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.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I knew it all along!

If you share a house with cats, you probably know it, too

Scientific research has now proven what most humans who share their homes with cats already know: The domestication of cats was their choice, not the other way around.

Essentially, when humans first began developing agriculture, the cats arrived for the mice and then decided to stick around. Or, as this researcher put it, “Cats weren’t domesticated on purpose; they just kind of invited themselves in.”


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thanks to the folks in Agua Prieta and Dayton

Yeah, I’ll get back to the sailing stuff next post. I just had one more thing to say

Once upon a time, I did some church mission work along the Mexico-U.S. border, helping to build homes for poor people. I went to Agua Prieta, just across the border from Douglas, Arizona.

Much of the economy of border towns depends on trade with the U.S., especially the maquiladoras, factories where Mexican workers work for American companies. The maquilas get special tax treatment, so the Mexicans will stay in Mexico, but they still enjoy some of the benefits that American employers offer, such as retirement and health plans.

In Agua Prieta, one of the biggest employers is General Motors. All of the seat belts in all General Motors vehicles are assembled in Agua Prieta. So if your life has been saved by a General Motors seat belt within the past 20 years, you can thank somebody in Agua Prieta. It wasn’t just the airbag that saved Tadpole’s life; it was also the seat belt. So somebody in Agua Prieta deserves thanks.

As for Dayton … When we first got El Caballero, there was a card inserted in the owner’s manual, signed, by hand, by all of the workers who had had a part in building the car. OK, maybe this was an idea from GM’s public-relations department, to try to make a more personal connection between the car buyer and the corporation. But, hey, I want to thank those workers. The steel frame they built around the passenger compartment of the car held, so Tadpole was not seriously injured, and if he had had passengers, none of them would have been seriously injured either.

In honor of all the hardworking auto workers everywhere, I hoist a toast of Tecate, and another of Bud Light.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I loved that car

Sure, it wasn’t anything fancy, but I’m going to miss El Caballero

You can see more photos of what’s left of El Caballero at Pat’s blog, Desert Sea. But I also wanted to put a couple of photos here.

The thing about El Caballero was that it wasn’t any sort of fancy car at all, but it was reliable. I could always count on it. It had run reliably for years, for about 120,000 miles, and I’m sure I could have looked forward to at least another 100,000 miles before it got to needing more repairs than it was worth – we took care of the oil changes and tune-ups, and the car just kept on running with no trouble. It’s almost always less expensive to keep an older car going than to get a new (or less-used) car, and El Caballero was definitely proving that point.

Plus, I just plain liked the car. No, it wasn’t a Ferrari, but it got the job done, and with good tires, it had nimble handling and was just plain fun to drive.

Well, the engine seems to have escaped damage (as best as I can tell, even the radiator remained intact), and three of the four tires are in good shape, and we got new windshield wipers a month ago, so there’s a lot of stuff on the car that’s still good. If there’s somebody out there who has a Cavalier body in great shape but needs the innards, we can make a deal.

I really appreciate all of the comments, both on the blog and through email, that I’ve gotten to let me know that all of you out there care about what’s been going on. It means a lot to me that so many people really care, even if they’ve never met me. One of the comments that I didn’t appreciate came from one of the parents of Tadpole’s Boy Scout troop – he had driven with her son in El Caballero to the Order of the Arrow conclave, and she claimed that she knew Tadpole was a bad driver because he drove too fast (according to Socorro County sheriff’s deputies, not a factor in this weekend’s accident), and because instead of using the brakes, he downshifted on long, steep, downhill stretches.

Let’s see … you’re on a narrow, twisty downhill mountain road. Which do you prefer: ride the brakes until the brakes overheat and fail, or downshift and let the engine slow the car down so you don’t need to use the brakes all that much?

Apparently, this particular parent believes that engine braking is a bad idea. And she sent out an email to the Scout troop and all of the troop's parents, telling everybody not to trust Tadpole’s driving skills. That’s a nasty blow – according to the EMT who was in the car just behind him when the tire blew, he did a magnificent job of controlling the car and keeping it from rolling over.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

“I’m OK, but …”

Words a parent doesn’t want to hear

Sunday afternoon, I got a phone call at the cabin. It started, “I’m OK, but (burst of static) airbag (static) seatbelt (static) EMTs are here, and (static) mile marker 174 (static) I’m OK, (static) ambulance, need to check me out (static), but really I’m OK.”

