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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Launching and retrieving a sailboat, part 3

The final installment

Step 3: Haul the boat out of the water. Depending on how well (or poorly) the trailer is balanced, it can be a good idea to have someone on the bow of the boat to keep the trailer from popping a wheelie.

Step 4: Secure the trailer by following steps in the opposite order of launching: Chock the wheels ...

... jack up the trailer, restore the front wheel to its travel position, back up the truck, remove the rope ...

... and hitch up the truck.

Step 5: If you're taking a highway journey, you will now need to take down the mast, make sure the trailer's support pads are correctly adjusted firmly against the hull of the boat, and add a couple of tie-down straps. But if you're just going a couple of blocks to a place to store the boat, and there aren't any overhead utility lines in the way, you're good to go.

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Launching and retrieving a sailboat, part 2

The saga continues ...

Step 4, continued: At this point, usually the person on the boat starts the motor and backs the boat off the trailer. However, if the boat doesn't have a motor or, as happened Sunday, the motor doesn't start, lines are rigged ...

... so the crew on the pier can pull the boat off the trailer ...

... and Step 5: secure it to the pier.

Retrieving a sailboat is not too different from launching one, with the steps done in reverse, although it can be a little trickier.

Step 1: Using the same method as when launching the boat, put the trailer into the water. The person on the boat will need to figure out exactly where the trailer is and how it is aligned, since all or most of the trailer is often submerged, and the water may be murky.

The person on the boat lines the boat up with the trailer and steers it on. This can be challenging if there is wind or chop. It can be helpful to have a person on shore, straddling the rope at the rear bumper of the truck, to signal the helmsperson and help him or her align the boat.

Step 2: The boat is now settled snugly on the trailer, so it's time to ...

... run a line to secure the boat to the trailer.

to be continued ...

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Launching and retrieving a sailboat

This time with pictures!

Sunday afternoon, we ended up helping with two major operations involving launching and retrieving sailboats.

We have a member of our club who has made major voyages yo polar regions, and so for the purposes of this blog, his nickname is “Ross.” On his last journey, he encountered rough enough weather that he decided he wanted a bigger and sturdier boat. There were a couple of problems with his new boat, however: Its bottom needed repainting, and it didn’t have a trailer.

The solution was to put it on one of Dumbledore’s boat trailers – the trailer was a little small for the boat, but for the quarter-mile between the boat ramp and Dumbldore’s place, it would do.
After the cleaning and painting was done, it was time to put Ross’ boat back in the water and get Dumbledore’s boat back onto the trailer. As many of the visitors to this blog come in search of information about how to launch and retrieve sailboats, I documented the process. Now visitors seeking information can have not just words, but pictures, to show how it’s done.

A couple of words of caution: Dumbledore has done this so often that he makes it look easy, and Sunday afternoon’s weather was dead calm. Retrieval, in particular, is more difficult when there is a crosswind or choppy water.

Step 1: Back the boat down the ramp to the edge of the water. This was a little precarious, because the boat is bigger than the trailer was designed for.

Step 2: Get the trailer ready to roll into the water.

This involves placing chocks behind the trailer wheels...

... unhitching the trailer from the truck, jacking the trailer tongue up to put the front wheel (usually also the spare tire) in place, moving the truck a little forward, jacking the trailer down onto the front wheel ...

... and fastening a rope (or chain or strap or cable) between the trailer and truck. The rope needs to be long enough to allow the trailer to get to water deep enough to float the boat. In this case, there is another rope tied to the rear of the trailer. That is because there is a sandbar at the base of the boat ramp, and people are needed to stand on the courtesy dock and haul the trailer out into the water.

Finally, get at least one person on board the boat and remove all but one of the lines holding the boat to the trailer.

Step 3: Remove the chocks and let the boat roll into the water ...

... and if you have a sandbar at the base of the boat ramp (as often happens when powerboats ues it), be prepared to pull the trailer over the sandbar.

Step 4: To remove the boat from the trailer, first remove the last line holding the boat to the trailer.

to be continued ...

