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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The weather was perfect

And not just on average!

This past weekend had its ups and downs. Saturday was the Joshua Slocum single-hand race, while Sunday was the Jack and Jill his-and-hers race. The plan was that I would be Principal Race Officer on Saturday, allowing Pat to sail Black Magic in the Slocum, and Pat would be PRO Sunday, so Zorro and I could defend our title in the Jack and Jill on Constellation.

The club has recently been given a small motorboat for use as a race committee support boat. It's old, it's been sitting in a back yard neglected for some years, and it needs some work. However, it is a basically sturdy boat, and it's already beginning to prove its worth (more on that in a moment).

Pyrat and Goldilocks, who donated the boat to the club, have been enthusiastic about getting it fixed up and outfitted as a race support boat. Goldilocks is an artist, and this project is giving her creativity a new outlet – the boat is developing a distinctive Sierra County feel. For example, instead of a bimini top, she found an inexpensive beach umbrella to put into the fishing-rod holder at the center of the boat. It's not good in higher winds, but it's distinctive; sailors can recognize the boat because it's the only one on the lake with a parasol.

Goldilocks was delighted to learn that I wanted to use the motorboat for race committee duty Saturday. The boat gives her an opportunity to support Pyrat's racing, but she wants to learn more about how things work, so she can be more help in the future. Pat had given her a notebook with procedures of running races, but she wanted some hands-on experience. Gerald, after finishing his college finals, had driven all night to join us at the lake; he came on board the motorboat as well.

To begin with, there was almost no wind on the lake. Since only one of the boats racing in the Slocum had a motor, we towed all the rest out to the race area. Score one for the motorboat. Once we got to the race starting area, we did have to wait for wind, but because all the racers were there, we could start a race immediately when the wind did come up.

Just as the wind came up, Pyrat's MC Scow capsized, and although he got the boat upright, he wasn't able to get himself back up onto the boat. Compounding the problem was that he hadn't completely buckled up his PFD, and he was gradually slipping out beneath it. We zoomed to the rescue, deploying the motorboat's boarding ladder so Pyrat could get aboard and then onto his own boat. Score another one for the motorboat. Goldilocks thought maybe we should then tow Pyrat to shore, but he assured her he was all right and could keep sailing. With the temperature in the 90s, there wasn't much worry about hypothermia, so he finally persuaded her to let him sail.

We then set a starting line and called a course, and Goldilocks got to learn about how to run a starting sequence, with timing, flags, horn signals, and such. Pat even provided an extra learning experience when he had Black Magic over the line early, so she learned about recall procedures. She already knew that we should have fishing-rod holders on the boat to hold flags; now she knows how many we need and where they should go, and she's eager to get to work on that project. This boat had originally been abandoned in the back yard by the previous owner when she and Pyrat bought their house; now, instead of a decaying eyesore, it's a fun project. Score yet another one for the motorboat, although this one is more about personal fulfillment than sailing regatta duties.

When the wind came up, it did so nicely. Conditions were perhaps a bit on the stiff side for single-handed racing, but all of the racers handled it well. The motorboat's anchor – another great find that Goldilocks had come by – held well. By the time the race finished, the wind was beginning to scream. Gerald, at the helm, cranked the motor up and we roared back to the boat ramp, getting somewhat wet in the process, but glad we had a way to get back to port quickly. Score another biggie for the motorboat.

Sunday's weather shaped up similar to Saturday's, calm to start with winds showing up around midday and increasing – the main difference was that the temperature was about ten degrees warmer.

Zorro had had to go back to El Paso the night before for a special event at UTEP, but he had told us that he planned to return in the morning so he and I could sail in the Jack and Jill. Cornhusker had talked Bassmaster into being crew on her boat for the race, so I rode with them to the marina where both her boat and Zorro's are docked, while Pat and Gerald went to the other marina, where the motorboat lives. It had taken Bassmaster some time to get his stuff together, so I was worried about being late to meet Zorro. It turns out I didn't need to worry; there was no sign of him.

So, while other sailors got ready and set sail for the Jack and Jill, I waited for Zorro. I tried calling him, but the call went straight to his voice-mail.

