of the rest of the week in church parking lots (there’s one church in Albuquerque that, as part of its youth ministry, has a driver-training course set up).

When Tadpole got home, he had a lot of academic work to do. He had to complete a final project for his orchestra class, and he had to study for a final exam in one of his other classes.

Meanwhile, Pat eventually got out of the RGSC board meeting, and then he helped Dino get stuff out of the house so the buyer could move in, and then he came north to Albuquerque. But there was no rest for any of us; we had some additional foam that needed to be taken up to the marina at Heron, and also, we needed to move Syzygy; since Albuquerque will allow a large trailer to be parked in front of a residence for up to 14 days but no longer. Syzygy had been there 13 days.

We left Tadpole working on his project and studying. We got to Heron, rigged and launched Syzygy, delivered the foam and some dockmaster paperwork, visited the house long enough to drop off the trailer and use the bathroom, and headed south.

It has been a very long day. Actually, the whole weekend was long. I had a good race, and Tadpole got in some good driving practice, and I actually saw Five O’Clock Somewhere for the first time in months. I am, to say the least, disappointed with the housekeeping. Pat and Tadpole have a lot of catching up to do.

Stay tuned; I’ll be editing this post to add pictures.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mucho boat time

OK, so it wasn’t all sailing …

For a very large portion of the day Thursday, I was on a boat. Starting mid-morning, I went and spent a couple of hours on Black Magic, where the most important task I accomplished was installing the end stops on the traveler track. There was little to no wind, and the day was getting hot, so I took a break about 1 p.m. to go to the extremely air-conditioned computer lab and check up on email and other matters, and then I got some groceries for the house, including sandwich fixings for my lunch.

By the time I had finished eating, it had clouded up, with small thundershowers all over the place, accompanied by gusty winds. Most of these clouds were producing virga, which is rain that evaporates before it gets to the ground. The evaporation causes a major cooling of the air, leading in turn to sudden, sharp, swirling downdrafts – not good for sailing in. When I got back to the marina, Zorro had arrived, and he was working on the boat currently known as Black Swan. I helped him work on some things on his boat, particularly making the mast-moving system work the way it should, until the storms mostly dispersed and we could go out sailing.

Since Zorro is getting into practice to go out racing with the Etchells fleet in San Diego, he did most of the driving, and I handled trim, which is what I may be doing if I go out there with him. We spent more than three hours out on the lake, starting in light air, then in very light air, then light to moderate, then, as we were heading back to the marina, stiffer air as a stray thunderstorm approached. For the most part, we had perfect conditions, and we were able to work on perfecting tacks and gybes, as well as simply making the boat go fast. At the end, Zorro turned the helm over to me and we did a couple of mock mark roundings while the wind got stiffer. There was one other sailboat out on the lake, and it was interesting which one it was: Ándale, the Catalina 25 that John B sold to one of his crew just before he died. He may be gone, but his boat goes on.

When we got back to the marina, there was more work to do on Black Swan, mostly to deal with problems that we discovered while we were sailing, such as a jib cunningham and jib fine-tune lines that weren’t working right. We also worked on setting up the fraculator (a line that bends the top of the mast forward for improved spinnaker performance), and while we were doing that, we discovered that some components of the backstay were the wrong length, which kept the mast from going as far forward as it should when the boat is going downwind. Zorro’s figuring out what to do about that.

By the time we finished, it was dark and nearly 9 p.m. – so, after subtracting the lunch-and-computer break, I had spent somewhere between 9 and 10 hours on one boat or another. Zorro took me out for pizza, and then we made plans to sail in the morning, before he headed up to Albuquerque for some business he needed to tend to.

This morning, I met Zorro at the marina. There wasn’t any wind, so we did more boat work, this time on Black Magic, most notably drilling a hole in the deck and repositioning the boom vang to keep it more out of the way of the mast-moving system. Eventually, we got out sailing, but we didn’t stay out very long, because those little thunderstorms that had showed up the previous day returned, and one of them was threatening. Total boat time today (so far): 4 hours.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Poetry Corner: Robert Service

In memory of a friend

Robert Service was a Canadian poet who spent much time in the Yukon. Much of what is depicted in this poem is based on Service’s actual experiences, and he fills it with great details of the cold of the far north. Raise the toast!

