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.

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Location: Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, United States

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Grammar Moment: parts of speech

Getting a good grasp of the building blocks will help you to put them together well.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to go back to the basics, especially for students who haven’t really studied grammar before, or for whom a lot of the rules seem mysterious. If you can gain an understanding of what each type of word does, you will be better able to figure out how they ought to behave in a sentence, and the rules will seem at least a little less mysterious. In addition, if you know exactly what everything is called, you will have words to use when you discuss grammar with your teachers and classmates.

The descriptions I give here will be somewhat sketchy, but if you want to read loads of fantastic explanations and details about each of the parts of speech, look up the Parts of Speech article at FactMonster.com – in addition to excellent descriptions, the sections on each of the major parts of speech contain exercises that allow you to practice what you have learned. (There is a small mistake in one of the Adverbs exercises, but it’s only a minor problem in what is otherwise a great site.)

Because grammar is not a precise science, different grammarians will divide the parts of speech differently; I define eight major parts of speech.

  • Noun: names a person, place, thing, or idea. Examples: clockmaker, St. Louis, sailboat, peace.
  • Verb: shows an action or a state of being. Examples: run, throw, seem, be.
  • Conjunction: makes a connection between words, phrases, or sentences. Examples: and, but, while, because, which.
  • Preposition: shows a relationship, usually of space or time. Examples: for, under, to, during, without.
  • Adjective: modifies (describes) a noun; answers the question what kind, how much, which one, or how many. Examples: blue, some, these, a, my, seven.
  • Adverb: modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb; answers the question when, where, how, or to what extent. Examples: yesterday, there, quickly, thoroughly.
  • Pronoun: takes the place of a noun. Examples: you, he, them, somebody, who.
  • Interjection: shows emotions. Examples: oops, wow, ouch.

Now, to make matters more confusing, some words can be used as different parts of speech. For example, look can be either a noun or a verb. In order to tell what you have, watch how it behaves in these sentences:

The new fall fashions feature a tailored look.

Those skirts look classy and refined.

In the first sentence, look names an idea and is therefore a noun; in the second, look shows a state of being and is therefore a verb.

Get practice observing the behavior of words, and you will soon be able to figure out what a particular word is, based on what it does. Once you figure out what part of speech a word is, you will be able to make it behave the way it ought to.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chile vs. chili

A New Mexico semantic distinction

In New Mexico, we make a careful distinction of terms that isn’t followed in most other places.

Chile, when capitalized, is the name of a South American country. But when chile, with an e at the end, is not capitalized, it refers to the fruit of the capsicum plant, the peppers that come in red and green colors, in varying degrees of hotness. In most of the rest of the world, such fruit is referred to as chili peppers, or just chilis, but in New Mexico, they are chiles.

In New Mexico, the term chili, with an i at the end, refers to a hearty stew, usually based on ground or finely diced beef or pork, made using chiles, usually in dried flaked or powdered form, as a primary seasoning. Other ingredients are up for debate, especially beans. Some chili fans will say that real chili doesn’t have beans, while others say beans are a necessity, and among the bean supporters, there’s debate about what sort of beans are acceptable.

I had a dream. The early part of the dream was hazy – it was about getting backward Americans to understand the concept of the British roundabout, a traffic circle that, in the original British concept, allows traffic to flow smoothly without the need for traffic lights. In many American cities, roundabouts have been installed to have the opposite effect, to slow traffic down in neighborhoods where the powers-that-be want to discourage reckless driving and drive-by shootings.

After the seminar, there was a meal. There was a lot of good food. But the climax of the meal was some really, really good chili. When I woke up, I was drooling. And I was HUNGRY, for the first time in days, maybe even weeks. I knew I needed to have chili for supper.

It’s a simple recipe, and since it only uses one pot, the cleanup is easy. First, I chop up one medium sized onion and mince two or three cloves of garlic. Then, I brown about a pound (more if it has a lot of fat) of ground beef or pork in a big pot with the onion and garlic. My favorite is the coarse-ground pork, but this time, I just had basic ground beef. While the meat is browning, I open a can of tomatoes (coarse-diced, or if they’re halves or whole tomatoes, I swish a knife through the can a few times to cut them down to size) and a can of beans (I like kidneys, although chili purists cringe at the thought of anything other than pintos). I dump the beans into another container.

