Monday, May 22, 2006

Here a lake there a lake...

Friday afternoon I picked up some "Acme Rod" for Carol Anne's boat trailer and picked Tadpole up from school to head south to Elephant Butte Lake and catch up with Carol Anne. En route, we stopped for almost an hour in Los Chavez and emptied out all the money remaining in joint checking to pay for Carol Anne's new boat trailer. Because the company that made the trailer (Accutrak) doesn't actually build sailboat trailers, it remains to be customized into a sailboat trailer with the addition of a keel tray, guides, keel stop, ladder, pads and supports, front bunk, marker posts, etc.

Taking the trailer south, we got it to its destination and caught up with Carol Anne. Zorro slipped away to work on his boat while we visited with folks at the Fleet 141 compound. Later, we went to the marina and saw that Zorro had taken Apple Lady and her husband out for a sail in spirited conditions. They're now enthusiastic about the idea of buying their own Etchells, even though they're still very attached to their thirty-foot C&C cruiser and would likely have a limited budget or challenges in maintaining multiple boats. The day ended with some of us visiting Big Food Express and looking forward to the next day's Anniversary Cup distance race.

Saturday we caught up on weather news and checked in at the skippers' meeting. "Cornhusker" of Carol Anne's crew followed us to the marina. "Seymour", an experienced Etchells sailor, showed up at the marina to help out (apparently Zorro had called him), so I gave him a spot on board and made plans to run errands and take pictures from ashore. I also fetched a couple of boat things and borrowed a hacksaw from the marina so Seymour could fit a batten into an empty jib batten pocket. After getting pictures of Black Magic on her way out of the harbor, I ran into town to prepare for ending our period of house-sitting.

Later I drove out to Long Point, giving Babe, our Expedition, a good taste of off-road driving through loose sand and rocks. Hiking and rock-jogging the last quarter mile or so, I made it to the northernmost point of land in time to get some pictures of the racing boats traveling north toward their furthest turning mark. I was surprised and confused by the panorama below me; the order of the boats bore little relationship to their theoretical speeds and handicap ratings, with a water-ballasted Hunter 26 and a J-22 in the lead, the two Etchells almost side-by-side, and them in turn followed by the C&C 30 and two J-24s. The boats were only about a quarter-mile apart after having raced for about five miles; the flukey, on-and-off, here-and-gone winds had randomly benefitted some boats more than others and compressed the fleet. Noticable also was the almost complete lack of wind in the northern part of the lake as contrasted to moderate breezes just south of the point. Conditions were also a bit brutal on the point for all my photographic mountain-goating; temperatures were around 94 degrees with waves of heat reflecting from the rocks, so I retreated for a while to re-hydrate.

Returning to my lookout point as the boats returned from the top mark, I saw that the order had changed quite a bit; the Etchells USA 438 (Black Swan) had clearly broken away from the pack and was headed south under spinnaker, followed by the J-24, Kachina, which had gotten away from the rear of the fleet. USA 125/Black Magic, with Carol Anne at the helm, was only just breaking away from the pack, crossing in front of the C&C30, LunaC, and was close hauled even after getting on the same heading as the two lead boats. Freaky lake winds were letting the lead boats run spinnakers in a tongue of wind that moved with them, but Carol Anne had to struggle for a long time to reach a decent breeze that would let her fly the chute and get more separation from the pack. As the boats passed, I got some decent pictures, and then rock-hopped and jogged to the truck to drive to the south end of the point, wade into the channel, and take more pictures as the boats reached open water.

Black Magic accelerated and was closing with the two leaders, but not enough to catch them. Winds built up toward the end of the race, mostly to the benefit of the rear of the fleet. Tadpole added a new job description to his foredeck duties: Sponge. That is, he soaked up a loat of water as the boat charged through some strong puffs (in between winds shifts and lulls). Zorro on USA 438 barely hung onto a corrected-time victory (by a six-second margin after more than four hours of racing!), while Carol Anne's third-to-finish became fifth on corrected time as her lead was only enough to hold off half of the boats behind her. Still, she had a great day on the water with lots of challenges and variety. Some of the results had to do with luck and flukey patches of winds and the race was a great learning experience for her and her crew.

That evening, Carol Anne read the Robert Service poem, "The cremation of Sam McGee" in honor of John, one of our sailing club skippers who died last Monday. She also got a plaque for the club championship races a couple of weeks before. We were glad that "Seymour" along with "Cornhusker" and her husband (Bassmaster) could attend, along with a lot of other sailors. We also had a couple of little surprises for Zorro and Dumbledore.

Sunday no racing was scheduled, and we had to clear out of Dino's investment home, where we'd been house-sitting part time. After breakfast with a couple of our sailing friends, we went to the board meeting; it was good we got there with attendance low and I was attending as a club director and membership chair. (We were missing a vice commodore, who we knew would be out of town, and the northern fleet directors.) We did succeed in reviewing the financial health of the club, finding people to help work on the club website, and in approving a charitable donation in John's memory. Batwoman and Tadpole left for Albuquerque but I stayed on to finish the meeting, help move the club trophy case, and help Dino (Braximus) move furniture out of his investment house. (The hide-a-bed sofa was a particular challenge.)

It was mid-afternoon before I got back 150 miles to Albuquerque and unloaded a truckload of household and travel and sailing stuff, but our family's day was far from over. Leaving Tadpole to work on a music composition project, take-home advanced placement History exam, and study for his remaining final exams, Carol Anne and I drove north another 165 miles to Heron Lake, stopping only for fuel and a "Lot-a-Burger" fix. We towed our MacGregor 26 and also brought a load of foam flotation and some paperwork forms for the marina. Arriving about an hour before dark, we raised the mast in spite of a couple of pieces being missing from the mast-raising jig, launched the boat, and got Syzygy into her slip. We took some pictures of the new dock, tried to find a dock master (a car was parked above, so the dockmasters may have taken another car to get dinner), brought the foam pallets down, and prepared to leave. Stopping by the cabin, "Five O Clock Somewhere", we dropped off the trailer and checked our mail, then drove back south through the dark night, arriving home a little after midnight. Whew!


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