The Cremation of Sam McGee
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee,
Where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam
'Round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold
Seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way
That he'd "sooner live in hell".

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way
Over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold
It stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze
Till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one
To whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight
In our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead
Were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he,
"I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you
Won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no;
Then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold
Till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread
Of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair,
You'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed,
So I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn;
But God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day
Of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all
That was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death,
And I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid,
Because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say:
"You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you
To cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid,
And the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb,
In my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight,
While the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows –
O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay
Seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent
And the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad,
But I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing,
And it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge,
And a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice
It was called the "Alice May".
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit,
And I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry,
"Is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor,
And I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around,
And I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared –
Such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal,
And I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like
To hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled,
And the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled
Down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak
Went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow
I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about
Ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said:
"I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; . . .
Then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm,
In the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile,
And he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear
You'll let in the cold and storm –
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee,
It's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 33

A tea party

Jewelry isn’t the only thing that can have magic effects, as we see here.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 33

The next morning, we slept late. We had both expended a lot of energy on shields after we realized Stephane was watching us. The clouds of the previous day had thickened, and now rain was pouring down outside. Pierre went downstairs to retrieve the mail; now there were dozens of invitations to social events. “We’re going to have to pick and choose from now on,” Pierre said.

“How do you tell which ones to go to?” I asked.

“First, people who are already our friends get top billing,” Pierre said. “That’s actually not too many people, since the people I’ve been in the habit of hanging out with have mostly been carefree bachelors like myself, and they don’t tend to throw parties. Then there are the parties thrown by important people – politicians, business leaders, royalty of various countries … oh, and celebrities, of course. But even those, we don’t have to attend everything. Oh, and from now on, I think we can lock the jewels up and only get them out for special occasions. You’ve made enough of a stunning first impression that memory and word of mouth will have almost the same effect – now everybody expects you to electrify the room, so you will.”

“That’s a relief. But won’t I have to have some jewelry to wear?”

“You do. Let’s go shopping.” Pierre got my raincoat out of the closet and held it up for me.

There were certainly a lot of advantages to being married to someone who had a whole lot of money to spend. We spent the rest of the morning and the early afternoon visiting various jewelry stores, trying on necklaces, bracelets, and more. We returned to the flat with a collection of fine jewelry, as well as some more casual pieces for less formal occasions. Pierre also bought me a couple of watches – somehow, the black plastic men’s all-weather sailing watch that I usually wore didn’t go with most of my new clothes.

“The tea party this afternoon’s going to be special,” Pierre said. “It’s not going to be very big, and the hostess is somebody I think you need to meet. Grace was Dora’s aunt.”

“I thought Dora was estranged from her family.”

“She was. Grace isn’t really her aunt, but Dora regarded her as an honorary aunt. They knew each other long before I met Dora, and every time we were in Paris, Dora spent a lot of time with her.”

“If she was so close to Dora, might she resent me for taking her place?”

“Not after this long. Dora’s been dead more than twenty years now. And besides, you’re so much like her, I think Grace will be pleased.” Pierre went to the dinette table, where the invitations were piled up, and pulled out the one for the tea party. “Besides, look at the note she put at the bottom of the invitation: ‘I’m looking forward to meeting your new bride.’”

“Is there anything else that I should know about Grace?”

“Well, she’s stuck by me even when I was at my worst. She seemed to think she owed it to Dora to protect me from myself. She’s actually a British expatriate, but she’s lived in Paris most of her life, which is pretty long. Oh, that reminds me,” Pierre went to the kitchen cabinet and brought out the teapot and cups. “She’s probably going to ask you to pour, since you’re likely to be the guest of honor. I’d better show you how it’s done.”

Pierre spent the next twenty minutes showing me the finer details of the British tea ceremony, until he was sure I had all the motions down. “Funny,” I said. “It reminds me a lot of the ceremonial spells of the wizards.”

“Actually, in the hands of a British wizard, tea is a powerful spell,” Pierre said. “It cements friendship and loyalty.”