Next, I use a turkey baster to suck as much of the fat as I can out of the pot and into the can that originally held the beans. I set the fat aside to cool – I’ll dump it in the trash once it isn’t so hot that it will melt the trash bag in the kitchen trash can.

Now, I put the remaining ingredients into the pot: the beans, the tomatoes, a half-can or half-bottle of hearty beer (light beer WILL NOT do), a major slug (wild guess, about 2 tablespoons) of chile powder (avoid store brands or national brands; my favorite is Chimayo medium, which is primarily available in New Mexico; Gebhart’s from Texas is pretty good and more widely available), a half slug of comino (also known as cumin), a half slug of celery seed, a quarter slug of mustard powder, and twenty or thirty cranks of fresh-ground pepper (if you don’t have a pepper grinder, maybe a quarter teaspoon or so).

Stir everything together, then bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat as low as your stove will go, and simmer for at least an hour. The longer you simmer, the richer the flavor gets. This is a great recipe for when you don’t know exactly when everybody is going to arrive for supper, because you can keep it simmering for 6 hours and it will still be good, especially if your stove has an extra-low heat setting, or you have a heat dissipater you can put between the pot and the stove burner, to keep the beans at the bottom of the pot from burning. (I have an electric Chef Pot that has a low setting, and that saves me from having to heat up the kitchen by firing up the stove in the first place.)

I serve the chili in bowls, with grated cheese to sprinkle on top – Longhorn Colby and Monterey Jack are both good. Flour tortillas and/or saltine crackers complete the meal.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Opals are bad luck, right?

May they bring such luck on those who most deserve it

I had a dream about my jewelry, the jewelry that got stolen. Most important in the dream was a necklace, an opal, set in an elegant gold filigree pendant, that my Irish grandmother had given me on my 16th birthday, and that I wore to my senior prom.

I was on a ski lift, going up. At the top, I was given the pendant, along with some of the other items. I was told I couldn’t go down the mountain unless I was wearing the jewelry, especially that pendant.

I don’t ski. I have no idea what the necklace and skiing have to do with anything. But when I woke up from the dream, I was crying.

According to folklore, opals are bad luck, ill-fated gems that bring nothing but grief, except to those who were born in October and therefore have the opal as their birthstone. And woe betide any who should steal an opal – that is an especially powerful form of evil luck.

I put together a list of the items that were stolen, and I was astonished to realize that I had so many items of opal jewelry: necklaces, earrings, stick-pins, and more. Whoever swiped my jewelry chest reaped a mountain of bad luck.

The police rookie (so much of a rookie that he didn’t even have his own business cards, but crossed out the name and badge number on someone else’s and wrote in his own information) who came in response to our call about the burglary didn’t even make a list of the items that were stolen. He talked to us for about 20 minutes and then declared the case “closed,” explaining that we had very little chance of seeing our stuff ever again.

But we’ve been told by a reliable source that if we do some of our own detective work and check out pawnshops in the area, we might well find at least some of what we’ve lost, and then the police will have to re-open the case. So Pat and I will be looking for my opals and everything else. Maybe, just maybe, my opals will be the downfall of these low-lifes. THAT would be poetic justice.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A real cat burglar

No, he’s not dead, just tranked

This weekend in Santa Fe, a mountain lion broke into a jewelry store/art gallery on the Santa Fe plaza. You can read the full story here. The cat, described by wildlife officials as “full grown but skinny” (he was about 100 pounds, when an adult male typically weighs about 140), crashed through the door of the gallery, triggering a burglar alarm.

When police arrived in response to the alarm, they found the cat and cornered him in a restroom. Eventually, a state Game and Fish officer arrived and shot the cat with a tranquilizer dart.

That cat was subsequently transported to an area near Chama, where he was released. That’s right, he’s now one of our neighbors at Five O’Clock Somewhere. I’m guessing he was taken to an area that’s currently overpopulated with deer, where he will have plenty to eat, and the deer he doesn’t eat will benefit by having less competition for food and other resources.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Voyagers and Zealots

A serendipity sort of thing

As I went to post that last post, I noticed that Blogger had featured on “Blogs of Note” this blog, 1000 Days Non-Stop at Sea. This couple has the goal of spending 1000 days at sea, without stopping. I clicked on the link.