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Saturday taking it easy

A much-needed change of pace

I have been feeling a huge lot of stress lately, not so much about sailboat racing as about all of the rest of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Work, money, health, personal issues, all have been combining to make me feel like a cockroach getting squished beneath somebody’s boot heel.

So it was actually something of a feeling of relief when I learned that none of the other Etchells would be racing Saturday. Zorro has been nominated to another Hall of Fame, and so he had to be present for a ceremony at halftime of an afternoon football game, Sutherland was ill, and Applegal was doing committee boat duty.

Since I didn’t have anybody to race against, and the conditions were light enough that racing wouldn’t have been all that fun, I decided to participate in the treasure hunt that the cruisers were holding. Pat and I joined Carguy on his big comfy cruising boat and set … well, not exactly sail … there was almost no wind, so we cranked up the trusty diesel engine.

We were about two thirds of the way to the starting area for the treasure hunt when we got a bit of wind, so we put up the sails and shut off the engine. We discovered that a small bat had taken up residence in the mainsail; it was clearly miffed at being awakened in the middle of the day, and once it took off, it fluttered around the boat for some time, probably utterly confused at ending up in the middle of a lake. My thought was that this was very Halloween, an orange boat with a bat fluttering around. Eventually the bat left; I hope it found a nice place to catch up on its sleep.

The cruising event consisted of two components, both of which were designed not only so that actual sailing wasn’t required, but also that even being on a boat wasn’t required. One component was a poker run, in which participants were to go to each of the three marinas on the lake and pick up two playing cards at each marina. The best poker hand would later win a bottle of Trader Joe’s wine. The bigger contest was sort of geocaching – it had the geo component, at least. Participants were given GPS coordinates for the location of a fender that might be on water or land, but that, we were assured, would be accessible to treasure hunters whether they were in a boat or not.

We got to the Rock Canyon Marina, where we picked up our first two cards: the Queen of spades, and the four of clubs. Not so great. The GPS indicated the other treasure was ashore, to the west, so Pat went in search of it, while Carguy and I took a look at the boat he’s planning to buy from us, which is in that marina. As we looked the boat over, we did discover that there was less missing from it than we had previously thought, and we began to make plans to fix the things that needed fixing.

Pat returned to the marina to report that the treasure had been left in a location where a person in a car could have picked it up through a car window, while people on boats had to hike a quarter mile uphill through deep sand. Someone had beat him to it.

So we set off again, under motor because the winds were wimpy. As we passed the starting area where the racers were beginning to think of racing, we put the sails up again and shut the motor down. There really wasn’t much wind, but since we were cruising rather than racing, we didn’t let that bother us. Pat and I got a lot of time to explain principles of sailing and sail trim, and give definitions of terms, and just help Carguy to understand how sailing works. Since he’s already a hot-air balloonist, there are some concepts that he already gets, and he’s an eager student.

Also, we had a good time just plain socializing. Where on a racing boat, the focus has to stay on the boat and sail trim and the competitors, and chat is kept to a minimum, on a cruising boat, the chat is a big part of the enjoyment. When I’m racing, there’s no alcohol allowed until the racing is over, but in cruising, there’s no problem with a beer or two – and Carguy served up some nice sandwiches, too.

The wind faded, and we cranked up the motor to get to the next stop on the poker run, the Dam Site Marina, where we picked up two Jacks – diamonds and clubs. Our poker hand was looking a little better.

After we left the Dam Site, the wind came up nicely, so we put up the sails again. For maybe 20 minutes, we had some really good conditions. Then things faded again. We realized the day was getting late, and after making radio contact with the Marina Del Sur to find out when it closed, we knew we had to put the motor on again to get there in time to get our final two cards. We got there just in time, and got our cards, the seven of clubs and a joker. That left us with a pretty good hand – three of a kind jacks, with a queen kicker.

In the evening was a social event at the J/24 fleet compound. There was food and socialization. Tadpole arrived – he’d had to spend the morning and early afternoon in Albuquerque, taking a college entrance exam, and then in the afternoon he was supposed to meet with some of his calculus classmates for a study session – except none of the others showed up. There was also a sailing club board meeting; as club secretary, I took detailed notes, but I don’t think readers of the blog would be terribly interested.

