Thursday, August 31, 2006

Moonlight on the Water

Yesterday Zorro called Batwoman to let us know he was headed for the lake. Tad had to lead a troop meeting and the Batgal had to teach, but I got the message and headed south just before rush hour got too awful.

Reaching the marina an hour before sunset, I met Zorro on the dock just after he'd docked USA 38. He'd had to sail solo because the crew he'd expected hadn't materialized, and conditions hadn't been too great with not much usable breeze. Also, he'd been unable to replace a failed jib halyard, and had been improvising by hoisting the jib with the spin halyard and not bothering with the chute.

So, we didn't have overly high expectation but went sailing anyway. That's what you do if you have a boat, a sail, and something like a breeze.

As it turned out, we had quite good sailing conditions. The breeze varied from a couple of knots to maybe eight or so, with enough consistency and variety to make the sailing interesting. Conversation was good, with plans for boat improvements and repairs, plans for regattas and sailing activitities, ideas for building up the local Etchells fleet, and news of the lake and local sailing community.

Zorro had me work on jib trim and on improving my efficiency in tacking the jib. I'd been pretty sloppy at first and had almost no practice this summer, plus Tad had been sometimes zealous in guarding his turf on Batwoman's USA 125 -- the pointy end of the boat including the forward control console and jib sheets. The great secret in tacking an Etchells jib properly is to maximize _____ and minimize ____ ; the jib should go over very ________ and ________ , without any fuss. I made a couple of dumb brain fart/absent minded goofs, but nothing too awful, and got better as the afternoon progressed into evening. Zorro also pointed out things that made the boat go slow or fast.

As the afternoon lengthened, we saw an interesting and welcome sight: another boat sailing out from the Dam Site area. We noted a colorful foresail, then a dark hull, then saw that the hull was red ... and recognized a sailboat belonging to Ranger Ben, one of the local park rangers, and sailed by him and a companion. We enjoyed hailing Ben as we spoke his boat and caught up on a couple of details.

We sailed from Rock Canyon Marina (temporarily near the dam) up to Marina del Sur, where we enjoyed some really nice wind with puffs that were just big enough to accelerate the boat nicely. One puff caught us just a bit unprepared, which allowed Zorro to show me the sound the keel makes when it gets a little bit unhappy and inefficient. Zorro was also able to point out some of the lake's hazards and shoal spots at the current lake level. (An interesting feature of lake sailing is what the fluctuations in lake level do to challenge one's local knowledge; if you return to a lake after an absence of a few weeks it can be almost like sailing on a different lake!)

With the moon at first quarter shining upon the water, dusk didn't cut off our sailing. Keeping an eye out for unlit buoys, we tacked and ran back and forth in the area north of the towering mesa that gives Elephant Butte Lake its name. The winds were fickle, coming and going; sometimes we'd outrun a breeze but then have to be alert to catch a new breeze that came in from whatever direction it might please. It became harder and harder to see the tell-tales, though on some tacks there would be just enough moonlight in the right place for me to see the leeward tell-tale through the sail. At other times, we were sailing mostly by feel; in the lighter winds I'd stand and turn my face around to catch faint breezes and changes in wind direction.

Too soon it was getting too late. We couldn't stand to return to the marina immediately even so, and sailed one or two more final passes through the area, then turned back toward the marina, got in a couple of last tacks, lowered the jib, sailed past the slip, lowered the main, and made a mostly downwind approach under bare poles in the moonlit evening. Then it was time to secure docklines and roll up sails before saying a last reluctant farewell to the boat and make our respective 150-mile or so drives home; Zorro south and me north.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When is your boat too small.

Subject: How To Tell If Your Boat Is Too Small..???

I couldn't resist posting this picture sent to me by Nick N. The caption reads, "Sitting in a 3.8 metre sea kayak and watching a four-metre great white approach can be a fairly tense experience." From Thomas P. Peschak, and Michael C. Scholl, "Shark Detectives", Africa Geographic, September 2005.

You may want to forward this to others of the NMSC. This could be an inducement to buy a bigger boat.


Yesterday was a quiet day in our household. Got some sailing news, had a sailing discussion on the phone, got the Foghorn newsletter ready to go, and today I ordered a couple of used sails. None of us have sailed since Sunday.

Art says:
Just a reminder that the August social for the Rio Grande Sailing Club will be this Thursday, Aug. 31, at The Range Cafe in Albuquerque, located on Menaul Blvd, about a 1/2 block east of University. See ya all there!