Grace’s house was in a village that, when she first moved there, was probably far from the city. Now it was surrounded by housing developments, but the village itself was still charming, as was Grace’s house. Grace herself came to answer the door when we rang; she was tall, and stately, graceful in spite of needing to use a cane to walk around. She reminded me of a tall ship, magnificent in her elegance, a reminder of the grandeur of days gone by. “Pierre, dear, do come in. And this must be Sarah, so pleased to meet you, I’ve heard so much about you …” Her voice trailed off as she looked at me. “Oh, please, pardon me, I was just startled. You look so much like Dora …”

“She is like Dora,” Pierre said. “You remember when Dora died, I said I couldn’t ever marry again because there was nobody else like her.”

“Well, I’m just glad for you anyway,” Grace said. “All these years I was hoping you’d find someone else and settle down. Well, come in, both of you. Everybody else is already here.”

Grace led us through the house to the back garden, where tea was set up on a large low table in front of a wicker sofa; the other guests were seated on other wicker chairs and sofas, and there were several smaller tables. The whole ensemble was shaded by several stand umbrellas. Grace ushered Pierre and me to the sofa in front of the tea things and introduced the other guests: Estelle, Maude, Hattie, and Leticia, women of similar age but not quite as much dignity as Grace; Peter, who was somebody’s grandson, I didn’t catch whose, visiting during his college vacation; Sally, somebody’s grand-niece, also on vacation from college; and Bernie, who was apparently Maude’s much younger boyfriend – he was about Pierre’s age.

“Sarah, dear, would you please do the honors?” Grace asked, confirming Pierre’s prediction and the wisdom of his foresight in teaching me about British tea.

I looked at the tea set and was especially impressed with the teapot. It was larger than most, as fit the number of people present, and it was beautiful. It was gracefully curved, decorated with pink roses, accented with gold plating, and it, like Grace herself, seemed to proclaim the grandeur of the past. “That’s a beautiful teapot,” I said, reaching for the handle.

“Why thank you,” Grace replied. “It was a gift – ”

I touched the handle and felt an immediate shock – the teapot was magic! I jerked back.

“– from Dora … Oh, I’m sorry, did I upset you? Really, I didn’t mean to – I know you must get tired of being compared to your predecessor …”

Pierre and I exchanged glances. I could tell that he knew I had felt that jolt. “Oh, no, it’s nothing,” I said. “Please, don’t apologize. I just felt a … a bit faint for a moment. I’m all right now.”

“Sarah, dear, are you sure you’re all right?” Grace asked. “I know you’ve been traveling, and then all that night life. I don’t get out myself much any more, but I’ve been hearing the stories about you two. If you’re not up to it, you don’t have to pour.”

“Oh, no,” I said, reaching for the teapot, “I’m fine.” Using what I had learned from Pierre, I served the tea perfectly, coordinating the pouring of the tea and the milk, adding sugar according to each person’s taste, all the while sensing the nature of the teapot. Gradually, I became aware that I could tell about the teapot’s magic – it was, as appropriate to a British teapot, dedicated to friendship and loyalty. All who partook of tea together from this teapot would be inclined to such devotion, even without a wizard present. I guessed that Grace and her older friends, who had been taking tea together regularly for decades, would be inseparable, and anyone else who took tea from this pot would be strongly inclined to friendship and loyalty to whoever else was present at the time. I wondered how much the social fabric of Paris was knit together by this one teapot.

“Thank you, Sarah,” Grace said as I handed her her cup. “You do pour tea very well.”

Pierre placed an arm around my shoulders and gave me a quick squeeze and a peck on the cheek. I gave a responding peck. “I had a very good teacher,” I said.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

He lived … He sailed …

The world is short one crusty old sailor today.

Pat and I received this email today, about a very long-time member of the Rio Grande Sailing Club. We saw him out on the water about a month ago, on what may have been his last sail. We’ll miss him, and we wish the best for his friends and family.

Dear all,
 
We would like to inform everyone that John Morgan Bristol passed away this morning,  May 16.  He was 71 years and 10 days old when he passed, and he was surrounded by his loving wife Bonnie, children Andy, Amy and Kate, and brother Ed.  John died peacefully and with dignity at home after a recurring battle with head and neck cancer.
 