Pat had the idea that we ought to get Black Magic launched and ready to race Sunday morning. Zorro had said that he would come up, so there would be some Etchells fleet action. I didn’t think that was likely – if Zorro was celebrating the night before, he would probably not be in shape to drive up to the lake in the early morning hours to race the next day. Plus the weather prediction was for even less wind than the day before.

As it was, the winds were even lighter than the very light winds that had been predicted. Pat and I met Carguy at the boat he’s buying, and we spent several hours going through what was needed. I was reminded of the past … when we bought Black Magic and went out to California to pick her up, Zorro had loads of fun at the West Marine store, spending our money on stuff for the boat. Now, while we don’t have a store right at hand, Pat and I are having fun helping Carguy spend his money. And Carguy’s really enthusiastic about the whole project, too. We took the floor out of the boat, and he’s going to have a carpenter he knows replicate it. We looked at what hardware we have and what we’re missing, and things like lines and cleats and all sorts of stuff. Plus the boat has been neglected for a while, so Carguy got started on cleaning the boat, too.

For me, this weekend has been a welcome break. Not having to think about racing, but instead being on a boat that has cupholders, has been a relief. With all of the rest of life throwing stress at me, I was glad to be able to rest. And Carguy’s a really great guy to spend a weekend with for stress relief.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sailboat Shots for Tillerman

Tillerman recently put up a post featuring pictures of one-of-a-kind boats. I would like to volunteer Rags, the flagship of a man I call Cap'n Groovy, as such a boat.

Cap'n Groovy is an artist who lives in T or C. He specializes in creating art out of "found objects" -- for example, when the local Sonic Drive-In remodeled, he took the old orange neon-threaded ice-cream cones and created a submarine.

Cap'n Groovy sails just to sail. He's not into racing or performance or anything like that. He just takes his boat, Rags, out onto the lake whenever he feels like it, and he just sails. He just is.


Catastrophe! Disaster!

I have recently learned about a worldwide shortage of hops that is leading brewers to cut production and raise prices, especially small brewers of specialty beers – but even the major brewers are being hit. They may not use as much hops per gallon of beer, but they brew such a huge amount of beer that their total hops consumption is huge.

This disaster has several causes: two years in a row of bad weather and therefore poor crops in Europe, poor crops in China, and market forces in the United States that have led farmers to plant other crops instead.

The upshot is that when Pat and I went to our favorite brewpub this evening, we found signs announcing that the price of growler refills has gone up, and kegs will no longer be available for purchase.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Winter is coming

And it’s making itself felt

Back in April, the furnace malfunctioned – the blower came on and kept blowing, and nothing short of unplugging the furnace would make it stop. Since the weather was already getting warmer, we just left it unplugged, in the hopes that we would have some money to pay for repairs by the time the weather got cold again.

Three weeks ago, the weather began to feel a bit chilly, and since furnace technicians are busy in the fall, we called to make an appointment for repairs. The first company we called was booked solid for more than a month, but the second one was able to make an appointment in just over a week.

The technician came and checked out the furnace, and he reported that there was a bad circuit board in the blower controller. Since our furnace was so old, he wasn’t sure that he would be able to find a replacement board. Old? Why, when we bought the house, the furnace was brand-new, the latest high-tech, high-efficiency, pilot-free marvel. The home sellers had receipts and warranty paperwork and all sorts of nifty things. The brand-new furnace was a big selling point for the house. And that was only … oh, well, OK, that was 15 years ago.

Anyhow, the technician said that if he couldn’t find a replacement board, he would have to replace the entire blower unit, and since the cost for that was nearly the cost of a brand-new furnace, we might as well go for that.

The good news is that the technician phoned last week to say that he had managed to find a replacement circuit board, and he installed it last Friday, just in time for the weather to turn cold. It still cost a lot, but not anywhere near what a new furnace would have cost.

We went up to Five O’Clock Somewhere for the weekend, where we had front-row seats for the arrival of wintry weather. Saturday was blustery and chilly, and Sunday was cloudy, windy, and downright cold. We even got a snowstorm – not enough to bury anything, but a dusting over everything.

