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, January 28, 2007

On the water with Zorro again

It was cold, but the sailing was good, and there was other excitement

Friday afternoon and evening, Pat and Tadpole worked on preparations for Tadpole’s weekend, camping out in the snow on Mount Taylor with the Boy Scouts for the council’s annual Klondike Derby. Once Tadpole was on his way, Pat and I packed up the cats to go to Elephant Butte, where we still had work to do to install the new gooseneck fitting on Black Magic’s boom and some other boat-related tasks. We stopped briefly in Socorro on the way to drop off a Sunfish small sailboat for the New Mexico Tech Sailing Club to use in a display at the college Club Fair on Monday. During the final 40 miles or so of our journey, we drove through patches of freezing fog – a phenomenon that just plain doesn’t happen in the desert.

Late Friday night – OK, so it was actually early Saturday morning – Zorro phoned us to say he was planning on being at the lake Saturday. That was great news, since it looked like our own boat wouldn’t be sailable yet. The curse of sailing in the desert is that we don’t have a chandlery or marine store right around the corner, so we have to rely on Internet and mail order. In this case, we needed to get an eyestrap or padeye to attach the outhaul block to the inside of the new boom end we just got, and the websites didn’t give enough information about the dimensions of the hardware. So Pat ordered several eyestraps and padeyes, in hopes of getting one that would fit. There were two that came close, but all of them were too big to fit into the space available – and mostly they were bigger than the dimensions given both on the website and on the packaging the eyestraps came in. If we could have gone into a physical store, we could simply say, “We need the next smaller size.” As it was, we were going to have to improvise.

Saturday morning, the weather left us feeling as if we were on another planet. We were cloaked in dense fog, and the temperature was below freezing, so the fog was gently coating everything in frost, gradually getting thicker. There are two large cacti at the sides of the front gate, and the way the thickening frost was clinging to the cactus pads was stunningly beautiful. I would have gotten pictures, but the camera battery was dead.

We hadn’t heard anything more from Zorro, so we did some shopping in town for housewares. We then went to the True Value hardware store in T or C and got some eye bolts and related hardware that we could use to jerry-rig an outhaul until we could do the Internet equivalent of asking for the next smaller size. We had also received some parts via mail order to rebuild the spinnaker pole ends, so we headed for the boat so we could pick up the pole and take it to the apartment to make the repairs.

By this time, the fog had melted away. The sun was shining through a sky that was partly cloudy, partly high overcast. Winds were light, but they did exist. The temperature was in the high 40s. Nice weather for sailing.

When we got to the marina, we discovered that Zorro had arrived shortly before, along with Seymour, and 5-year-old Seymour Junior. Zorro invited us on board, and we set sail.

It was a good sail, although it did get chilly when the wind came up – I ended up borrowing Zorro’s heavy jacket. As 5-year-olds go, Junior wasn’t too bad. But a 5-year-old doesn’t have the attention span to do well with an extended time on the water, and on a racing boat such as an Etchells, there’s a lot going on that even a well-behaved 5-year-old gets in the way of. A boat with an enclosed cabin would have provided someplace that Junior could go to get out of the way and out of the cold. I’m guessing that Mrs. Seymour allowed Seymour to go sailing on the condition that he took Junior with him.

Now, Junior did show at least a little understanding of sailing, such as trimming the jib sheets, even if he was slightly unclear on exactly which line to pull when. I could easily see, in a couple of years, when he weighs about 20 pounds more, letting him loose on a Sunfish in warm weather on gentle waters, and then letting him work up to more challenging conditions and more challenging boats. He might end up being the only sailor who grew up sailing in New Mexico. The bigger challenge may be getting Mrs. Seymour’s approval for such a plan. She’s not all that supportive of Seymour’s sailing.

Saturday night, we had Zorro over to dinner – a very large quantity of pizza – before he headed back to El Paso.

Sunday morning was sunny but calm, and Pat worked on jerry-rigging a padeye on the inside of the boom fitting to attach the outhaul. Eventually, he cut down one of the too-big padeyes and drilled a new hole in it to match the holes in the boom end fitting. We also looked into rebuilding the spinnaker pole ends with new springs and plastic inner sleeves. However, the new sleeves were a completely different design from the old ones – apparently there was a redesign sometime between 1972 and now – so we just worked some WD-40 into the existing mechanism; we’ll have to order complete new pole ends now. At least those won’t be as expensive as replacing the whole pole would be.

About noon, we got a phone call from Zorro, to tell us that he was featured prominently in Sunday’s El Paso Times, in an article about his upcoming induction into the Ohio Track and Field Hall of Fame, and that a television crew was on the way to interview him. Before he was a sailor, he was a world-class athlete in collegiate, Olympic, and professional pole-vaulting; and when he retired as an athlete, he became a college track coach. He still coaches individual athletes, and he’s now also a very successful racing sailor who nearly made the Olympic team sailing Stars. I consider myself lucky to have him as my sailing coach.

On our way to the boat, we scraped together enough change to buy the last copy of the newspaper from a vending box. The article was good, but I was disappointed that it didn’t mention Zorro’s sailing. Oh, well. I suppose being nominated to a track and field hall of fame generates more interest in pole-vaulting than in sailing.

Once at the boat, we worked on attaching the boom and connecting various lines in various places. By the time we finished, what little wind had been around had gone away. But we got our practice mainsail on the boom, so next time we’re at the lake, we’ll be able to get out on the water that much faster. Then we headed to the apartment to pack up the cats and other stuff for the trip back to Albuquerque.


Blogger Tillerman said...

I wonder what it is that enables a world-class pole-vaulter to become a very successful racing sailor. Is it athletic ability or is it more to do with mental attitude and commitment to a sport? What makes a winner?

Wed Jan 31, 07:24:00 AM MST  
Blogger Pat said...

I've noticed that (successful) athletes do tend to have a great deal of self-confidence and belief in their abilities; to the lay person, it may appear to be something like arrogance or hubris, but to some athletes it seems to be a vital component of the athlete's attitude and ability to succeed.

Inherent athletic ability, training, and motivation all seem to play their part.

And, depending upon the sport, various mental abilities also must play their part. In sailing, it would seem to be that some sort of kinesthetic sense helps the athlete use strength efficiently and position her or his body for maximum effect and that the ability to sense three-dimensional relationships helps with preparing a boat to take advantage of wind shifts and oscillations.

And, I think there's some sort of "knowing what it takes to win" that allows the athlete to prepare more efficiently to compete in a new sport than a non-athlete, along with a transfer of knowledge and self-discipline for training.

Zorro spends about a hundred days on the water and has done so for a quarter-century. Only a handful of sailors in our club are on the water fifty days a year.

Wed Jan 31, 04:29:00 PM MST  

Post a Comment

<< Home