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.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Permanent substitute

An oxymoron

In recent years, Albuquerque Public Schools have been criticized for having a large number of so-called permanent substitutes – teachers who aren't certified as full-time teachers, just as substitutes, who are taking the place of fully certified teachers because of staffing shortages, especially in fields such as math and science where qualified teachers are hard to come by.

While the No Child Left Behind act has shortcomings, a few of its provisions have been beneficial, and one of those was to reduce or eliminate the use of unqualified teachers. APS now has very few permanent substitutes, and those have legitimate qualifications, such as a degree in math or science but no teaching certificate.

Meanwhile, three times this season, the person who was scheduled to serve as race committee for the Rio Grande Sailing Club's regattas has canceled at the last minute, leaving Pat to fill in. True, he does have the official US Sailing race committee certification, but he shouldn't be called upon to be committee every regatta. In essence, he is now being called on as a permanent substitute.

In the past, the RGSC has had a policy of requiring all racers to serve regular turns as race committee. If a racer was unable to serve for the assigned regatta, he or she had to make arrangements to fill the gap, or else face severe scoring penalties in the regatta series. This policy served to keep skippers in line.

We're probably going to re-institute a policy on this order, since right now Pat's just not getting to race at all.

Meanwhile, this Saturday was the RGSC's final event of the year, the Kris Kringle Regatta and Christmas party. A cold front had just passed through – the previous two days there had been a blizzard that actually shut down the freeway between El Paso and Las Cruces. Temperatures at the lake were cold, and there was snow on the ground in the shady places. The plan was for the Etchells to run short course races, while the other boats would have a distance race around Rattlesnake Island and back.

There was a problem, however, with the Etchells fleet: Zorro's boat, Constellation, was in El Paso, where he had spent the past two weeks making hull repairs and painting her. His original plan had been to bring the boat up to the lake Friday to rig and launch, but the highway closure put an end to that plan. Instead, he was to borrow a truck from Carguy Saturday, haul the boat to the lake, rig it, and launch it, all in time for the day's racing.

There was a hitch with this plan, which was that there wasn't a hitch on the first vehicle Carguy had. So he and Zorro went to his lot to find a towing vehicle with a hitch. That delayed Zorro's departure for the lake. Once he got to the lake, he got help from me, Twinkle Toes, and Trail Boss, a skilled sailor who was to sail with Cornhusker and me (and originally also Pat) on Black Magic. Still, there were problems, such as the boat being full of snow and the bilge being frozen solid – along with a lot of the rigging, which pretty much had to be thawed out before it could be run.

Finally, Zorro told Trail Boss and me to go ahead and get out sailing; he and Twinkle Toes would finish rigging and launch Constellation.

So Trail Boss, Cornhusker, and I set sail in cold temperatures and light air. Just about the first thing Trail Boss noticed was that a large number of the lines on the boat were fouled and weren't running smoothly. He also noticed many other things that weren't working quite right – some of which had been on our radar (such as missing a masthead fly), and some of which had not (such as the tracks for the jib cars being placed too far forward; they would be all right in light air, but in heavier conditions it would not be possible to move the cars back as far as they should be).

Conditions to start with were light, but reasonable for sailing in, especially given the temperature, which was right around freezing. Trail Boss decided not to wait around for Zorro to get Constellation in the water; rather, he wanted to sail around the lake, both to give me and Cornhusker some lessons in sail trim and to get a feel for Black Magic and how we might improve her performance.

Then the wind did something it often does at Elephant Butte. It went away. So when Zorro and Twinkle Toes finally got the boat launched, we were becalmed far away.

Meanwhile, Pat was cold and miserable on Cornhusker's boat, Free and Clear IV, which she had made available for committee duty so we wouldn't have to rig or launch Syzygy. The anchor was lightweight, and it didn't have enough rode, so it dragged even in drifting conditions. After starting the distance fleet (two J/24s and a Grampion), instead of waiting for the Etchells to show up, he set a course, and then he had to keep changing the line as the wind shifted. We had tried to call him to let him know what we were doing, but the calls kept going to his voice mail. Meanwhile, he had tried to call us to ask what was going on, but he picked times when we couldn't answer the phone, such as when we were raising sail or tacking. He finally got through to Cornhusker's phone a couple of times when she wasn't occupied with running the boat, but he never clearly communicated exactly what he was doing or what information he wanted from us.

Eventually, we got back to the starting area, and we sailed along with Zorro for a while, but by then, the sun was getting low and the day was getting cold. We sailed back to the marina and put the boats away.

Because of the weather, turnout at the Christmas party was low, but at least it was not as low as the turnout for the regatta; about 20 people turned up for the party. Zorro presented awards, including 2008 Sportsman of the Year (Zorro had been preoccupied with damage to his boat last year and forgot) for Pat, and 2009 Sportswoman of the Year for Cornhusker. The white elephant gift exchange was quieter than usual, but it was fun.

Sunday morning was much warmer, but there was no wind. That was all right, since we wanted to put Carguy's boat on my trailer so he could get the bottom cleaned (it currently resembles green shag carpet) and then Zorro could repaint it; meanwhile, Black Magic could occupy Carguy's slip and be available to sail on or do boat work. Pat, Cornhusker, and I got the boat onto the trailer with no difficulty, and we left it parked just above the boat ramp, so Carguy can come when he's able to de-rig and take the boat to get it cleaned.

As we were finishing that task, the wind was beginning to stir. We went to lunch, and when we came back, there was a nice breeze, and the temperature was probably somewhere around 60 degrees. We got on our foulies and prepared to set sail.

We didn't stay out long. While we were raising sail, the wind came up strong, and by the time we were out of the harbor, we decided that sailing wasn't such a good idea after all. So we went back and put Black Magic in the slip. Then it was boat work time. I went forward and discovered a complete mess. The jib sheet fine tunes, especially the one on the starboard side of the boat, were twisted up. Whoever had run lines the last time the mast had been raised had done a horrible job, so that the mast moving system was fouled up in just about everything else under there. The fraculator had been run through a block that inexplicably had been tied with a bit of string to one of the blocks that the starboard jib fine tune was supposed to run through, and I couldn't fathom a reason for that block to be there, as the fraculator was run straight through that point.

So I spent about an hour up inside the front of the boat, and things are running much more smoothly now. There are still other things to work on, such as the jib cunningham, which used to be routed around the bilge pump hose that's no longer there and which now has too much length of line in one part of the system and too little in another, and the traveler, which right now has oversized blocks that hang up on things.

The weather was predicted to turn worse, and we wanted to get started on the journey back to Albuquerque before it got too late. We tied the boat securely, put the cover on, and headed up the hill, stopping to take pictures in the late-afternoon light of Constellation, with her shiny new paint job, and Black Magic, with a clean transom now that the motor mount has been removed. (It was about time; we haven't actually used the motor in about three years.)

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