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.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A tale from the past

Once, long ago, I did not have a blog, and this is a tale from those prehistoric times

Bonnie has recently posted about looking forward to paddling her kayak in a proxigean tide, in which the moon is closer than usual to the earth at the same time as it is aligned exactly with or opposite the sun (a syzygy), making for a greater than normal difference between the high and low tides. In the case of kayak paddling, a properly timed journey can make great progress on the outward leg, and then when the tide turns, the homeward leg can also go well.

As a verbivore from an early age, I have always been a collector of interesting words, and syzygy has been one of my favorites. My dad, in addition to being a magician, is also an astronomer, and so my gaze has been heavenward for all of my life – even when I was an infant, there was a picture on the wall, a photograph my dad had taken of the moon, through the 6-inch reflector telescope that he had built himself when he was in high school, waxing gibbous, the craters standing out in stark relief, and the edge of the shadow much more clear-cut than shadows on earth ever are. When I was in elementary school, my dad built an observatory in the back yard to house that telescope.

I had that photo in my room up until I went to college … I don't know what became of it, but I remember it fondly.

In high school, I was in the Astronomy Club, and I was also in AP English. It was in AP English that I learned syzygy, the astronomical term for the situation in which three or more astronomical bodies line up perfectly, as in an eclipse. It became my favorite word.

Fast-forward about 20 years. Pat had decided that we wanted to take up sailing as a hobby, although I really can't see why he chose that particular sport. Pat had had some limited sailing experience in college, and I had been on a sailboat exactly once, with my Girl Scout troop, when I was in eighth grade. Still, at the tail end of 1999, we took sailing lessons in Santa Barbara, California. At the time, there was a lot of to-do about Y2K, and to make the alarmists more irritating, the moon was also at the closest that it had come to earth in sixty-some years. Contrary to what some people wanted to believe, this wasn't the end of the world, but since it coincided with a full moon (not a syzygy in the most technical sense, but one for the purpose of tide-watchers), it meant some really extreme tides. At low tide, boats were running aground in the middle of the harbor, while at high tide, the floating docks were so high, the gangways went up rather than down to them.

When we got back to Albuquerque, Pat was looking at boats at the local sailboat dealership. There was one boat in particular he was looking at. But I didn't want to buy it. I kept asking, "Will we get our money's worth out of it, or will we just use it a couple of times and then get bored? Can we afford to buy it in the first place? What about the upkeep?"

A couple of weeks later, we went to a condo timeshare sales pitch. We had no intention of buying anything, but we were going to get $75 worth of gift cards to upscale Santa Fe restaurants for showing up. The timeshare salesguy had a really good pitch – without ever naming a price, he kept stressing how "affordable" a timeshare vacation plan was. We would always know for sure that we had a place to stay every year on our vacation, and we would have our own kitchen, so we could prepare our own food and save on restaurant costs. And again and again and again, he stressed that the timeshare vacation was "affordable."

At the end of the sales presentation, he finally gave us a price – and it was high. Then he reduced the price. And then he reduced it again, until he finally reached the absolute rock-bottom price that he could offer, emphasizing that this was "affordable" and "a great value."

It was almost exactly the same as the asking price on the boat.

The salesguy asked, "So what do you think?"

I looked at the salesguy, looked at Pat, looked back at the salesguy, and said, "We're getting the boat."

Because of all of the many ways in which things had lined up perfectly for us, the obvious name for the boat was Syzygy.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A few words about Arizona

Not enough time to give a full accounting, but I can hit the high points ...

Thursday: Arrived late at night, found that the hotel where we were originally thinking of staying was going to be way too expensive. Looked for alternatives and found the Drury Hotel not too far away, much more reasonably priced. (Alert: unabashed endorsement follows.) It's just about the best hotel I've ever stayed in. The accommodations were top-notch, the amenities were of the sort that I would expect in a hotel costing five times as much, the morning breakfast buffet was first class (fresh, and I mean FRESH, sausage and scrambled eggs and more), and the people -- oh, the entire staff, they were so friendly and eager to please without being sycophantic -- this is the standard to which all hotels should aspire. If any of my readers should ever be traveling, I would recommend that they seek out a Drury Hotel if one is available. (Disclaimer: I have not, nor have ever, had any financial or familial relationship with Drury Hotels or any person who is associated with the chain. All of my comments are based solely on my own disinterested experiences.)

Friday: For the Friday Fracas, Pat and I were on the committee boat, while Gerald was on one of the Vipers. Winds were brisk, and the sailors had a good time. I got to learn how the AYC committee boat runs races, a really slick system.

Saturday: Gerald and I got on as crew on the Wavelength 30, Alibi, a boat that has been around, with two old guys who have been part of the Arizona sailing scene for a long time. These guys have been sailing together for decades, long before they came to Arizona. Based on where they (and the boat) came from, I'm giving them the blog nicknames Superior Skipper and Superior Mate. Alas, the winds Saturday were very light, and the boat didn't get a chance to show her talents -- she did go upwind far better than something that big should go in winds that light, but downwind things were miserable.

