Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Rio Grande Marina Challenge Cup and other stuff

It was a busy weekend …

Friday afternoon, as soon as Tadpole got out of school, we headed south to T or C. Tadpole and I worked some on cleaning the doublewide, while Pat got some groceries, and then we left Tadpole with the task of getting the furnace and water heater going while Pat and I went to the parking lot above the boat ramp to rig the MacGregor, Syzygy, to be committee boat for the Rio Grande Cup Saturday.

We got the boat rigged and ready to launch as darkness fell and returned to the trailer to find that Tadpole had figured out why the furnace and water heater weren’t working – there was no propane. Dino had arranged for one of the local propane companies to fill the tank, but that task had not been done. So we couldn’t cook, we didn’t have central heat, and we didn’t have hot water. Oh, well. We could eat out, and we had a couple of electric space heaters to keep warm with, and if someone is so obsessed that he needs a shower every single day no matter what, he can make do with a cold one.

Saturday morning was the crew meeting for the Rio Grande Cup regatta. This is not one of the usual regattas – there were matched pairs of boats, and one boat in each pair was on a team representing one of two marinas, Rock Canyon and Dam Site; the marina whose team wins the most matchups gets to keep the cup until the next time. The plan was for one pair each of Etchells, J/24s, J/22s, and an “open” class consisting of a Freedom 21 and a Victory 21. As it turned out, the J/22s didn’t show up.

After the crew meeting, Zorro, Tadpole and I headed for the marina to rig Black Magic for the regatta. At the marina, we met Twinkletoes, and Zorro decided, in order to make the competition more equitable, to donate Tadpole to the other Etchells, since its crew is inexperienced in this particular boat. So the plan was that Tadpole would help us rig the boat, and then when we got out the race course, he would join Sutherland, Teddy Bear and Dixie on White Lightin’.

The weather predictions for Saturday had been widely varying – one service forecast winds of 10-15 mph with gusts of 20 or more, but most of the others were predicting somewhere in the range of 5 to 10. As it turns out, the wind didn’t even get up to 5. It was a total stinker of a drifter. Pat on the committee boat called for an upwind-downwind-upwind course; at the start, all six boats were reasonably close, and for much of the first leg, four boats kept together: White Lightnin’, representing Dam Site Marina; Black Magic, representing Rock Canyon Marina; the Victory 21 Chi, with Mother Superior at the helm and Dumbledore as crew, representing Rock Canyon; and the J/24 Sueñadora, also representing Rock Canyon. The other two boats representing Dam Site, the Freedom 21 Wind Rush and the J/24 Kachina, quickly fell behind.

The wind shifted as we approached the supposedly windward mark, such that we were on a broad reach. When we rounded the mark, we were close-hauled. When we were about two-thirds of the way back to where the committee boat was, the wind shifted again, and we were able to fly the spinnaker. At this point, White Lightnin’ and Chi were a bit behind us. We drew out a nice lead on the way to the leeward mark. The wind began to shift forward, such that we were on a beam reach and sometimes a close reach, making it a challenge to keep the chute flying. Given this wind shift, when we got to the leeward mark, we gybed around it while keeping the spinnaker up, to see if we could keep it flying on the final leg of the course. But the wind hadn’t shifted quite enough, and we couldn’t keep the chute up, so we had to take it down.

Black Magic finished first, with White Lightnin’ more than 12 minutes behind, and Chi about 12 minutes behind that. Sueñadora finished some time later; two hours later, Wind Rush and Kachina were still stalled out around the windward mark and quit the race.

Just as the Etchells got to the finish line, the wind picked up a bit, so Zorro and Pat decided to run a second race on a short upwind-downwind course for the Etchells while waiting for the other boats to finish. Unfortunately, the wind died almost immediately afterward. Black Magic and White Lightnin’ were left drifting for an hour and a half until Pat finally decided to call off the race – where the committee boat was, the wind never died, so he didn’t know that we were becalmed. (He also had been totally unaware of the weird wind shifts during the first race.)

Pat then gave the Etchells a tow back toward the marinas. The wind finally came up along the way, so Zorro had Tadpole come back from White Lightnin’, and then we let go the tow rope and sailed back to the marina as the sun set. That last 20 minutes of the day was definitely the best part of it; the winds were nice, and I had good crew, with Zorro, Twinkletoes, and Tadpole. We came in to the dock as darkness was falling; we left the boat rigged in case there would be good weather for sailing Sunday.

The post-regatta dinner was an extremely casual affair, at a local taco place that has earned very high marks with the sailing club for being glad to have us around. Normally, the place doesn’t open until 11 in the morning, but the folks that run it were willing to unlock the doors at 10 for our crew meeting – they said they wouldn’t have food, but they could have coffee “and such.” Much to the delight of a couple of our skippers, “and such” included beer – it’s not just a breakfast drink any more. Then, they made arrangements to stay open later in the evening than usual for our post-regatta dinner; their philosophy was that as long as we were there and buying food and drinks, they were glad to have us.

After the dinner, we persuaded Zorro to come by the doublewide before he headed home to El Paso. He was beginning to come down with a cold, so we parked him in an easy chair next to one of the electric space heaters. Dulce and Tres were glad to see him, especially Tres, who usually doesn’t like outsiders, especially tall ones. But in this case, Tres thought Zorro was OK for a bit of lap time.