We have attached a copy of the obituary that will run next week in the local T or C newspapers.  John wrote it himself last summer as only he could.  Please help us celebrate his life by raising a toast to him when you read this message.
 
Most Sincerely,
 
Bonnie, Andy, Amy, Kate, Ed


John Morgan Bristol                               OBITUARY


John Morgan Bristol, age 71, passed away at home on May 16, 2006. He was born May 6, 1935 in Los Angeles, CA, the first of the two sons of John and Alice Bohan Bristol.  He was the husband of Bonnie Kay Kamp Bristol from Washington, IL. They were married at St. Charles in Albuquerque in 1962.  John and Bonnie lived in Champagne Hills, Sierra Co. since 1997.  He was the father of Christopher Kamp Bristol, deceased, of Buffalo, NY; Dr. John Andrew Bristol of Bethesda, MD; Dr. Amy Jean Bristol of Santa Barbara, CA; Mrs. Kathryn Elizabeth Bristol Stientjes (Blair) of San Francisco, CA.  He was the grandfather of Isabella Quijada Bristol and John Christopher Bristol and Larkin Elizabeth Stientjes.  His brother, Edmund Gray Bristol, lives in Corrales and his sister, Mary Lou Wilkerson, lives in Albuquerque.

He was proud of his family and its century-long military service and his Jesuit education.  He was schooled at St. Scholastica, Aspinwall, PA; St. James, Falls Church, VA; Quantico HS, VA; St. Ignatius HS, San Francisco, CA; Santa Clara University, CA, BSME, 1957; Case Institute, Cleveland, OH.

He earned the family’s living as a mechanical engineer for 50 years at ACF; LASL; Lieutenant, US Army, Armor; NASA; Bell Aerospace; DynaMech Sciences; AMSCO; Ritter/Sybron; Pulsafeeder; Helios; BIF; and APV Gaulin.  His patents involved the generation, application, containment, and control of high pressure.

He frequently raced sailboats as crew and skipper on Lakes Erie, Ontario, Canadaigua, the Atlantic Ocean, the Sea of Cortez, and Elephant Butte Lake where he and his crews (Bush, Brock, Petty, Strang, Hoffecker, etc.) enjoyed a bit of winning.  He promoted sailing and racing with free instructions and invitations to race, lured by a free lunch from Bonnie.  

He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Hydraulic Institute, and the Rio Grande Sailing Club where the Pickle Race with the Boys & Girls Ranches was a favorite, and Moose Lodge #2050 in T or C.  He was a director for the Eastshore Road District Association and assisted the Champagne Hills Architectural Committee.

His body has been donated to medical science and there will be no services.  A toast and a prayer, wherever friends meet or talk about John Bristol, would be just fine.  Memorial donations may be made to New Mexico Boys/Girls Ranches, PO Box 9, Belen, NM 87002-0009, which he liked to help.  If no one has a joke, try reading “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service.  His book is in the north guest bedroom.
If its a song you seek, try “Without a Song the Day Would Never End.”

A Challenge: Paint a Word Picture

Engage all of the senses; do not be afraid

Recently, several of the blogs that I frequent have had vivid descriptions of places and events. Something that all of these descriptions have had in common is that they have wrapped the reader up in a feeling without telling the reader what to feel. For example, they might say something like, “my heart was beating fast and my palms were sweating” instead of saying, “I was nervous.” The result is extremely effective writing.

Here is your challenge: either here, or providing here a link to your own blog, tell about some place that you sail, or if you’re not a sailor, some place that you love. Give a description that engages ALL of the senses. Don’t just tell what the place looks like; give us sounds and smells and feelings and tastes. Don’t tell us what emotions we should feel; make your description vivid enough that we feel it without being told. Tell something you like to do while you are there. Make us all want to go there and do that.