Long story short: Tadpole’s OK, but his face is all bruised up because of the airbag, and he’s got a severe case of seat-belt burn. He’s going to need a new pair of glasses.

He was headed to a summer college preview week at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, and he’s still going to participate in that. A tire blew – the newest tire on the car, the one that’s only been in service three months – and the car went out of control. It hit the right guardrail, and then it spun around and hit the left guardrail, and then it ricocheted back to embed itself in the right guardrail.

So Tadpole got checked out at the emergency room in Socorro, and then he was cleared to enroll in the college preview week. Now we have to wait and see what the insurance company will say about the car – is it a total loss, or will the insurance pay for repairs?

Oh, yeah, we got in some good sailing this weekend, and we have a good potential future crew member. Maybe I’ll have time to say more in a later post.

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Creative panhandling

There’s more serious stuff I’ll get to later, but now, for something light

Over at Nonsequiturs, Nanseeking is discussing her upcoming Fulbright exchange to Xalapa, Mexico. She has been given advice to be especially careful when using ATMs in Mexico, but as far as I can tell, the advice equally applies to ATMs anywhere. For example, ATMs in exposed locations may have people with less-than-honest intentions watching, with the intent of mugging or the like.

More likely than muggers, in my experience, have been panhandlers. They have just seen someone get money out of the ATM, so the mark doesn’t have the excuse that he or she doesn’t have any cash to give.

There is one panhandler who stands out in my memory. In this case, I hadn’t been to an ATM, but I had just bought gas for my car at a convenience store near UNM, and the panhandler had seen me get change from the store clerk.

He had a really good story. “My car’s out of gas. My uncle has a gas station in the South Valley, and I just need enough gas to get there, just a dollar’s worth.” (This was when gas was about $1 a gallon.) He pointed to his car, a Cadillac, circa 1972, 23 feet long and 9 feet wide, seven tons of solid steel powered by a 406-cubic-inch V8 that had no sort of fuel-efficiency devices whatsoever. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to get all the way to the South Valley in that gunboat on a mere gallon of gas.

I had him pull up to the pump, and I bought him not just $1, but $2 worth of gas. Sure, he probably didn’t really need the gas, and he was probably hoping for me just to give him the cash, so he could spend it on something else. But I had to admire the creativity of his approach.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

One-design sailing NMSC style

It may not be as glamorous as an Etchells, but the Sunfish can be fast and fun too

Sunday would have been a great day for sailing, with brisk (if at times gusty) winds and no looming thunderclouds. But there was work to be done on the marina, and also work to be done on our little flotilla of Sunfish, so we didn’t get out on Black Magic at all.

Tadpole, however, took one of the ’fish out, and another sailor, whom I’ll call “Old Connecticut,” borrowed another, so the two got to sail together for a while.

They did go up the Narrows toward the main body of the lake a couple of times, but the winds out there were stiff, so for the most part, they just cruised around the relatively sheltered cove in which the marina floats. The wind was hugely variable, so at times the ’fish would come to a near stop, and then there would be a gust that sent them careening across the cove. Those things can really fly.

Tadpole and Old Connecticut were having loads of fun. They were still having fun when a sudden gust of wind hit OC. He blew the mainsheet, but not in time to keep the boat from tipping over, in the gradual sort of slow motion one normally sees only in horror movies and nightmares – the boat leaned farther, and farther, and then the sail was in the water. He got himself up on the centerboard and tried to right the boat, but mainly all he could do was slow the inevitable, as the boat turned turtle. The boat ended up upside-down, with the daggerboard sticking up in the air, with OC sitting on top.

(cue soap opera dramatic music) At this point, Tadpole was getting ready to tow the upside-down Sunfish with his right-side-up one, but rescue arrived in the form of a family in an old-timey motor launch (I’m guessing circa 1948) flying a pirate flag. It turns out that the family has a vacation place in the same neighborhood as Five O’Clock Somewhere, and a daughter has been a classmate in Tadpole’s German class.

So the pirates in the motor launch towed OC and the ’fish back to the dock, where we eventually were able to right it. OC went to change into dry clothes, and then we socialized for a while in the marina pavilion.