Meanwhile, Pat and Gerald got the motorboat out to the race start area, but then the motor died. Yoda was preparing to sail the race with Esther; he got onto the motorboat to see if he could do something with the motor. He came to the conclusion that probably there was a problem with the carburetor, such as a stuck valve – as old as that motor is, it has a lot of, to use a technical term, gunk in it.

When it became obvious that Zorro wasn't going to show up, one of the other racing boats, Cultural Infidel, came to the marina to pick me up, so I wouldn't be roasting in the sun at the marina all day with no boat to ride, no money, and no vehicle, as Cornhusker and Bassmaster had given me a ride to the marina. We got to the course while Yoda was still working on the motor; eventually, he and Gerald managed to get the motor to where it would run, sort of, and then he got back on Esther's boat and I got onto the committee boat.

As on Saturday, we had to wait for the wind, but when it arrived, it came in nicely. If Zorro had showed up, he and I would have had a great afternoon on the water, with wind that remained mostly steady, a little on the light side but not frustratingly so, with some gusts to make things interesting.

While the wind was far from frustrating, the fact that I was sitting on an anchored motorboat instead of out sailing in the race was more than frustrating. I was watching my bucket go away. The trophy for the Jack and Jill race is, appropriately, a pail. The tradition is that each year, the previous year's winners provide a bottle of champagne to put into that pail, along with ice, for the new champions. The past few years, Zorro and I have simply been buying ourselves champagne every year (he likes pink). But Sunday, I was left to watch and see who Zorro and I would be buying the champagne for this year.

Cultural Infidel was first over the line. However, Esther and Yoda on Hot Flash were right behind and won the race on corrected time. So they will get the champagne and custody of the bucket. However, since Team Infidel came to my rescue, I plan to buy them a bottle of bubbly as well.

Once the race was over, it was time to start the motor and get back to the boat ramp. The motor ran rough, and it wouldn't put out much power, but it did get us there, stalling out just as we reached the courtesy dock. Gerald was able to paddle the boat onto its trailer. We'll be having one of the mechanically inclined members of the club look at that carburetor; it shouldn't be too hard to fix.

Meanwhile, the question remained … where was Zorro?

Late Monday, we finally heard the story. After the event at UTEP, instead of going home to rest up and prepare for the Jack and Jill, Zorro decided to pay a visit to his new girlfriend in Juarez. I have my doubts about this particular girlfriend, but then, well, he's in love (or at least thinks he is), and there's nothing I could say that would change his mind. Still, the decision to go and visit her wasn't exactly wise; while he was there, somebody slashed the tires on his car.

So, because of the slashed tires, Zorro didn't make it to the Jack and Jill race. It would have been nice if he could have phoned or otherwise communicated, so I could have made other arrangements. Penzance was at the lake, working on his boat, and he and I could have sailed Black Magic. Or Pat could have done committee boat duty solo and I could have had Gerald as crew. Or I could have twisted Teddy Bear's arm – he's regaining confidence about racing after recovering from some health problems, and Sunday's relatively gentle conditions would have been just right to take Warm N Fuzzy out.

But since I didn't hear from Zorro, I never got a chance to make other arrangements. Later, when Pat brought up that issue, Zorro claimed that his cell phone wasn't working, so he had told one person to give a message to another person to give a message to me – and both of the persons in that chain are not known for being reliable, and neither of them is particularly interested in sailboat racing or the Jack and Jill race or anything of the sort. I strongly suspect Zorro never gave the message in the first place, and he's blaming those other persons for my not receiving it to avoid taking any blame himself. But even if he did give the message, he should have known that the likelihood of my getting it was remote. He knows my cell phone is set to take his calls as high-priority 24/7. And even if I were asleep and not answering the phone, he could have left a voicemail that I would have gotten as soon as I woke up Sunday morning.

Final report on the weekend:

Motorboat for race support: big thumbs up, especially when we get the carburetor fixed and additional flag holders in place. And Goldilocks has other improvements in mind – those are going to be fun to see.

Zorro: thumbs down for leaving me high and VERY dry on the dock. Yeah, I can be sympathetic about the slashed tires. But he definitely could have done a much better job of communicating so I could have made other arrangements. I could be enjoying that champagne with Penzance, Gerald, Teddy Bear, or somebody else.

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