Looking at the pictures on their blog, I see that boat they have looks tough enough to stand up to the challenge. There’s a fascinating his-and-hers counterpoint to their posts, balancing the practical and the spiritual/emotional. What they have done with the boat precedes the journey; Will decorated the interior with beautiful wood carvings, while Soanya provided (and continues to provide) spiritual guidance.

I looked to see whether I could find these voyagers’ definition of “not stopping.” In 15 minutes of looking, I couldn’t find it. If the definition is literal, that would be a really boring sea journey with no landfalls whatsoever, and really, I can’t see any way to put 1000 days’ worth of provisions on even a relatively large cruising sailboat. At the very least, they would need to have a whole lot of citrus fruit on board to prevent scurvy.

But if the definition is refined to “not stopping for commercial refueling and provisioning,” I could see the journey as possible. Will and Soanya could live off fishing, plus bartering for local produce wherever they dock. They would have to be really stingy with their diesel fuel in order to make it last, but as far as making the boat move is concerned, sails would be what they do.

The title of this post is a tribute to Zephyr, whose blog often features both voyagers and zealots.

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Grammar Moment: Adjective order

You know when it doesn’t sound right; now here’s why

This post is actually in response to a comment on another blog – I had formulated a comment responding to that comment, but then due to some glitch in cyberspace, the comment didn’t go through and that blog ceased responding. So, Jesse, here’s an answer to the question that you posed on Muddled Ramblings a few weeks back, about why adjectives have to come in a certain order.

First, let’s take a look at this sentence:

Dino drives a pickup red Ford big truck.

Now, if you have grown up speaking English, or you have been speaking it for a long time, you know that this sentence doesn’t sound right. It’s all mixed up. It should be

Dino drives a big red Ford pickup truck.

So why is the second sentence correct, but the first one not? The answer is that the adjectives in this sentence don’t have equal value – that is, some of the adjectives are more closely related to the noun than others. The ones that are most closely related to the noun are the ones that come closest to it in the sentence.

When you’re dealing with nouns of unequal value, if you’re fluent in English, you probably have a pretty good handle on the order they should follow. If you’re still working on mastering the finer points of the language, a good grammar book will give you a list of what sorts of adjectives come before what other sorts. The list won’t be exactly the same from one book to another, but they will all have the same basic idea. The book I currently have before me, Keys for Writers, 4th Edition, by Ann Raimes, gives this list: (1) size, (2) shape, (3) age, (4) color, (5) geographical origin, (6) architectural style or religion, (7) material, (8) noun used as adjective.

So in the example above, big is size, red is color, Ford is, for practical purposes, geographical origin (some grammar books give brand names their own category), and pickup is an architectural style.

One other note about stringing together adjectives of unequal value – because their order and meaning separate them from each other, you don’t put commas between them.

Now, sometimes you get adjectives that are of equal value:

You should eat a healthful, well-balanced diet.

Since these adjectives are of equal value, you can swap them, and the sentence will still make sense:

You should eat a well-balanced, healthful diet.

Notice that when adjectives are of equal value, you need to separate them with commas, especially if you have a lot of adjectives. The reader might get confused without that little bit of punctuation to show that the adjectives are separate from each other.

On occasion, you might run into a situation in which the order of adjectives can be changed, but changing the order changes the meaning. Consider these two sentences:

Look at that cute little blonde-haired girl!

Look at that cute blonde-haired little girl!

Here, both sentences make sense. But changing the order of the words changes the meaning of the sentence. In the first sentence, little is more distant from girl; this is something a couple of guys in a singles bar might say – cute means she’s physically attractive in a slightly immature way, little means she’s petite in stature and build, and blonde-haired is her most important attribute. In fact, she may not really be a girl at all, but could be 30 or even a well-kept 40—and some women keep their girlish looks beyond even that.

In the second sentence, little is more closely related to girl, and therefore it colors the rest of the sentence. The implication is that this girl is at most in lower elementary grades, and quite likely younger. You would expect the second sentence to be uttered by a doting grandparent. If the guys in the singles bar said it, they’d be contemplating acts that would land them in jail.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Looted!