The conversation came around to Black Magic, as well as Etchells in general. It turns out that when OC was a teenager sailing in Long Island Sound (interestingly, his first boat was a Sunfish), he saw the very first Etchells in competition. He talked about how the racing committee had a hard time dealing with these strange new boats, and especially their habit of wiping out the competition. Ironically, however, he’s never sailed on one. I told him that he must come for a ride on Black Magic sometime.

One of the reasons that the Etchells is seeing a resurgence of popularity has been its strict one-design status. In one-design racing, all of the boats are supposed to be as close to identical as possible, so the contest is strictly about the skills of the skippers and crews of the boats involved. It’s a lot like NASCAR, in that there are very strict standards for the boat, crew, and equipment, so that, at least in theory, nobody has an advantage.

On the other hand, if you have a fleet full of different boats with different handling and sailing characteristics, you have to have some sort of handicap system to adjust the finishing times of each boat so that the official score is at least an attempt to quantify the skills of the boats’ skippers and crews, rather than just being a measure of the boats’ inherent speed (or lack thereof). But while some of the handicap systems are pretty good, they are all far from perfect. One-design racing avoids the issue of handicap altogether.

Zorro has been working for ages to develop an Etchells one-design fleet in New Mexico and west Texas. Now, that dream of his looks to be coming true. But I was looking around the New Mexico Sailing Club marina this past weekend, and I realized that we probably have a really good Sunfish fleet, if we could only coordinate things. Pat, Tadpole, and I have five, and several other club members have one or two lying around somewhere. In terms of sheer numbers, the Sunfish are probably the NMSC’s biggest one-design fleet. We ought to put on an event to get them all out sailing together.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cool new stuff

And a few miscellaneous observations

The latest splurge on Black Magic has been a new set of spinnaker sheets. We had one break on a heavy-wind day during the spring series regattas, and because the other one was likely to go soon as well, we had replaced them both temporarily with some random lines that we had available – very heavy, but better than nothing.

So this week, the line for our new sheets arrived: Flightline, which is a dyneema core with a polyester-blend sleeve. We got the quarter-inch size; it’s astonishingly slim, but still has greater strength than our really heavy temporary substitute line. We stripped the sheath off the first 14 feet of each sheet, to make them even lighter – what’s cool about these lines is that the core is actually colored too, so even when they’re stripped, they’re distinguishable from each other.

On the way to the marina, I noticed a couple of yucca plants in bloom near the head of the trail. I decided they were worth a picture.

Pat and Tadpole spent a lot of time working on the marina and on our dinghies this afternoon, while I went in to Chama to get groceries. We now have all five Sunfish in the water, as well as the Snark, although the boats still need a bit of work to get ready for the Boy Scout troop that’s coming soon from Texas to learn sailing. You can also see from the picture some of the work that’s been ongoing – salvageable pieces of the old A dock are being used to widen the walkway that connects A, B, and C docks together and create a better dinghy docking area. Pat and Tadpole have now moved four of the five Sunfish and also the world’s rattiest Snark to the new dinghy dock.

You can’t really tell from the picture, but this Snark has had a hard life. The original concept was for an inexpensive, fun boat made of Styrofoam. Some previous owner of this particular Snark decided to make it stronger by applying a fiberglass coating to it; unfortunately, the particular type of fiberglass resin that was used caused the Styrofoam to dissolve, leading to a strange sort of skin rash in which the boat was flaking apart. Subsequently, duct tape was used to try to hold everything together. That worked, sort of. Now, the raised portion of Styrofoam where the mast is mounted is decaying. Looks like time for more duct tape.

The weather this afternoon was threatening, with looming thunder clouds, and with lightning and thunder as well. We left the lake just as the rain was starting to fall. The rain moved on as night fell, and we had some awesome light conditions at Five O’Clock Somewhere, including a rainbow.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Can’t we all just get along?

Why does it seem to be that different sorts of boaters just don’t want to cooperate?

This post is mostly copied from a reply that I put onto Pat’s blog, Desert Sea. In his blog, he describes how sailing regattas are run at the Carter Lake Regatta in Colorado, which he assisted with a couple of weeks ago. The club running the regatta used two cabin cruisers, a Boston Whaler, and a rigid-hull inflatable boat (rib) to run the races.

One thing we have learned from seeing how races are run at other places is just how useful it can be to have other sorts of boats than sailboats available to help run regattas.