Sunday night we arrived back home to find that there had even been flakes in the air in Albuquerque, although the only indication that they had been there was that the streets and lawns were damp. The television news reported blizzard conditions and dangerous driving in the eastern part of the state.

Since the furnace had been switched off so long, the thermostat’s batteries had died and I needed to reprogram it. But now we have heat, and it’s coming on and going off exactly when we want it, and life is good.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Visitor 25K

This time, the visitor had a very good reason for being here

Well, it’s official. Five O’Clock Somewhere has had its 25,000th visitor.

This one was an AOLer in the UK, in (what else?) the UTC+0 time zone. He or she arrived on an inquiry about “how to teach an evening class.” Well, those of you who follow my blog probably can already guess my answer.

The main thing to remember about an evening class is that many of the students are taking an evening class because their day is otherwise occupied by working for a living. There are a lot of what are called “non-traditional students” who, instead of entering college straight from high school, have been out in the real world, sometimes for a very long time, before returning to a classroom.

These students often have families that they have to take care of, and they nearly always have bosses that they have to please – and some of those bosses are horribly unenlightened. They do not recognize that by getting an education, my students are becoming better employees. Or maybe they’re worried that if my students learn too much, they may threaten the boss’ position by becoming better qualified. Whichever is the case, such sadistic bosses, after being told which evenings my students have class, seem to take delight in making them work overtime on those evenings.

When I teach non-traditional students, I work to make accommodations for family and work situations that my students have to deal with. This is not the same thing as leniency. The students do still have to do the work. But I’m willing to work on scheduling to help students accommodate family and job obligations. For example, if some students have to miss an essay peer-review session, I will give those students an opportunity to get together and do the peer review on their own; if they can show me notes to prove they have done so, they get credit for the peer review.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I greatly enjoy teaching evening classes, because the non-traditional students bring a much greater sense of responsibility to the class. They have learned that anything worth getting has to be earned, and they most definitely don’t whine to me that I can’t give them a failing grade because they need a passing grade to meet prerequisites for their intended major field. The students who arrive in my classroom straight from high school have apparently been successful with that argument, and last year one of those students even took such a complaint to the Dean of Students. Yes, I did eventually give him a passing grade, but not until he actually completed the work required to pass the course.

Back when I was an undergraduate non-traditional student with a 100-mile commute and a toddler and husband to take care of, I once had an instructor who seemed to think I had no business whatsoever being in college at all. He seemed to think I should be staying at home and taking care of the kid, and he did not give any sort of leniency – when I had to miss an exam because of a family emergency, he refused to take that as an excuse, and he was about to give me a zero on the exam, which would have meant I would have failed the class. I was saved when another instructor, hearing the argument, poked his head in the office door and offered to allow me to take the exam with his class, which hadn’t taken that particular exam yet. My instructor clearly wasn’t happy with the idea, but by that time several of the other instructor’s students were right there with him, and the glare of public exposure meant my instructor had no choice. I subsequently enjoyed a half-hour of the other instructor’s office hours, with his students, gaining far deeper insights than the class lectures from my instructor’s classes ever even hinted at.

So I have vowed never to be like that instructor of mine, and I aspire to be like the instructor whose students enjoyed his company so much that they trailed him after class to his office and spent his office hours in avid discussion of the concepts involved in the course. By the way, the subject wasn’t English; it was math. Oh, and the instructor who put me down was a tenure-track associate professor, but the really brilliant instructor was “adjunct faculty” – a fancy way of saying part-time instructor with (at least at a major university) no future.

Getting back to the original question: The key to teaching evening classes is to recognize that the students are usually much more mature than day students, but they also have other obligations that they have to work around. Make accommodations, but don’t give any free passes.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wanted: oddball family members …

… to attend a family reunion

November is approaching, and I’m working on plans for this year’s National Novel Writing Month project. I’ve been successful the past two years with Murder at the Community College and Murder at the Yacht Club, with a reliable formula: I create a character who is really unlikable and lowdown and probably deserves to depart this earth; I have a dozen or more characters who have conflicts with this person and who have very good reasons for wanting him dead; I kill him off in an interesting way; I then spend 50,000 or more words going through all of the suspects, sorting out red herrings, and having my main characters go through various exciting plot twists.