Whether it’s New Jersey or Maine or Australia or Germany or Laos or wherever, there is beauty in sailing. Tell about the beauty you see.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Very Mixed Bag

The racing didn’t go so well, but the rest of the weekend had its highlights

Friday, there was no wind. I spent a lot of the day fiddling around with Black Magic. I had a whole heap of new small parts to install, such as snatch blocks on the spinnaker twings, end caps for the traveler, a new ring for the spinnaker pole, and a gazillion other little doodads. The actual amount of work I got done wasn’t all that great for the time I spent – I had to make trips into T or C to go to the house to charge the batteries for the drill and eat lunch, and then to the hardware store to get screws for mounting the traveler end caps, and it was a warm day (90°F or so with, as I’ve mentioned, no wind), so I took frequent rest breaks. Cornhusker showed up and proved that she’s not only good crew on the water; she’s resourceful on shore. She helped me devise at least a temporary mounting system for mesh bags to hold lines when they’re not in use, and she helped me with installing some of the hardware, such as the snatch blocks. We couldn’t install everything we wanted to – there were a couple of hex-head bolts that were corroded from the boat’s previous life in salt water, and the socket set we had was just a cheapo set with a screwdriver-type driver rather than a regular ratchet wrench. I thought I had an adaptor for the drill, but then discovered I didn’t.

Zorro showed up, and he had a lot of work he needed to do on The Boat Of Many Names (currently known as Black Swan). His first comment when he looked at Black Magic was how great those mesh bags were. Cornhusker had to go home, but I stuck around to help Zorro work on his boat.

Pat and Tadpole showed up, along with some wind, just as Zorro was finishing his boat work. What to do next was a no-brainer: take a late-afternoon sail. Pat, Tadpole, and I took Black Magic, while Zorro single-handed his boat. Normally in such situations, I find myself saying, “He’s going faster than I am; what is he doing differently than I am?” But that evening, we were often going faster than he was; TBOMN has been neglected by its previous caretaker, and so there’s a lot that needs fixing. There was one time when Zorro was nearly even with us and lee-bowed us, and we tacked away. Ten minutes later when we came back together, Black Magic was ahead by several boat lengths.

We brought Black Magic in as the sun was setting – I had left my non-sun glasses ashore. Zorro stayed out a while longer. We had just finished putting our boat away when we saw an awesome sight. The full moon was just rising, big and vividly red over the indigo silhouettes of the mesas on the far side of the lake. There were horizontally shredded clouds, lit with a faint yellow glow in the deep turquoise sky, in which a few stars were beginning to emerge, and the wind was coming up. There, in exactly the perfect spot, right below the moon, was Zorro, on a screaming downwind run. Alas, he was moving so fast that by the time we got the camera out, the photo-op was gone. But it was such a sight. Luna Rossa. That’s what TBOMN should be called. Zorro’s Italian, and I like the tradition of naming the Etchells in our fleet after America’s Cup racers.

Saturday was the Joshua Slocum single-handed race. Zorro was taking TBOMN, and I had previously granted Dino permission to take Black Magic for the race – I’m too new to racing and to Etchells to do well with it. Pat did, however, talk me into taking out our old MacGregor, Syzygy, since the field was small and there were four trophies, so my chances were, so he said, pretty good. It is true that I have always been able to make that old boat go faster than expected, even before I did the intensive racing training for the Adams Cup.

It was a disaster. Pat and Tadpole were on committee boat duty, pressed into service when the guy who was supposed to do it – one of Zorro’s no-show crew for the Club Championships – was forbidden by his wife to do anything sailing-related until he’s completed a lot of tasks in the new house they have just bought. (Future blog post: woman shadows?) There was no wind, or very light wind, and all of the boats drifted around the committee boat for two hours, except for a couple who gave up and left. Finally, it looked like there might be some wind, and after realigning the starting line several times, Zorro gave the go-ahead to start. The wind died during the five-minute starting sequence, and worse for me, other things went wrong. I had been on the course side of the line when the starting sequence started; it took me 30 seconds to get to the line. About one minute later, not wanting to get too far from the line, I turned back toward the line – or rather, I put the tiller over to go back to the line. The boat didn’t go. For the next 19 minutes, I tried to get to the line. The boat would turn one way, but not the other. It would go parallel to the line, and it would go away from the line, but it would not go toward the line. Sometimes I could get it to go sort of in the general direction of the line, but way wide of it.