The Foghorn is about to go to press. Those of you who wanted to sell or buy boats, let me know if you still have them or have sold them.


Sunrise Regatta update:
$35.00 is the entry fee for the Sunrise;
this includes 1 T-shirt and 1 Breakfast meal.
$8.25 for each extra breakfast.
Extra T-shirts $12.00. Thanks r

(That’s a good deal!)


Dec 2 and 3 Christmas Party. evening of Dec 2

Please send this out to the RGSC club members. Thanks. Sue


Hi Everyone,

Place your order for the Sunrise Regatta t-shirts. The cost is $12 each. This includes the screens, art work, shirts (high quality), two prints front and back. They are striking...turquoise with white lettering. We ordered 5 women's t-shirts (sleeveless like the Adam's Cup t-s) and 20 mens t-shirts. If you are interested in purchasing t-shirts for the Sunrise Regatta, please email me directly ASAP to reserve them today. Pick from these sizes: Womens (XL), Mens (S,M,L,X,XX, XXX)




There should be some interesting news out about next year’s Adams Cup competition for women, according to LJ and Sue. Let us know if you’re interested.

Sample Boat Listing
Etchells USA 596, $7,500; contact John Murray,; PRICE REDUCED!! - 1984 Great fast racing boat. Ontario white hull always dry sailed. Deck layout by New Zealand team in 1998 Worlds. Proctor mast. Keel and bottom refinished in 2003. Well maintained and lightly raced. Doyle/Curtis sails - 2x DCM, 1x DCL, 2x Main, 3x spin. Includes dual axle trailer in good shape. Located in Marblehead, Mass. John at (978) 740-5006

Lake update

Elephant Butte Lake continues to rise, although a little more slowly of late.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, the lake is at elevation 4,324.76’, with 327,208 acre feet.
It is up 3.4 inches and 2,900 acre feet in 24 hours and 15.6 inches and 13,500 a.f. in 72 hours.
Water is flowing in at 2,460 cubic feet per second at the San Marcial Floodway and out the dam at 152 c.f.s. (about 5% of full flow out). The elevation is the same as it was last May 23 (about the time of the Anniversary Cup).

Heron Lake is fairly steady, at elevation 7,143.47 and 193,350 acre feet, down 1 inch and 300 a.f. in 72 hours.


Fame, Love, Travel, Victory, Fun, Rum, Thrills, Beers, Volunteers…

Ah, caught you looking … and now you know that it’s time to let Richard or the board know if you’d like to help the club as an officer, board members, committee leader, or someone who can just help out. We’ll need a couple of new officers and board members, including Treasurer, plus plenty of help to keep things going.


Boat US says:
Nationally, the top five reported reasons why boaters called for assistance are:
1. Unknown engine failure: 49%
2. Grounding: 16%
3. Out of fuel or other fuel problems: 10%
4. Battery jump starts or electrical problems: 12%
5. Engine overheating: 4%

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sailing champions unless....

Larry knows of lots of gung-ho, committed, dedicated, enthusiastic, masterful, confident would-be sailing champions who'll do anything to win trophies....