This year, I’m going with a topic Mom suggested shortly after returning from such an event in Arkansas, Murder at the Family Reunion. My main character was an only child whose parents are both dead, but her boyfriend comes from a big, boisterous Irish family, whom she is meeting for the first time at the reunion. There are a few Italians and others who have married in, but there’s certainly going to be a lot of blarney flying around.

Here’s where I’m asking for help from my readers: If you have a story of an eccentric relative or a bizarre event at a family reunion, tell me. I promise I will change details to protect the identity of the guilty. The family involved doesn’t need to be Irish, or any particular other ethnic group … just, umm … interesting. I’m especially interested in characters who are slightly off-kilter.

Anybody who provides a story that I can use will get a copy of my manuscript, as of December 1, 2007, as a reward for the help.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Grammar moment: Confusing verbs redux

OK, so it’s a rerun. But it’s a goodie

Yes, this is a repeat of a post I’ve posted before. But that was back in the extremely early days of this blog, when I had maybe three visitors a day, and the topic is one that does often arise: How do you know which verb to use? Here is that early post, with a few minor alterations:

A comment on another post raised the question of the difference between the verbs lie and lay. In addition to that pair, two others often cause confusion: sit/set and rise/raise. All three pairs have the same problem ― one verb is intransitive, meaning that when you do it, you do it yourself and you don’t do it to some other person or object, while the other is transitive, which means you do it TO something.

Intransitive: lie ― to recline
Present tense: I lie on the beach all the time. Tad lies on the beach all the time.
Past tense: I lay on the beach yesterday.
Present participle: I like lying on the beach.
Past participle: I have lain on the beach every day for a month.

Transitive: lay ― to put (something) down
Present tense: I lay flowers on the memorial every month. Tad lays them too.
Past tense: I laid flowers there yesterday.
Present participle: Laying flowers is a valuable tradition.
Past participle: I have laid flowers for many years.

Intransitive: sit ― to be seated
Present tense: I always sit in the front row at the cinema. Tad always sits in the front row.
Past tense: I sat in the front row yesterday.
Present participle: Sitting in the front row is good.
Past participle: I have sat in the front row for ages.

Transitive: set ― to put (something) down
Present tense: I set cookies on the table every day. Tad sets cookies on the table every day.
Past tense: I set cookies onthe table yesterday.
Present participle: I really like is setting cookies on the table.
Past participle: Tad has set cookies on the table for years.

Intransitive: rise ― to get up
Present tense: I rise every day at noon. Tad rises every day at noon.
Past tense: One day, many years ago, I rose at eleven.
Present participle: Rising earlier doesn’t work for me.
Past participle: I have risen at noon for most of my life.

Transitive: raise ― to lift or bring (something) up
Present tense: I raise well-behaved cats. Tad raises well-behaved cats.
Past tense: My English teacher raised well-behaved cats when I was a kid.
Present participle: Raising well-behaved cats is essential.
Past participle: Smart people have raised well-behaved cats since the days of ancient

All of this may be difficult to memorize; the best way to learn is through practice. But the key question to ask, whichever of these verb pairs is giving you trouble, is “Is there a direct object? Is this action being done TO something?” If the answer is yes, you use the transitive form. If not, use the intransitive.

Finally, a word to all of the dog owners and trainers out there: Please stop teaching your pets improper grammar! Don’t command them to “lay down” when what you really want them to do is “lie down.”

Byrnes, Carol Anne. “Grammar moment: Oh, those confusing verbs!” Five O’Clock Somewhere. 28 July 2005. 9 Oct 2007.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Thirteen again

Closer to world domination?

Once again, my domain covers more than half of the time zones on Earth. With just a little more luck, I might get even more ... I just need someone from Hawaii, Anchorage (hello, Bill Bob's brother?), the Middle East, India, Sydney, or New Zealand to visit, before any of those one-visit time zones expire, and I set a new record. Of course, it would be really cool to get visitors from the hard-to-get time zones, UTC -3, -2, and +12.

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