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, March 26, 2007

Man, oh man, there’s a lot to tell

Catching up on two weekends

Last weekend wasn’t a race weekend, but it was busy even so. You may have seen some of the details on Pat’s blog, Desert Sea. He went to the lake Wednesday to take to take a class Thursday and Friday to get certified as a boating safety instructor, and Tadpole, Dulce, and I drove south as soon as Tadpole got out of school Friday. We dropped Dulce off at the doublewide, and we joined Pat at the boat in time for an hour of sailing before the sun set.

Saturday, we met Zorro at the lake and saw his “new” car – another Mercedes, this one a 1985 rather than an ’83, the 300D turbo diesel. It’s beautiful, in near-mint condition, creamy yellow – my immediate thought was of The Great Gatsby – I should probably warn him not to let Daisy drive it.

Zorro needed to take his boat out of the water so he could get it near a mast-raising crane in order to replace a fraying backstay, and that would also give him an opportunity to do some work on the bottom of the boat. So Tadpole and I joined him sailing up to a boat ramp that had a crane, near Dumbledore and Mother Superior’s place, while Pat drove the truck and trailer around to pick us up. We got the boat out of the water Saturday evening, and then Sunday morning Zorro and I worked on the bottom of the boat until Dumbledore and Mother Superior got home from Mass. We then took the boat to the mast-raising pole, which we used to hoist Dumbledore (a retired lineman for the electric company who still loves getting up in high places) up the mast to replace the top end of the backstay.

Next, Zorro, Tadpole, and I sailed south while Pat took the truck and trailer, put the trailer away, and came to the south end of the lake to meet us at the marina. As we neared the marina, the wind died, and we were left somewhat drifting. The original plan had been for Pat to join us for some sailing once we got down there, but with such little wind, Zorro just wanted to put the boat away and go home.

In hindsight, I see that some things could have been better planned, especially from Pat’s point of view. We could have positioned the truck and trailer near the boat ramp Saturday before setting sail, so Pat could have joined us on the water. Likewise, we could have made sure the Mercedes was at the marina Sunday so Pat could be with us sailing southward, and then he could be dropped off to pick up the truck and trailer later. Oh, well … next time we need to do something like that, we can work better on vehicle positioning.

OK, so that’s last weekend. Now there’s this most recent one.

The story of the weekend actually starts Thursday night, when Pat and Tadpole helped a prospective new crew member move stuff from his old apartment to his new townhouse. In keeping with my current custom of blog nicknames, this crew member’s nickname will be where he came from, until I can come up with a better one. So we’ll call him Penzance.

After I got off work Thursday night, Pat and I joined Penzance and a few of his mates at a pub that is very popular with British expatriates because of its authenticity. The beer is plentiful and very, very good. The drink menu also includes a huge selection of single-malt Scotch and a goodly selection of other whiskies, although we didn’t try any of those. The food is quintessentially British; my bangers and mash were better than many that I have had in England, and Pat’s fish and chips were great, too, if marred by the ersatz newspaper (dated April 1, 2009) that came beneath them. One of our companions had just about the most magnificent ploughman’s lunch I have ever seen.

Friday, we picked up Tadpole as soon as school got out, and then we picked up Penzance to go to the lake. We got there in time to help Apple Gal and Apple Guy, who had just bought a very nice Etchells and brought it from California, to put their boat together in order to launch it the next day.

Later, we went to our boat and got together with Zorro, who gave us some useful stuff, such as a line to replace the old port-side spinnaker sheet – so now, both spinnaker sheets are reasonably new but not necessarily ideal, since they’re heavier line that eventually will be used for other purposes. New, lightweight, high-performance spinnaker sheets are definitely very high on our wish list for when we get money to buy them.

Weather predictions for Saturday had been inconsistent – of the four major weather forecasters we look at, two said the winds would be relatively stiff, 18 gusting 24 or so, and the other two said the winds would be around 8 or 10. As it turned out, nobody was right; the winds were variable from light to nonexistent. Worse, the direction changed, and with no discernible pattern. Sheet in, sheet out, spinnaker up, spinnaker down, back up again, reach up, keep it full, nope, better head down, take the chute down again, oops, now we’re head to wind, bear off, got a header, got a lift, head up, nope, not so fast, oh, we’re tacking even though we didn’t change course …

In the first race, we came in second; Apple Gal was first and Zorro third. In the second race, Zorro was first, we were second, and Apple Gal was third. In the third race, which had a downwind finish, we and Zorro got into some exciting tactics at the end, and we were second to him by only 4 seconds; Sutherland was third and Apple Gal was fourth.

Sunday, the wind was even lighter, and it was variable in speed, although at least it had a basic sort of consistency in direction. Sutherland didn’t come out to race; he phoned the race committee to say he had a cold. We ran only one race, the results of which aren’t final yet, because Zorro is protesting Apple Gal’s handling of the start. But if the results stand, Apple Gal was first, Zorro was second, and we were third.

We learned some things this weekend. We observed that sometimes in the very light air, we were moving and the other boats were not – partly that has to do with plain luck, and partly that has to do with the boat’s crew’s ability to react to changes in conditions. We had excellent starts for every race this weekend, primarily because Penzance is a superb tactician, so we’re definitely keeping him on the team. We observed that Apple Gal is definitely a good skipper, even if she’s new to this particular boat (unfamiliarity with its handling might have led to the situation that Zorro is protesting). For all of the races, we were right up with the leaders – and that can’t just be because we have a fast boat; Sutherland also has an Etchells, and he was typically behind even the J/22s.

We also confirmed knowledge that we’d previously been told but not shown: Zorro doesn’t like to lose. He’s said that many times in the past, but in the past, he’s just taken his Etchells and done a horizon job on the rest of the fleet. So he’s almost never been in danger of losing – it only happens when he makes a really big mistake like going to the wrong mark.

Not any more. Apple Gal is nipping at his heels. I’m keeping up, too, even though I haven’t been at this racing thing for very long. Zorro has said that he wants to build an Etchells fleet in order to have other boats similar to his to tune with and compete against. But I don’t know that he was expecting this sort of competition to emerge this suddenly.

One of the other frustrating things about this weekend was that not a single boat from the B fleet showed up. As long as the Rock Canyon Marina is down at the south end of the lake instead of up where it belongs near the race course, those of us who have boats there have to get several miles up the lake to the race course. That’s a small problem if there’s some good wind, but if there isn’t good wind, Zorro and I have to have someone in the B fleet give us a tow out to the race course – they all have motors. Sunday, we put our motor on Black Magic for the trip out to the race course, and we discovered that the motor’s gas tank holds enough to get one Etchells, towing another Etchells, most of the way (but not all of the way) from the current location of Rock Canyon Marina to the race course. We had to drift the rest of the way. We handed off the motor to the committee boat during the racing, and then we recovered it afterward.

At the end of the day, we put the boats away, and then we socialized with Zorro at the doublewide for a while before heading homeward, by way of Socorro Springs, which Penzance greatly enjoyed. We came home to find a very lonely and attention-craving Dulce cat.

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Blogger Carol Anne said...

Update: We just heard from the US Sailing Area F people that they still don't have a host for this year's Adams/Mallory semifinals, so it looks like Etchells Fleet 31 may get to host the events. Now that we have seven boats in the fleet (five of them in southern New Mexico and west Texas), and Pat and I have had that race management class in Houston, we can put together a pretty good regatta -- I hope.

Mon Mar 26, 11:44:00 AM MDT  

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