Unless it costs too much, or
Unless they have to train for hours and hours, or
Unless it's too hot / cold / wet / windy / boring / scary to be fun, or
Unless they'd rather party and goof off, or
Unless the weather forecast isn't 100% perfect, or
Unless wind, water, waves, and course conditions don't meet their one area of expertise,
Unless it's too far or inconvenient to get to sailable water very often,
Unless they're expected to volunteer to help with race committee and sailing club jobs,
Unless they have to concentrate on doing their assigned crew job,
Unless the race committee assigns a course that they're not used to sailing,
Unless they have to pay their share of the bar tab or other expenses,
Unless they're asked to help less fortunate sailors,
Unless they're asked to train green young crew,
Unless they have to buy new or better sails,
Unless the skipper tells them to learn something new,
Unless they have to adapt to new crewmates, boats, or sailing conditions,
Unless the instructor doesn't let them lecture and show off how smart they are,
Unless there's a good drink special at the club bar,
Unless they have to help put away and clean the boat,
Unless they have to inspect, clean, tune, and maintain the hull and rig,
Unless they have to sail against better sailors and can't stand to get beat by them, or
Unless they can't buy a top boat and crew and then hire a truck to load the trophies, or
Unless their family doesn't want them to sail, or
Unless they don't get a favorable handicap rating,
Unless their significant other needs help shopping for shoes,
Unless they have to feed and groom their pet rocks,
Unless they can't bully fellow racers and the protest committee,
Unless there's a good sale somewhere or an important game or soap on the telly, or
Unless they have to pay attention to and observe the top sailors, or
Unless the top sailors are racing against them that weekend,
Unless they have to learn the rules, or
Unless the wind changes,
Unless they have to fix things that break, or
Unless someone tells them to stop daydreaming and focus on their job,
Unless they need to put sailing on hold to chat on the phone or do some stock trades on a Blackberry, or
Unless they have to study weather and local conditions, or
Unless they need to thoroughly prepare their boat, or
Unless they have to study and understand books and stay awake while watching videos and them practice what they read and watch, or
Unless they have to read the compass or do math,
Unless it means studying competitors' boats, strengths & limitations, tactics, and habits, or,
Unless it means accepting fair criticisms and being willing to change bad habits, or
Unless they realize they're not smarter than the coach after a few lessons, or
Unless they need to beat the bushes for crew, pay crew expenses, and take responsibility for crew and crew training.
Unless they have to be nice to their crew, race committee, and fellow competitors, or
Unless they have to travel and spend time, money, and must concentrate and take notes to learn from top competitors, coaches, regattas, and programs, or
Unless it involves listening to advice from the right places, or
Unless they never run out of excuses for losing.

Got any more you could add to the list?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Thought for the day

Sterling Hayden:

"'I've always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can't afford it.' What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of 'security'. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

"What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all ? - in the material sense - and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

"The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

"Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Elephant Butte Rises and the Sunrise Too

(extract from an e-mail answering whether there was water to sail at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico:)

Earlier this year, the Butte was predicted to be down to 98,375 acre feet (5% of capacity at elevation 4294.14', about a foot lower than the worst level of 2004) by the end of today. And, the lake was projected to be down to 62,811 a.f. by the end of August (at elev. 4286.56', or 9 feet lower than in 2004). These predictions were assuming that there would not be any useful rains and that the farmers would need all the water they could get.

That would have been terrible. And, the Butte had gone way down; from about 400,000 a.f. at the beginning of the year and 500,000 a.f. at the spring peak down to about 192,000 a.f. But, the summer rains came, and how! (The week-by-week details of lake conditions of course have been well covered in my weblog; and more of our adventures in CA's blog, )

First some rain came in July, and the Butte came up a couple of feet before going back down a few feet. We thought the Butte had only been given a brief reprieve. But, then much more rain came and the Butte rose 7.5 feet during the first two weeks of August. And, it's continued to rise. This morning, the Butte is up to elevation 4,319.92' feet above benchmark with 279,099 acre feet in storage. That's almost triple the water and 25 feet higher than we'd been warned to fear. And, water is still flowing in; the San Marcial Conveyence was flowing at 3,330 cubic feet per second this morning versus only 152 c.f.s. being released from the dam.

Sure, the reservoir is far from full, the drought isn't over, and the rains could peter out while farmers are still irrigating. But, the recovery is wonderful. All the boat ramps are now usable and there's a large area north of Long Point that's sailable. And, the Bureau of Reclamation has been steadily relaxing their worst-case forecasts. From 4,285 to 4,295 to 4,305 to 4,308 ... The end result is that the Butte is notably better off than two years ago.

Now, as for the Sunrise: It's the club's primary distance race, is scheduled for a moonlit weekend, and has been the most popular of the club's races in the past, attracting out-of-area boats. When the lake was more full, it was run as a 10, 25, or 50-mile race; the latter could have boats out all night to cross the finish line with the rising sun, hench giving the event its name. This year there will be the 10 and 25 mile runs, so all the boats should finish during the day or fairly early in the evening. Because most Etchells don't have motors or navigation lights (required for safety by the rules of the race), their crews plan to do the 10-miler.

The committee boat will probably start the races NNW of the Elephant Butte, then the race committee will probably record finishes from the far corner of the Rock Canyon Marina, which is now north of the dam and west of the Elephant Butte. There will be a semi-potluck Friday evening (Sept. 8) at the Fleet 141 compound near Rock Canyon, a casual dinner Saturday evening probably at someplace like the Elephant Butte Inn, and then the big trophy awards breakfast on Sunday morning. In the past, many of the events have been run out of the Damsite, but this year the Damsite has become less convenient for sailors (long story), so we'll see what develops.