Meanwhile, Pat was yelling utterly useless advice from the committee boat. He was telling me to do things I was already doing, or to do things that I know from the intensive work that I’ve been doing over the past few months are not the things to do. All these months, he’s said I’m doing great, and I have learned all of these skills, and he’s proud of me, and then he assumed I’m too stupid or ignorant, and the reason I can’t get the boat to do anything is that I’m just not doing it right. Never mind that I’ve been training intensively and all he has is book-learning – he knows better than I do. Never mind that Syzygy has had almost no maintenance over the past year, or that it’s been in the water for several months growing salad on the bottom, or that its sails are limper than Kmart bedsheets, or that it’s really not a racing boat at all. Pat’s immediate assumption wasn’t that the boat had shortcomings; it was that I did. All that encouragement he’s been heaping on me is just to keep me happy; he doesn’t really believe it.

Eventually I got across the starting line, so at least I’d have a DNF for the race rather than a DNS. But then I decided it wasn’t worth my while to try to run the race itself. I headed back to the marina. I started the motor, and as if I didn’t have enough problems already, it refused to run well. I turned it to full throttle, and it was barely moving. I kept my mainsail up, in case the motor should quit and I would need alternate propulsion. It was a long ride back to the marina. Then, about 50 yards from the marina, the motor roared to life and everything was fine (I figure maybe something had been fouling both the rudder and the motor, causing poor performance from both), aside from not having a chance to drop the sail, and some other boat occupying our slip, which had our fenders set out so I wouldn’t have to deploy them from the boat while coming in single-handed, and nobody being around at the marina to help catch the boat, and a sudden gust of wind from astern just at the wrong moment … my arrival wasn’t a pretty sight, although at least nobody saw it, and there’s a bigger dent in the dock than in Syzygy.

To make matters worse, Dino didn’t do particularly well on Black Magic. But then, as inept as I am, I might not have done any better.

Sunday at least started on a positive note. Cornhusker showed up at the dock with a socket wrench and some WD-40, which she used to loosen the recalcitrant bolts on Black Magic. That at least allowed us to install the new spinnaker ring and made it possible to install the traveler end stops when we have time. She earned big brownie points for resourcefulness.

Sunday’s race was the Jack and Jill – woman at the helm, one man as crew. Our plan had been that in light air, I would take Tadpole, since he’s agile and knowledgeable and great with the spinnaker. In heavier air, I would take Pat, to have more crew weight, and forget about running the spinnaker. I would have liked to have Zorro, but he wasn’t available – he had committee boat duty.

The wind was stiff – stiffer than I was comfortable with, especially given the no-confidence vote Pat had given me the previous day. Pat didn’t make matters any better. He kept nagging and harping and hounding, trying to get me to believe the lines about me being great and all of that – the lines he’d already proved he didn’t believe. I just wanted to crawl into a hole. I wanted to just sell the boat, go back to Albuquerque, and forget about the whole sail-racing thing. Who am I kidding, that I think I can sail a boat and sail it well? Pat clearly thinks I can’t, so why should I bother?

We didn’t race the Jack and Jill. We waited until the wind eased, and then we went out, the four of us, Pat, Tadpole, Cornhusker, and me. That was all right. We sailed around the racers, and we had a good time, aside from Pat’s continual harping that we should have been racing. We even got in a bit of spinnaker practice, and we sailed until the wind went away.

Cornhusker went home, and we got ourselves a very late lunch (prime rib special for Mothers Day) and then returned to the lake, ostensibly to put the boats away – we were planning to take Syzygy out of the water to take to Heron Lake, up north (Black Magic will stay at the Butte until its new trailer is ready). By the time we got the boat onto the trailer and de-rigged, the wind had come up, and Zorro was out sailing around, but then he came back to the marina; he picked me up from the dock, and he told Pat and Tadpole to take Black Magic out and catch up to us.

We sailed all over the lake, working on tuning the boats for racing. TBOMN may have its problems, but it can beat Black Magic if there are no major equipment failures, and if it has competent crew. I had the helm, and Zorro handled trim, and we got in a couple of practice races, in which we thoroughly beat Pat and Tadpole. There may have been some crew-dynamics issues – what happens when the teenager actually does know more than the parent, and the parent is the know-it-all? Of course, they said they let me win on purpose, since it was Mother’s Day. For me, that last couple of hours of sailing at least partially redeemed the weekend, driving a fast boat in near-perfect conditions, with somebody who really knows what he’s talking about, rather than just feeding me lines to keep me happy for other purposes.