Just to top off a bad week …

After a rather less than pleasant weekend at the Dillon Regatta, Pat and I arrived home to another unpleasant surprise. When we opened the garage door, we discovered that the door leading into the house was open, propped up with a bag of stuff that had been in the garage. When I started to walk into the master bedroom, I discovered the room in total disarray, with stuff dumped from the dresser onto the floor and drawers left hanging open, and my large jewelry chest missing. Next, I realized the back door was standing wide open.

Further exploration revealed that cabinets and drawers had been opened and emptied all over the house (except maybe Tadpole’s room, which had been that way to start with), and the flat-screen TV and VCR/DVD player from the guest room — the backbone of my One Life to Live exercise plan — had been literally ripped off the wall. I hope Tad has his iPod with him; otherwise, that’s missing, too.

However, the thieves did not steal the computer, any of the entertainment center items from the living room (even an old VCR that was already unplugged and sitting, along with its instruction manual and remote control, on the piano bench, ready for us to give to charity), or anything else that we can tell. They didn’t even steal a bottle of Scotch that was sitting out in the open on the kitchen counter or a checkbook that was sitting on the dining table.

The police have told us that chances are slim to none that any of our stuff will ever be recovered. In the case of the TV and VCR/DVD, that’s not such a big deal — those things are easily replaced. It’s the jewelry that hurts — some nice silver-and-turquoise jewelry that Pat bought me as an anniversary gift a few years ago; my grandmother’s college class ring; my, my father’s, and my grandfather’s Phi Beta Kappa keys; my mother-in-law’s pearl necklace and earrings that had been a gift to her from her husband on her wedding day and that in turn were her gift to me on mine, as she was slowly dying of cancer … Those things can’t be replaced.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Dillon Open

There’s something wrong when the best memory of the weekend involves hypothermia


Last year, when Pat and I had Black Magic at the Dillon Open, we were noticed. There were some people up here who had thought about trying to get an Etchells fleet going, and those people were eager to greet us and see the boat in action. We talked to several people who were interested in the boat, and we encouraged their enthusiasm. Our boat was exotic and special and beautiful. We felt almost like celebrities, since our boat attracted such attention.

Subsequently, one of those people in Colorado got an Etchells. Added to the four Etchells that were already in New Mexico/West Texas, we could combine to create Etchells Fleet 31 – admittedly covering a vast area, but still a fleet. Shortly thereafter, another Colorado sailor got an Etchells. We got the fleet organized, with Zorro as fleet captain, the most gung-ho Colorado guy as first officer, Pat as fleet treasurer, me as fleet secretary, and the second Colorado guy as fleet measurer.

We planned a fleet championship for last spring. Colorado #2 whined that we shouldn’t have the championship so early in the year – he was recovering from an operation, and besides, he had only just bought the boat and hadn’t had time to work on it. Zorro explained that the fleet championship had to happen early enough that the winner could be registered for the Etchells North American championship, and since the lake in Colorado was frozen over, it made sense for the championship to happen at Elephant Butte. As it was, four New Mexico boats showed up for the fleet championship, but none from Colorado.

Meanwhile, another Colorado person, originally from Australia, who shall be subsequently be known as VS, bought the Etchells that Colorado #1 had bought and fixed up, and CO#1 bought another Etchells to fix up. All three Colorado Etchells owners subsequently spent huge amounts of time and money fixing up their boats.

Something else that distanced us from the DYC crowd – we had our boat on the other side of the lake at the Frisco marina. Initially, it seemed to make sense: We had the fantastic condo in Frisco, and the Dillon Open website said the Dillon Marina was overcrowded, so slips wouldn’t likely be available, and besides, slips in Frisco weren’t as expensive. BUT nearly all of that turned out to be a crock. There were plenty of empty slips in the Dillon marina (for the same price as Frisco), including the one that we’d put Black Magic into last year, right opposite CO#1’s slip, where he could admire the boat and butter us up about building an intermountain Etchells fleet. The upshot of us being off in the hinterlands of Frisco was that, since winds were light in the mornings when boats were headed out to the race course, we had to have a motor to get there, but boats heading out from Dillon were close enough that they didn’t need one. So we were automatically saddled with a 30-pound disadvantage.