We had a great sail yesterday all the way across Heron and back (putting up the spinnaker on Black Magic for the first time in a while), a quickie Friday evening, and will be going back out in about an hour. Also, on Tuesday, Tadpole and I sailed down at the Butte and last night we did a quick motor and sail on the MacGregor.

There was some mixups in setting up and executing yesterday's planned match racing and we didn't get in on it, but perhaps it was just as well; there were lots of green sailors on the two J-24s that were doing it, the boats didn't have radios and had immense difficulty in figuring out how to do the starts, and Esther Williams t-boned the committee boat (Uncle Jesse's pride and joy; ironically Uncle Jesse was on Esther's boat while Mother and Yoda were on his boat as race committee), ramming a hole in it (fortunately above waterline), which Dumbledore will get to fix after he gets some information from the folks at Hunter Marine as to the composition of the inner hull and liner.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Recruiting for Crew and Drinking Crew Slots, Sunrise Regatta

note for crew, potential crew, supporters, and friends of Team Black Magic

Summer's ending quickly; Tad is already back in school (and had two music lessons this afternoon plus Pre-Calculus and US History homework tonight). We learned a lot in Colorado (Dillon with a hundred other boats!) and had some nice sailing last weekend. This past week we re-rigged and launched Black Magic after returning from Colorado, some of us got to sail both at the Butte (with Zorro) and at Heron, we ordered sails and boat stuff, worked on a marina, and helped some Scouts start on their sailing merit badge. That's a decent week.

On Carol Anne's behalf -- she hates bugging people and thinks Torquemada had something to do with inventing the telephone -- I want to check with you on when you'd be available as crew, support crew, boat riggers, advisors, coaches, cheerers-on, spectators, scenic tour passengers, dinner guests, sources of wisdom / encouragement / consolation, drinking buddies for Carol Anne and the fleet, whatever, especially for the Sunrise regatta coming up soon the weekend of September 8--10. We'll probably bring Black Magic down to the Butte on Labor Day (Monday). Also, perhaps most important for crew members, what size t-shirt would you want for Sunrise Regatta t-shirts?

SEPTEMBER 8-9-10, 2006
Elephant Butte New Mexico
Friday September 8, 2006

5:00pm POT LUCK Dinner at Fleet 141 Compound
Hamburger and condiments on us…..
Please bring a side dish to share with all
And beverage of your choice!

Saturday September 9, 2006

10:00am Skippers Meeting 10:00 am on Patio at Dam Site

12:30pm First gun ……….location to be announced …

Informal get together after the race Saturday evening
At Dam Site Restaurant & Bar

Sunday September 10, 2006

9:00am Breakfast Buffet and Award presentation on Patio
At Dam Site Restaurant

Possible future sailing dates for team Black Magic

October 28, Governor's Cup weekend
November 11, Desert Classic regatta weekend
November 18, Commodore's Cup weekend
December 2, Kris Kringle (Saturday only)
December 31, NY Eve Regatta (Coronado Bay, San Diego)
January 1, 2007, New Year's Day regatta (San Diego Bay)
January 13, 2007, Arizona Yacht Club Birthday Regatta/Leukemia Cup

RGSC spring season,
New Mexico Sailing Club summer season

August 4, 2007, Dillon Open, Colorado

November 2007, Rolex Womens' Keelboat Championship, Houston

??? NOOD Regatta, 2007
??? One-Design Weekends, San Diego

Team Accomplishments, August 11-18

Team Black Magic:

Friday, August 11 Rigged and re-launched USA 125 (finishing the job in the rain and dark but still getting a little quicker and better at it).

Sat., Aug. 12 Some marina work plus got in a quick sail before the weather closed in.

Sun., Aug. 13 Got in a really nice sail across the lake and back. Also worked on marina, installed drainage under path.

Mon., Aug. 14 Ordered boat stuff (sail numbers, sails, etc.).

Tues., Aug. 15 Crew members Tad & Pat sailed with fleet (in-formation) capt. Zorro and met new Etchells sailor George at Elephant Butte and discussed work needed on USA 38, 125, and 438 as well as crew situation, training, travel plans, and regatta organization.

Weds., Aug. 16 Sent out sail club info and started some publicity and preparation for the Sunrise Regatta. Tad & Pat taught sailboat safety at boy scout meeting in prep for scouts to learn sailing at Heron later this summer.