A few months ago, the commodore of the RGSC sent out a questionnaire to members regarding the direction the club should move in the future, and one of the questions was whether the RGSC should develop friendships with powerboaters and/or have a power squadron as part of the club. I was surprised that more than half of the respondents to the survey were vehemently against even thinking of making friends with powerboaters. They seemed to regard the powerboaters as the scum of the earth, with no redeeming values, and certainly with nothing that they could offer to us sailors.

However, the RGSC has some sailors who want to sail catamarans and dinghies in our regattas. In particular, there are some sailors working on building a fleet of M Scows. Right now, we don’t have the safety provisions in place to run a regatta involving boats that frequently capsize and aren’t always self-righting. Having a powerboat in the area to provide safety and, if necessary, rescue, is essential if we are to allow the M Scows and other small boats to participate.

That survey also showed that club members are vehemently against the club owning a boat or two of its own.

I have made a suggestion to Cornhusker’s husband, Bassmaster, that the sailing and fishing clubs could help each other out. If the sailing club regattas and the fishing club’s tournaments are on alternating weekends, then the fishermen could provide a safety boat or two for our regattas, and we could provide support for the fishing club’s weigh-ins, paperwork, and whatever else frees more fishermen to participate in the tournament.

It’s a win-win situation, especially for the fishermen who help the sailors and the sailors who help the fishermen – they get to participate in the parties put on by both clubs.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why I don’t like mind-control drugs

As I said in the last post, I’d rather deal with the occasional nightmare than not have dreams at all

One of the problems with American attitudes toward medicine is the eagerness of people to say, “Oh, let’s find a pill you can take to fix it.” Yes, if you have a bacterial infection, it makes sense to take a round of pills and get rid of it. But now, it seems that so many other conditions that weren’t considered serious problems now are – toenail fungus, male performance issues, and a host of mental conditions.

Yes, some cases are severe, but it’s only been recently that such things as extreme shyness were seen as pathological conditions to be fixed with a pill. Many children, especially boys, are diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and put on medications to get them under control, when the behavior that is now seen as pathological would just have been “boys being boys” a generation ago and treated with stern discipline. Among the younger students I see in the college courses I teach, I often get one who says, “I have ADD. Therefore I’m not capable of behaving myself.” What I have discovered is that these students are indeed capable of behaving themselves if they’re engaged in challenging coursework that they find meaningful. The trick is getting them out of the mindset that they’re doomed by brain chemistry to misbehave.

In my own case, I spent some years on anti-depressants, and those were the worst years of my life. Sure, the drugs got rid of the lows. But they also got rid of the highs. I wasn’t crying, but I couldn’t laugh either. I didn’t have nightmares, but I didn’t have dreams either.

This morning I had not one, but two dreams that made me glad I could have them.

The second one was influenced by the very wet weather we have had lately. I was in Los Alamos, and needed to drive to Pojoaque along with some family members, and there had been so much rain that Cochiti Lake was overfilled and flooded the road between Los Alamos and Pojoaque, so we had to take a detour. Then at Pojoaque, we arrived at the sparkling-new international airport (no, in real life, Pojoaque doesn’t have an airport), apparently built to complement the casino. It was a spectacular airport, beautifully designed, with art of all sorts, soft lighting, and just a wonderfully pleasant atmosphere, much like a fine restaurant.

The security checkpoint had all sorts of fancy electronic devices and gates to go through, courtesy of the scientific lab at Los Alamos. The attendant looked up at me and said, “I remember you from last year. You’re going to Geneva, aren’t you?”

“No,” I said. “Lucerne, actually.” After getting through security, I went to the boarding gate, which really resembled a nice restaurant, with candlelit tables and everything. There was even a pastry cart, and I selected some sort of blueberry-covered cake. Then when I got my cake, I discovered it wasn’t cake, but rather something like marzipan, and it was a Native American sculpture of a blue horse.

The earlier dream had a Star Wars theme to it. I was camped out in the desert on Tatooine, in a pop-up tent trailer, much bigger than the one that I had borrowed to camp in for dockmaster duty. I went sailing, which seemed odd, because who ever heard of sailing in the desert? How could there possibly be sailing on Tatooine? Then I returned to the camper, and I discovered that I would need to seek out a great Jedi master.