Now, having the motor wouldn’t automatically have been a bad thing. The Dillon Open Regatta uses a handicapping system that tries to compensate for differences in boat speed. If Black Magic had been scored against boats using the PHRF handicapping system, having a motor would have, at least in theory, resulted in an adjustment in her finishing time that would have put her on an equal footing with all of the other boats in the PHRF fleet.

BUT there were four boats signed up for the Etchells fleet for the Dillon Open. Five boats would make enough boats to have a separate Etchells one-design fleet. In a one-design fleet, all boats are presumed equal, so there aren’t any time adjustments. In a one-design fleet, having a motor on the boat is nothing but a disadvantage – it slows the boat down, and there’s no handicap adjustment.

So the Colorado Etchells people signed up a bogus competitor, “Dennis O’Connor,” to make up the five needed to make a one-design fleet. If we hadn’t showed up, they probably couldn’t have gotten away with signing up two ficticious competitors.

As soon as I saw the Colorado fleet, I knew we didn’t have a chance. Yes, one of these boats had been in even worse shape than Black Magic was when we got her, but all three of these boats’ owners have boatloads of money, and they had spent all winter essentially rebuilding these boats from the keel up. The boats are dry-sailed, delicately hoisted into and out of the water rather than being ramp-launched, and because they don’t sit in the water, they don’t have bottom paint, just shiny, gleaming surfaces that a woman could use as a mirror to apply makeup.
The racing schedule was severely biased against boats that docked at the Frisco Marina. The skippers’ meeting was at the Dillon Marina at 10:30 a.m. It didn’t end until after 11 a.m. The first starting warning was to be at noon. We raced from the Dillon Marina to the Frisco Marina and got underway as fast as we could – Penzance had flown into Denver and rented a car and got to the boat ahead of us, so he could get a jib bent on while we were at the skippers’ meeting. But even with both sails and motor on, we still didn’t get to the racing area until just a few minutes before racing was to begin.

Something that complicated matters was that we were supposed to check in with the check-in boat, and we’d been given a description of that boat as a pontoon boat with a red canopy, and that the boat would be located between the Dillon marina and the race course area. We spotted such a boat and were headed toward it, when it started moving. We figured the time was getting late enough that the check-in boat was changing position to its subsequent assignment as finish boat, so we attempted to pursue it. We finally managed to get close enough to it to see that it wasn’t flying a race committee flag and in fact had nothing to do with the race. It was just some family off on a jaunt and probably totally puzzled about why all these sailboats were following them.

At that point, we headed in the direction that the check-in boat was supposed to be. We passed one of our fellow Etchells, VS, and we asked, “Where’s the check-in boat?” assuming they had already checked in. They pointed to the signal boat and said “It’s the big blue boat there.” So we headed to the signal boat. The signal boat had been the check-in boat last year, and maybe, there had been a change of plan that we hadn’t heard over the VHF.

Nope, we learned when we got to the signal boat, the check-in boat was where it had been sitting all along, up near the Dillon Marina. We had to check in with the check-in boat before we could race.

Because many other racing boats had been deceived by the decoy boat, the race committee decided to allow check-in over the radio for boats that were arriving late to the course, even though the Sailing Instructions had said check-in should not be done by radio. That ruling allowed us to race. But I’m still frustrated with the crew of VS for telling us that the signal boat was where to check in, when they knew full well the check-in boat was a half-mile away in the other direction. They later said they hadn’t understood our question.

Saturday’s racing was, for the most part, miserable. Winds were mostly light. Compared to the other Etchells, whose owners have tons of money to pour into their boats, Black Magic was a decrepit old tub. Yeah, last year, she was the exotic beauty that attracted everybody’s attention. But this year, she’s the past-her-prime star. The Colorado people have their own Etchells now, and they don’t care about any others.

The three Colorado Etchells are so far beyond Black Magic in condition and equipment that there’s no competition. And CO#1 and CO#2 are also way beyond us in crew experience and ability. We may be more evenly matched with VS: that boat is in better racing tune, but the people who sail her aren’t necessarily better.