Thurs., Aug 17 Tad got his new eyeglasses -- again at last we have a foredeck crew who can see! Also received sail numbers from North Sails San Diego Loft. Awaiting two used jibs. Picked up tools for sailing club work at Heron marina, paid boat insurance, paid bills, etc., so we'll be able to order more boat stuff next week. Got skipper beverages.

To be added: Carol Anne's boat work or sailing up at Heron while her crew was down in Albuquerque.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Desert Sailing: Heel Angle Question

Question: What is the proper angle of heel for an 34-foot, 11,000 lb. boat sailing across the desert sea?

Is the angle shown above somewhat excessive for the sand and wind conditions shown?

Do you suspect that the rudder would stall out under these circumstances?

Southward sailing safari

Tuesday morning Zorro sent an e-mail saying he'd be available to sailing at the Butte. So, about the time Tadpole was supposed to get home from school, I left work, caught up with Tad after he stayed after school to fix his schedule, packed rain gear, sailing gloves, and a life vest, got fuel for El Caballero headed south. There were a couple of communication glitches waiting for contact, but eventually we coordinated plans.

En route, I stoped in Los Chavez (between Los Lunas and Belen) at Accutrak Trailers to pick up an electrical connector and order bearing buddies and spare bearings for Batwoman's Etchells trailer. We weren't rained on much, but saw lots of water in arroyas, and could tell that Socorro had recently gotten a good rainstorm.

Arriving at the lake around 6:40 p.m., we parked near the dam, went down the long floating gangway to the Rock Canyon Marina, and quickly hopped on USA 38 with Zorro and his crew, George. We got in two hours and a bit more of sailing, with some time under spinnaker, and with winds running around 4-10 mph before they started fading with darkness. Tad did foredeck and jib trim, while I did the spinnaker sheet and general rail meat/movable ballast duty. We got just past Horse Island before having to turn back.

Returning well after dark, we secured the boat (fortunately we had a couple of flashlights), said goodbye to George (Zorro gave him a couple of sails), left the marina at 9:30, and looked for a place to eat. That wasn't easy on a weeknight; even the Izza Ut had closed at 9:00. So, Zorro, Tad, and I wound up at the sign of the golden arches before Tad and I drove north, not arriving in Albuquerque until after midnight.

The Butte is in much better shape than had been expected; rains in the past month have helped immensely. Instead of 110,000 acre feet, the lake has 255,000. This should be very good for making fall sailing feasible and enjoyable. Unfortunately, although we had the camera, we didn't take pictures in the limited light.

Rainy days mean wet lakes

This may be getting a bit repetitive for folks who live on the coast and can't understand New Mexicans' endless fascination with that slippery cool squishy liquid stuff that falls from the skies.

Yesterday, as we drove south from Albuquerque to Truth or Consequences en route to the Rock Canyon Marina (now relocated to the DamSite area) at Elephant Butte (I love reciting New Mexico names), we saw quite a few arroyos with lots of muddy water.

Heron Lake, 7143.45 feet elevation, 193,273 acre feet. Up 1 inch and 388 a.f. in 24 hours and up 2-1/2 inches and 813 a.f. in 72 hours. Willow Creek is running at 221 cubic feet per second (101 cfs minimum and 269 cfs maximum in 72 hours), the Azotea Tunnel at 164 cfs (93 min., 230 max.), and the Rio Chama is at 188 cfs (125 min., 209 max.). Last weekend's work crews moved the marina abou four yards further from shore to prepare it for lower water levels this winter. This weekend we'll need work crews to help mount some reinforcing "knee braces" near the end of B dock, and the club will be hosting sailboat match racing for anyone interested. The lake is about half full and all ramps and facilities are usable for all boats.

Elephant Butte Lake, 4,317.40 feet elevation above benchmark, 255,737 a.f. Up 3 inches and 2,346 a.f. in 24 hours and up 14 inches and 10,665 a.f. in 72 hours. The Rio Grande is flowing at 3,800 c.f.s. at San Acacia (north of Socorro) (1660 cfs min. and 4280 cfs maximum in the past 72 hours) and at 3,980 c.f.s. at San Marcial (2,900 cfs. min. and 4860 cfs max.). Although water is still being released from the lake, inflow is greater, and the end of irrigation season is getting closer. There is plenty of lake to sail on, and sailing conditions were good last night with a moderate breeze gradually dying away as dark approached. It's very possible that the lake will only go down perhaps to elevation 4,308 feet or so, which would be about 13 feet better than two years ago and about 23 feet better than the worrisome prediction made earlier this year.