The Jedi master lived in a rock outcropping a ways across the desert. I traveled via speeder to the outcropping, and then to get into the rocks, I needed to go up stairs, through tunnels, up elevators and escalators, on a levitating sailboat, and around rocky paths. Some jawas showed up to help lead me. Finally, I reached the entrance to the Jedi master’s cave, and as I looked in, I saw a mother cat and two kittens walking across the front part of the cave. I recognized the cat and immediately knew who the master was, even before I heard the jawa behind me say, “Oh, the master always has cats.”

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend recap

Not that there’s that much of it that I can recall …

Last week’s fierce winds meant that there was a lot of pollen and other stuff in the air, including pine pollen, which ordinarily is too heavy and sticky to become airborne. So when, Wednesday night, I felt some irritation in my throat, I didn’t think much of it – I figured it was just a side-effect of the allergies that were making my nose run and eyes burn. Thursday, the irritation grew worse – it wasn’t really soreness, but almost a bruised feeling that made swallowing harder – but it was still easily dismissed as related to all of the allergens in the air. I kept taking antihistamines and drinking herb tea.

Friday, however, the problem definitely could NOT be dismissed as allergies. I had a raging sore throat, swallowing was really painful, and I had swollen glands, a mild headache, and a slight fever. I was not a happy camper on the way up to Five O’Clock Somewhere Friday afternoon.

Saturday morning, I couldn’t get out of bed, except briefly to use the bathroom or dose myself up with all the remedies available – diphenhydramine, ibuprofen, my very precious stash of pseudoephedrine, and the herbal teas, which contained such things as thyme and licorice root, specifically targeted at upper-respiratory ailments. Pat and Tadpole went to the marina, both to work on it and to meet Penzance, who was to be crew for us in that afternoon’s regatta.

As it was, the regatta didn’t happen. Black Magic was the only boat to sign up, and at the time the racing was to begin, there were threatening thunderstorms in the area. So Pat stuck around and did more work on the marina, and Penzance gave Tadpole a ride back to Albuquerque, where he was to go to a friend’s Sweet Sixteen party that evening.

About seven, Tadpole called to ask where Pat had left the key to El Caballero, so he could drive to the party, which was in a different part of town about six miles away. I was able to tell him exactly where the key was: right on the end of the dining table at Five O’Clock Somewhere. Since the city bus system in Albuquerque runs only minimal service on weekends, he wasn’t able to get to the party. (We have since decided we need to make a duplicate key to El Caballero for Tadpole, so he won’t have that kind of problem again.)

Saturday night was a rough one for me. Thanks to all of that herbal tea, the sore throat pain had subsided. But my legs refused to settle down to rest, and what little sleep I did get was marred by the old nightmares that have mostly been banished. The restless legs were probably a side-effect of the pseudoephedrine; the nightmares purely psychological – too many reminders of a very bad time in the past.

Sunday morning, I was in worse shape. The sore throat was back, in all of its glory, my eyes were swollen and goopy from waking up crying from the nightmares, and the fever was back, too, so I was both shivering and sweating at the same time. I stayed in bed until after one p.m., getting up only to get myself tea.

Eventually, I began to feel better. The sore throat abated, the nasal congestion decreased, and the fever went away. I took a shower, and I was almost feeling human afterward. Pat and I made a brief visit to the marina, and then we headed home to Albuquerque.

The medical establishment would probably disagree with the way that I handled my cold, but then, the medical establishment caused the events that gave me both the nightmares and physical disabilities, and then the medical establishment tried to “cure” the situation by giving me anti-psychotic drugs that did away with the nightmares by doing away with ALL dreams and killing my emotions so that I was a robot for the first three years of my son’s life. I have almost no memory of that time period. Of course, the drugs also had the side-effect of leaving me without any strength to pursue a malpractice lawsuit; that was left to the family of a patient that this doctor and hospital had actually killed.

I quit the drugs when I found I couldn’t get life insurance while on them; I had to go seven years without “seeking or receiving treatment for mental illness” and without killing myself in order to be insurable. So I did that, and I’m glad I did. I’m glad to be free of the drugs. I’d rather deal with the occasional nightmare than go without dreams.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Poetry Corner: T. S. Eliot (again)

Springtime in New Mexico rolls around once more

The saying in New Mexico is that we have four seasons: summer, fall, winter, and wind. This week has certainly been a confirmation of that observation; Wednesday, in particular, the sustained winds were in the 20s and 30s, and in a couple places in the state there were gusts of 70. Today (Thursday) is less windy, but it’s still blustery.