During one of the starts Saturday, we tangled with VS. We were approaching the starting line, on starboard, close to the committee boat. We were to leeward of VS, and there were about four boats to leeward of us (the Etchells, being a small fleet, had joint starts with a couple of other fleets). We repeatedly hailed VS to head up, and she did not head up. She had room to head up, although doing so would have caused her to be over the line early. (Her skipper later said he had not heard our hails to head up.)

During the final ten seconds of the starting countdown, VS finally headed up, and then she slowed down. At that point, there was nothing I could do – I was going faster than she was, but there was a bunch of boats to leeward that kept me from falling down. I tapped her stern. We and VS both called “Protest” and put out our red flags. Because tapping the other boat’s stern meant that I had failed to prevent collision, I took a two-turns penalty. VS didn’t take any penalty.

What was interesting was that even though I took that penalty, I still found myself right on VS’ tail, and even overtook her briefly on the downwind leg. Spinnaker foul-ups lost us that lead.

Since we had to go to Frisco rather than the Dillon Marina when racing ended for the day, we didn’t get a chance to get our protest heard. The time limit for protests was 45 minutes after the committee boat docked at Dillon. It takes 35 minutes, at best, with a good motor, for a boat to get from the race course to Frisco. Then, just doing a rudimentary “tying up loose ends” docking at Frisco, say, 10 minutes, and then risking getting a speeding ticket by getting from Frisco to Dillon in 10 minutes, well, we missed the protest period by five minutes.

At the end of Saturday’s racing, I was seriously questioning what the hell I thought I was doing. Here I was, with this old, decrepit, Norma Desmond past-her-prime tub of a boat. All of the other boats were Angelina Jolie. What business did I have thinking I even belonged on the same planet with these other people?

That question was reinforced at the regatta dinner and party Saturday evening, when the other Etchells people pretty much pretended we didn’t exist, except for a brief argument with VS’s skipper over that race start. Clearly, as far as the Colorado Etchells people were concerned, I didn’t belong on the same planet.

Sunday, since we didn’t have to go to a skippers’ meeting before racing, we actually were among the first boats to get to the race area. Clouds were looming, so, even though for the moment conditions were warm and even a bit muggy, I put on my rain pants and fleece pullover.
The first, and as it turned out only, race Sunday was probably the high point of the weekend for us. We were about halfway up the first leg of the race when it began raining. As we rounded the windward mark, we started to put the spinnaker up, but the wind made a major shift, and we were close-hauled again. Then it started hailing. Pat, Tadpole, and Penzance took breaks from crew duties to put on their foul-weather gear. Many of the other boats retired from the race, but we stuck with it. Eventually, I put on my rain shell – it’s such a hassle to put on that I don’t use it unless conditions are really bad, and I finally decided conditions were bad enough that I ought to have another layer.

We finished the race with lightning and thunder crashing around us and headed back to Frisco to put the boat away. By that time, I was shivering fiercely, and I was getting tunnel vision. We didn’t bother with properly putting the boat away; Penzance used the spinnaker sheets to tie around the mainsail to keep it from blowing around, and then we headed to the condo, where I peeled off all of my wet things – in spite of having rain pants on from the beginning, I was literally soaked to the skin – and got into dry clothes, while Penzance made tea, that wonderfully British remedy for all things and especially well suited for hypothermia. Before too long, I warmed up, and we went to Dillon for the awards ceremony.

There again I was made to know that I wasn’t welcome. We found ourselves a place at a table while the pavilion was mostly empty. When the Colorado Etchells people arrived, they sat at the other end of the table and at the next table over, keeping a 20-foot radius from us. When CO#1 got his trophy for first place in the Etchells fleet, he spent a lot of time thanking his fellow Coloradans for their help and for making the fleet possible, but he didn’t even mention the Etchells Fleet 31 secretary or treasurer. (Pat later informed me that on the Dillon Yacht Club web site, Fleet 31 is mentioned as if it is sponsored by DYC, and its only two officers are CO#1, “fleet officer,” and CO#2, “fleet measurer.” No mention of the fleet captain, the fleet secretary, the fleet treasurer, or the fleet social chairman. I guess the only people that matter – or even exist – are those in Colorado.)