Other Lakes

Navajo, 1,422,521 a.f., down 780 a.f.

Ute, 192,000 a.f.

Abiquiu, 156,638 a.f., down 889 a.f., water flowing out at 99 c.f.s.

Conchas, 126,207 a.f., up 4,906 a.f.

El Vado, 56,555 a.f., up 213 a.f., water flowing out at 86 c.f.s.

Cochiti, 50,676 a.f., up 665 a.f., water flowing out at 650 c.fs.

Santa Rosa, 39,838 a.f., down 4,498 a.f.

Eagle Nest, 33,439 a.f., up 28 a.f.

Sumner, 17,434, up 311 a.f.

Brantley, 12,847 a.f., down 647 a.f.

Avalon, 826, up 160 a.f.

Frustration in the High School Schedule Jungle

Tuesday afternoon I met a very frustrated Tadpole when he got home later than usual after school. You know how a teenager can get on someone else's nerves? Well, imagine 500 of them confined most of the day in a large room.

Albuquerque Public Schools is implementing a new computer registration. At Tad's school, the implementation isn't doing very well, and most students have errors in their schedules or don't have a valid schedule at all. So, the counselors are being besieged by hundreds of students trying to get their schedules corrected, or get any schedule at all. Because of the crowds, students with the most severe schedule problems were told to spend the day in the school cafeteria. To wait. And wait. And wait. Unfortunately, the process went very slowly; school employees had only limited training with the new system, there seem to have been other problems, and so only a slow trickle of students were helped. Students who had any schedule at all were told to just go to those classes, even if they were going to classes that didn't make any sense for them and weren't the classes they would need to graduate.

The end of school came and still hundreds of students were schedule-less. But, Tad had heard that some counselors would remain after school to continue helping students, so he waited. Eventually his turn came, and he got a schedule fix, at least for the fall term. Now he has US History (Advanced Placement), Pre-Calculus, Orchestra, and German III for the fall term and English 11 (Honors) (and no other classes yet!) for spring. Of course, things probably are still in flux; for example, his orchestra teacher wants to move Orchestra to a time that would conflict with German. Hmmmm. We're hoping things stay still now!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunday recap

Sunday morning we weren't quite as slow to get moving as on Saturday, but we still had things to do around the house (including shooing a packrat out of El Caballero's engine compartment) and it was afternoon by the time we descended upon the marina with sailing gear, a bucket of gravel, and seven feet of four-inch diameter pvc pipe.

We visited with some friends, noticed that the weekend work crew had succeeded in winching the marina about five yards further from the shore and inserted a new gangway segment, bailed some water out of our MacGregor (Syzygy), and sorted out which gear went on which boat before sailing.

We raised Black Magic's mainsail (the halyard lock worked perfectly the first time; it isn't always so cooperative) and backed out of the slip, caught a modest breeze, and tacked out the Narrows to the main body of Heron Lake, chatting with crews from a couple of other boats, re-routing a control line while underway, and then tacking long tacks out to the far (west) end of the lake.

When most of the way across, we encountered a Merit 25 whose crew tacked her just downwind and some boatlengths ahead of us; they seemed to have had the idea of racing us. We adjusted trim, climbed over them, and left them astern, which was fun while the boats were still fairly close, then finished crossing the lake and tacked to head back toward the marina.

We'd readied a spinnaker, but just about when we reached the far end of the lake, the wind switched about 140 degrees from something like WSW to NNE. So, we made almost the whole trip close-hauled, including tacking back through the cliff-bound Narrows with some interesting wind switches, headers, velocity headers, lifts, kitchen skinks, flying monkeys, whatever. We sailed into the dock and put the boat away before a bit of wind and rain visited the marina. After we'd secured Black Magic, Tadpole also helped dock the Merit, which had given up on sailing and had eventually motored back through the Narrows to the marina.

CA then went to the Stone House to refill a propane bottle while Tad worked on a marina pier and I dug a trench and installed the pvc pipe as a drainage line to protect the trail going down to the marina. We also got the dockmaster's help in making measurements for another project and took a look at some "knee braces" that will be installed on B west dock.