At the end of the day, many small boats without motors needed a tow. We ended up with a row of ducklings behind us: a Thistle and five Buccaneers.

Sunday: The day started out with brisk winds. Alibi had the rail in the water much of the time. Some of the other skippers had chickened out, but Superior Skipper and Superior Mate were all excited about getting Alibi out in conditions that she was designed for. We could probably have used a couple of more people to provide weight out on the windward rail. I got a bunch of bruises as I was tumbling from one side of the cockpit to the other helping Gerald to tail genoa sheets and generally doing all-purpose go-fer duty. (At least I didn't have to dodge flying potato peelers.)

The second race started in nice winds, but less than the first race had. By the end of the second race, there was very little wind. But there was enough wind that things were ok.

The third race was a disaster. The wind essentially went away. It was mostly gone before the race began, but some of the racers talked the race committee into running one more race. That wasn't a good idea. Alibi isn't designed for drifters; she's a Great Lakes boat. Superior Mate, in particular, became much more testy. After an eternity, we finally finished the race -- in third place, but that's because all but two of the other boats in our fleet gave up.

Still, it was fun. Superior Skipper and Superior Mate are great guys, and they both really want to get Gerald on as crew when he's available. Because they're getting older, they'd quit doing spinnaker, but if they can get somebody spry on foredeck, Superior Mate really wants to get back into the spinnaker fleet. Superior Mate also brings the sandwiches.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New America's Cup skipper?

Yeah, he was on Black Magic ... just not my Black Magic

Prince William is learning the duties expected of a British royal. This time, he's representing his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, on a tour of New Zealand and Australia. He's done ceremonial things like dedicating new government buildings, visiting a children's hospital, and participating in traditional food-related celebrations. He also visited with members of the New Zealand rugby team, and he got a spin at the helm of the New Zealand America's Cup yacht.

After looking at the schedule he has to follow on this visit Down Under, I would have to say that I would hate to have to go through all of the public ceremonial occasions and appearances that he has on his calendar. I do not think I could survive such a grueling routine. At least he had the ruggers and the sailors to lighten things up.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wear Blue for Oceans Day

I nearly missed it! Gotta get this post up fast!

As Bonnie's friend Bubbles would say, OMG! January 13 is Wear Blue for Oceans Day, when we are all encouraged to show support for laws that will help to preserve the health of the water that covers about three quarters of our planet, and all of the living things in that water. But what with all sorts of other controversies going on in the blogosphere, along with the insanity that comes for me with the beginning of a new term at the community college where I teach, I had totally forgotten. It was late last night when I saw something somewhere that reminded me of the date.

Well, at least I got reminded in time that I was able to wear blue. I got on my favorite nubbly warm dark blue sweater, and some blue slacks that match. I forgot the earrings, though – sailboats flying blue spinnakers. Oh, well, they wouldn't have been all that visible under the new hairdo.

Anyhow, I hope at least a few people did remember to wear blue.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Happy New Year

Too cold for moonlight sailing, though

We ended up with a very low-key New Year's celebration at the lake. New Year's Eve, Pat, Gerald, and I headed south, to find that Zorro was already out on the water in very light air; we rigged Black Magic up and set sail. He had sailed up to the northern part of the lake, and then had been becalmed, so it took him a while to get back to the area near the marina where we were sailing. We returned to the marina together about sunset. As we were finishing putting the boats away in the increasing dark, the moon rose big and yellow over the far side of the lake. It would certainly have been pretty to sail under that moon, but the temperature was near freezing and falling; early October is definitely a better time than late December for moonlight sailing.

We headed to Cornhusker's house to warm up and have a light supper; we then ran by Wal-Mart for some miscellaneous supplies and went to join Zorro for an extremely quiet New Year's celebration. He had brought a video of a documentary about Erroll Flynn that we watched, and then we watched the television countdown to the New Year. Before we headed back to Cornhusker's house, Zorro played the Bette Midler version of "Slow Boat To China" for us.

New Year's Day, the weather was nice, sunny with a high temperature predicted in the high 40s; there was, however, very little wind. Zorro went out earlier in the day, and then he said he thought the wind was coming up some, so Pat, Gerald, and I set sail on Black Magic to join Zorro on Constellation. The first 20 minutes or so, winds were light; we got about halfway across the lake. Then the wind became close to non-existent; it took us three hours to get back to the marina. Once again, we put away boats in gathering darkness and plummeting temperatures. (Pictures of the "sailing" are available on Desert Sea.)

So we returned to Albuquerque, and the weather reports from the lake have been of very light wind, so we haven't bothered to try to go back and sail more. Perhaps mid-week there will be more wind, although there also might be lower temperatures and some chance of precipitation. And then, we have some business matters to take care of both here in Albuquerque and up at Five O'Clock Somewhere. Plus, the new term begins next week, and there's a new textbook and a new master syllabus for the classes I will be teaching, so I have a lot of work to do on revising my syllabus and assignment calendar.

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