In the end, I feel betrayed and used. If Black Magic hadn’t showed up, the Etchells would have been racing in the PHRF handicap fleet, but since we did show up, they could just enroll one more boat (even though it didn’t exist and so got four DNCs) to make the fleet happen. That meant three Etchells were guaranteed to get trophies, instead of having to compete with a bunch of other boats. VS would definitely not have won a trophy if it had had to compete in the PHRF fleet, and even CO#2 might have had difficulty. All I was good for was to make some statistics; I wasn’t even good enough to socialize with during the onshore events.

Worse, Black Magic, my baby, my pride and joy, is just a worthless tub, a slowpoke, a decrepit relic that doesn’t even have the speed to make up for the ineptness of VS’ crew. I don’t have the tens of thousands of dollars that the Colorado people poured into their boats over the winter. I can’t make Black Magic into anything like the gleaming treasures that they have made of their boats.

All in all, this has been a humiliating experience, and one I’m not inclined to repeat.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A great afternoon

Good sailing, and other good stuff


This morning the wind was dead calm. It was so calm that the leaves on the aspen trees weren’t even moving. That’s an extremely unusual condition – the stems of the aspen leaves are jointed so flexibly that they will flutter in the least hint of a breeze, like about a quarter knot. We didn’t even think of trying to sail.

Around 11 a.m., the leaves began to flutter, just a little. By noon, there was more motion. By 1 p.m., there was a nice breeze, and we set sail. It’s a long way from the Frisco marina to the main body of Dillon Lake, and it took us a bit more than a half-hour to get there. The wind was switchy, but not nearly as much as Monday – even if the direction varied a lot, the speed remained reasonably consistent. We had periods of less wind and periods of more wind, and gusts, but we were never becalmed, and we were never knocked down.

There were scads of Snipes out on the lake for the national championships, and Pat got a couple of pictures of them before the camera batteries died and he realized he’d left two sets of freshly charged batteries on the kitchen counter. Those photos were taken at rather a distance, because we were to windward of the fleet and we didn’t want to cast a big wind shadow on the boats. My plan had been to circle around to leeward and then come closer for some better photos, until the camera batteries died. Oh, well. If we set off with fresh batteries tomorrow, maybe we can get some better pictures, worthy of sNIPEOUT – a blog that features both Snipes and pretty pictures, and some humor as well.

However, we may have come a bit closer to meeting our own elusive aim of getting some photos of Black Magic under sail. At one point, while the race committee was resetting marks to attempt to cope with changing wind directions, the photographer for the Snipe regatta came close and snapped some pictures of us. He even asked whether our boat was an Etchells – now that the folks at Dillon are working on building a fleet, there’s more interest in the design.
All afternoon, I kept thinking, I wish Zorro were here. He would have loved the sailing conditions, and he would thoroughly enjoyed himself. Plus, if we had had more weight to put on the rail, we wouldn’t have had to depower so much in the gusts.

At one point during one of the stiffer gusts of wind, our outhaul track self-destructed, and after we got into our slip, we also discovered that we needed to remount the mainsheet cleat that we had installed Tuesday – Pat had put a shim in backwards. So after we were done sailing, I got a piece of rope and jerry-rigged an outhaul tie-down, and I unbolted the mainsheet cleat and got the shim turned around the right way.

When we were done with those bits of boat work, we realized we could still make it to happy hour at the bar adjacent to the Dillon Yacht Club, and so there we went. As we were sitting under the pavilion next to the bar, two things happened simultaneously: The Snipes began to come in from racing, and the sky let loose with pouring rain. It was interesting to watch as dozens of boats were getting loaded onto dollies and de-rigged in the pouring rain. Crews were running all over the place, frantically hauling these boats around. Normally, these guys get wet while sailing; today, they didn’t get totally soaked until after the racing was over.

When the downpour started, the table we were at, at the very center of the pavilion, was prime real estate, away from the splashing spray from the pouring rain. Since it was a big table, we let some other people join us, and we had some good conversation and fellowship. These folks were Dillon-area locals, but they had come here from other places, and they had interesting stories to tell.

Eventually, the rain let up, and we headed for the truck to return to the condo and the chicken that I’d put into the crock-pot earlier in the day.

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