Too soon it was time to leave the marina, feed the cats and ourselves at the cabin (vermicelli and a marinara sauce with lots of oregano along with a nut bread that CA had baked that morning), pack El Caballero, leave for Albuquerque with Tadpole, leaving CA and the cats at the cabin. We passed through the construction area north of Cebolla, where, at least, the southern mile or two are now mostly re-paved. After about twenty miles it began to rain. To our surprise, it continued raining -- remember New Mexico is supposed to be a dry place ? -- and raining, and sometimes raining heavily, all the way about 145 miles into Albuquerque. The traction control light and the windshield wipers got a workout. So, at least the lakes in the central and southern end of the state should benefit quite a bit from this latest mega-cloudburst.

Next weekend should be busy: match racing (hope we don't have to bribe someone to race against CA and crew), putting some Sunfish in the water (Boy Scouts will be coming the following weekend), bailing out and repairing Syzygy (deck leaks, broken bimini track, broken centerboard uphaul, dings, etc.), working on the marina, and attending a birthday party for a bunch of very active 75-year-olds, etc. Plus, we need to practice and work on all of our long list of "lessons learned" from Dillon; we now have a much better idea of what we need to do to improve our sailing.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

4316, or the ups and downs of a New Mexico Lake

Weekend update -- Friday evening we launched Black Magic, but not before encountering rain and darkness. Saturday, after running errands and shopping seventeen miles up the road in Chama, we finally got to the marina and managed a bit of sailing before the weather closed in upon us, and encouraged us to make a quick run down the Narrows back to the marina. Back at the marina, I finished buttoning up the boats while CA and Tad mixed up a salad and grilled up some chicken quarters and fresh corn on the cob.

Heron has come down about an inch in the last 24 hours but is up just a hair for the past 72 hours. Water is still flowing in, but also seems to be released just as fast.

The big water news is at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico, which is coming up very nicely and is doing far better than the scary predictions we'd heard earlier in the year. The Butte is 16 feet higher than had been predicted for this date, so the extreme low-water predictions for later this fall are probably also no longer valid.

Here's a summary of the Butte's ups and downs, with elevations given in feet above benchmark elevation, and storage in acre feet.

4334.06 ' . . . 430,410 a.f., January 1, 2006 -- 22% of capacity but very good sailing conditions

4339.88 ' . . . 503,030 a.f., March 5, 2006 -- High for the year

4311.06 ' . . . 202,870 a.f., July 7

4313.00 ' . . . 218,130 a.f., July 14 -- Lake recovered two feet due to rains

4308.50 ' . . . 183,870 a.f., July 28 -- Lake went back down due to irrigation demand

4316.00 ' . . . 243,307 a.f., August 12 -- Lake went back up 7.5 feet in two weeks -- a phenomenal recovery for August, when more typically the lake would have gone down by that much instead.

The prediction, based on expected demand and no significant rainfall:
4299.41 ' . . . 123,851 a.f. The reality is 16-1/2 feet and 119,500 a.f. above the projection.
This gives significant reason to believe that that prediction of 4286.56 ' and 62,816 a.f. on Aug. 31 will not happen and that our late summer/early fall low point will be better than that.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tadpole's schedule

Because we were at Lake Dillon during Tadpole's high schools registration period (which was announced late and not the same week as registration for the rest of the school district), Tadpole needed to sort out his school stuff. After many phone messages, I finally went by the school to get his schedule and try to sort out registration, then dropped him off at the school where I hope he's been able to finish off the job. Because Tad never got a copy of his pre-registration, we didn't have any idea what he'd signed up for and whether he'd get scheduled for the classes he needed. And so, there were some surprises in his schedule...

US History AP
Independent Study
German III
History of Rock and Roll AP
Culinary Arts
English 11 Honors
Great Books Seminar

Missing completely was orchestra/symphony/music; also missing were German IV and either AP Physics or Chemistry II. Rock and Roll is an unnecessary elective since Tad's language and music classes eat up most of his elective choices; if he took any more free electives this year he'd run out of electives for his senior year. It amazed me that Rock-n-Roll is available as an Advanced Placement course. The Great Books class is unnecessary since Tad took that class as a freshman and will have his communications group requirement met by taking German classes. Culinary Arts is also unnecessary; Tad already has great cooking skills. And, the Geol./Astron. could be swapped for Physics or advanced chemistry. The independent study might work out as a music study or as a way to keep registered with the gifted program.