Sunday dawned overcast and calm. We worked for a while on cleaning up the doublewide, and then the electricity quit in one half of the house – the half that includes the living room and the master bedroom. None of the circuit breakers were tripped, so as far as we can tell, the problem is probably in the connection between the two halves of the house. We tried to call Dino, but we also discovered that the doublewide is in a cell-phone dead zone. So we went to breakfast at a local cafe, where the cell phone worked better, and we left a message on Dino’s voice-mail.

Next, we went to de-rig Syzygy and return her to the storage lot, and then we went to Black Magic. There wasn’t enough wind to think of sailing, so we did some boat maintenance projects and worked on inventorying the sails. Late in the day, we went back to the doublewide, picked up the cats, and headed north. In Socorro, we dropped off Tadpole at New Mexico Tech to spend the night in a dorm with the older brother of one of the members of his Boy Scout troop, in order to attend the open house that Tech was holding Monday.

Monday, Pat had to work, but I didn’t, so I took it easy. Monday night, Tadpole came home from the open house at Tech, where he had a wonderful time. He got a close look at some exciting research that was going on, such as the world’s current biggest reflecting telescope, which is, by decree of Congress, to find every single object 1 km or greater in diameter, in the Kuiper Belt, the Asteroid Belt, or anywhere else in the Solar System, in case it might collide with Earth. He also saw presentations about extremely low-cost photovoltaic cells, explosive welding, and a bunch of other stuff. And he was also impressed with the technology in the dorm room he stayed in – its occupants are uber-geeks who have managed to daisy-chain four intact game consoles, plus one that was damaged by falling out of a window, plus a major sound system, plus three computers (at least one custom-built), plus two televisions, into a massive gaming-entertainment complex. Funny thing was, when I heard about the system, the first thing I thought of was how to get it to connect to Tillerman’s favorite electronic diversion, Tacticat. The kinetic controller of the Wii seems custom-designed to take tiller movements, and it can probably also do something akin to evaluating body movements – in some of the simulations that it already does, it can detect the differences between the body movements of a fencer and the arm and wrist movements.

Anyhow, Tadpole was already considering Tech as a place to go to college, and now, he’s even more excited about it. Of course, I don’t want him to limit his prospects, so I do want him also to look at places further afield such as Rice or MIT (hey, Tillerman, can you have Litoralis give Tad some advice?). But if he does go to Tech, he’s even closer to Elephant Butte Lake than we are, so I haven’t lost a valuable crew member yet.

P.S. I was just making sure the links I put in above were working, and I see that Tillerman is in 10th place in the Tacticat standings, and Litoralis is 2nd. Way to go, guys.

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Blogger Tillerman said...

Congratulations on the win. Much more significant than all my races in Tacticat!

I'm sure my son would be happy to answer Tad's questions about MIT. He was also on the sailing team there so can fill him on the New England college sailing team as well as academics and student life at MIT. How do you want to do it, phone or email? Email me via the link in the sidebar of my blog.

Tue Feb 20, 07:08:00 AM MST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be happy to answer Tadpole's questions on MIT. I too was impressed by the technology when I visited the school...this was in 1995 and the fraternity house where I stayed had just been wired for high speed Ethernet (very new back then). The guys were playing Doom over the network from different rooms using headset mikes to yell at each other. That seems so obvious and easy now in the days of Halo, Wii and Tacticat...but it was really impressive back then in the days before online gaming and internet telephony.
If Tad wants to sail in college, likes technology and has even the slightest chance of getting into MIT, then he should consider it. At MIT he would be in the center of the northeast college sailing scene as well as at the best engineering school in the country...and he wouldn't have to travel far to go sailing because the sailing pavilion is right across the street from the school.

You can contact me through Tillerman.

Tue Feb 20, 07:45:00 AM MST  
Blogger Pat said...

On Sunday morning, winds were none to light (0 to 4 kts) as we de-rigged our MacGregor. After we arrived at the marina to work on Black Magic, the winds did eventually come up, reaching around 8 or 9 knots from the SSW, then switching to SSE, then subsiding to around 5 kts, then back up to 6 or 7, then down to 4 or 5. By then we were committed to fiddling with the boat and still wound up not sailing. But, had we gone sailing, the conditions at least would have been better, for a couple of hours, than they had been on almost all of Saturday save for that last glorious bit of sailing on the way back to the marinas.

The bottom line: Carol Anne and Tad got to sail on Saturday. I didn't. With us not sailing the previous weekend when we did the adv. race mgmt. class, it's now been way too long. I don't know how the poor sailors in the northeast can possibly survive those winters, especially if they can't escape to places such as Cabarete.

Oh yes, Tad is a junior who has had mixed grades in school, but did much better last term with a B- in third-year German and A-pluses in architecture/CAD, pre-calculus, and advanced placement US History. (His school has four 90-minute classes each semester that are the equivalent of year-long classes at other schools.) This term he's in an elective class called "Murder and Mayhem" (gifted program) along with honors English, Orchestra, and Physics (enriched). I think his PSAT scores were something like 74 for reading comprehension, 58 for the writing, and 65 for math, so he'd probably score in something like the 90th percentile on the SAT. He did get into the New Mexico all-state concert orchestra on string bass last month and continues to play his cello as well; he's also close to getting his Life rank in his Scout troop.

Tue Feb 20, 09:27:00 AM MST  

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