While most of the time, sailors want wind in order to sail fast, there is such a thing as too much wind – for example, when it causes boats to capsize or breaks rigging or masts.

The wind is often a topic for poets, including one of my favorites, T. S. Eliot. You might find the words vaguely familiar; they were adapted for the songs “Memory” and “Grizabella” in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Cats. In its original form, however, the poem doesn’t have quite the cheerful ending; instead, we get the image of the insomniac, wandering the city streets at night.

“Rhapsody on a Windy Night”

Twelve o'clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

Half-past one,
The street lamp sputtered,
The street lamp muttered,
The street lamp said, "Regard that woman
Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin."

The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.

Half-past two,
The street lamp said,
"Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter."
So the hand of a child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child's eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
An old crab with barnacles on his back,
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.

Half-past three,
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.

The lamp hummed:
"Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smoothes the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and old Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain."
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars."

The lamp said,
"Four o'clock,
Here is the number on the door.
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life."

The last twist of the knife.

-- T. S. Eliot

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Dockmaster duty

No sailing, but docksitting has its rewards

From noon Wednesday through midnight Saturday, Tadpole and I served as dockmasters for the New Mexico Sailing Club marina at Heron Lake. (Pat had to work, and then over the weekend he went to Colorado to serve as a race officer at the Carter Lake Open regatta – if he hasn’t already done so, he should be putting details of that experience on his blog soon.) In order to keep costs down, the club doesn’t hire a dockmaster; instead, all members who have boats in the marina serve a half-week as dockmaster.

The dockmaster serves a couple of purposes. One is to keep an eye on the marina as an extra measure of security, with a radio to call the State Parks officers if there’s any trouble. In the event of severe weather, the dockmaster checks that all the boats remain securely tied up, and if one is damaged, the dockmaster can notify the owner. Also, dockmasters help sailors entering and leaving their slips, especially in high winds or if the sailors are inexperienced. The dockmaster also does miscellaneous maintenance and fix-up jobs on the marina; a “job jar” is maintained for that purpose.

One benefit of dockmaster duty is social – especially on a busy weekend, the dockmaster gets to meet a lot of people as they come to cook their meals on the gas grills in the pavilion, and impromptu pot-luck meals often happen. It’s fun swapping tales with other sailors: how they got into sailing, how they got their boats, adventures they’ve had on the water either here or elsewhere. Prospective new club members also often drop by, and it’s fun to be able to show them that, yes, there is sailing even in the desert and the mountains.

Since the previous weekend had been a holiday weekend, this past weekend was very quiet, with few sailors coming to the lake. That meant Tadpole and I got a lot of reading in (including SAT prep for Tad), and he did some work on one of the marina walkways, attaching pieces to make it wider and more stable.

One drawback of dockmaster duty is that somebody has to stay either at the marina or camped out on the point above the marina at all times; the dockmaster can’t go sailing. So for most of four days, we watched what would have been perfect sailing weather go mostly to waste – calm mornings, but 10 to 20 mph in the afternoons, sunshine, and almost no boats out enjoying it.

Friday night, Tadpole drove south to Albuquerque, where he was to take the SAT Saturday morning. Highlander arrived and adjusted the marina winches to adapt to the still-rising lake level, and then he and Ms. Highlander took their boat out for a sunset sail. When they returned, they shared some Glenfiddich that they had had on the boat (warm with a bit of a chocolate flavor), and then we went up to the camping area on the point, and they brought out some Glengarioch (less chocolate, more peat-smoke) and then the Laphroaig (lots of peat smoke). I also found out that Ms. Highlander plays her pipes regularly at the pub in Albuquerque that Penzance frequents (this is the place with a very short wine list, but long lists of beer and whiskey). Pat and I will have to go there sometime when she’s playing.

Tadpole returned Saturday evening, and then Sunday we packed up the camper and headed back to Albuquerque. Late Sunday night, Zorro called. He’d been sailing at Elephant Butte, but conditions were horrible (the actual words he used aren’t suitable for a family-rated blog). Winds were very light, and there were so many powerboaters out on the water that their wakes made trying to sail miserable. I told Zorro he should have been up at Heron, where there was a lot of perfect wind going to waste, and high-speed powerboats aren’t allowed.

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