It'll be interesting to see how much progress Tad makes today on fixing things and getting ready for his string bass lesson. Yesterday he had a cello lesson and his final summer "Music Connections" class, plus went swimming with his Scout troop. School begins in just a few days.

New Mexico rainy days and lake conditions.

Yep, not only do we actually have water in New Mexico, but some neighborhoods have gotten more than they want at the moment.

The biggest benficiary of the rains has been Elephant Butte Lake. Earlier predictions were that the Butte would be much further down than it is. The Daily Operations Plan, which assumed no rainfall and assumed farmers would take all their irrigation allotments, predicted that on August 10, 2006, Elephant Butte Lake would be at elevation 4301.11 feet above benchmark, with 130,748 acre feet of water. Instead, with all the recent rains, the Butte is now at 4314.44 feet elevation and has 230,002 acre feet of water. It's up an amazing 19 inches and 13,147 acre feet in 72 hours, and 13 feet and 100,000 acre feet above the prediction made earlier in the year.

This is good enough news that the end-of-month prediction of 62,816 a.f. at elevation 4286.56 is no longer accurate and that this year's lake level will likely be no worse than that in 2004's drought, when the lake went down to about elevation 4295 and around 94,000 a.f. It is quite possible that the Rio Grande Sailing Club will be able to re-schedule its long-distance Sunrise Regatta for September or October.

Oddly enough, water is still being released from Elephant Butte Lake at about 920 cubic feet per second. However, inflow is much greater; the river is flowing at 2710 c.f.s. at San Marcial (minimum of 1760 c.f.s. in the last 72 hours) and 3150 c.f.s. at San Acacia (1700 cfs min., 5090 cfs max.), with the Rio Puerco flowing at 5054 cfs (1693 cfs minimum).

Other New Mexico Lakes

Navajo 1,422,908 a.f., up 2,446 a.f.

Heron, 192,730 a.f., 7143.31 elevation, up 1,543 a.f. and 4.8 inches in 72 hours. The Rio Chama is flowing at 250 c.f.s. (65 minimum, 255 max.), the Azotea Tunnel at 113 c.f.s. (57 min., 432 max.), and Willow Creek at 180 c.f.s. (79 min., 430 max.).

Ute, 191,000 a.f.

Abiquiu, 158,678 a.f., up 1,374 a.f.

Conchas, 121,606 a.f., up 1,263 a.f.

El Vado, 56,841 a.f., up 66 7 a.f.

Cochiti, 49,228 a.f., down 1,225 a.f.

Santa Rosa, 34,309 a.f., up 1,521 a.f.

Eagle Nest, 33,454 a.f., down 29 a.f.

Sumner, 15,496 a.f., down 42 a.f.

Brantley, 14,269 a.f., down 195 a.f.

Avalon, 631 a.f., down 68 a.f.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lessons Learned from Dillon

After our first foray into the insanity of the Dillon Open, where our crew was just one of a hundred competing (100 keelboats, about 24 centerboard boats - mostly Lasers, with 450 registered skippers and crew members), we think we've learned some lessons. Before next year, we'll

train more seriously so we have more confidence in our abilities and can maneuver precisely among the chaos of a hundred boats and be a lot better at "multitasking" under pressure,

don't be afraid to mix it up more with the fleet and be better prepared to "defend our turf",

recruit crew early on for next year's Open (We may have a head start already!),

prepare and equip/clothe the crew to sail in the full range of local weather conditions,

arrange our schedule so we can arrive a week early, but not have to leave until the Monday or Tuesday after the race and don't have to drive home in the wee hours of the morning,

not take quite as much junk up with us, but do take a good set of tools and spares,

prepare the boat more thoroughly (and be prepared to touch-up the hull before launching),

practice close-quarters maneuvers and learn how to round marks in crowds without letting pesky little boats squeeze in on us,

figure out tactics for getting starts in chaotic traffic (open starting line with starting boats mixed with other fleets of upwind and downwind boats),

consider getting some coaching and more intense training right before the Open or try to get some crew rides on a boat in a more competitive area such as San Diego.


Towing a thirty-foot boat hundreds of miles across spectacular high country and alpine mountain passes and rigging and de-rigging the boat completely on our own for the first time ever. Not too many Etchells have been more than two miles above sea level!

Coping with various little emergencies, such as a broken trailer jack and Tadpole's lost eyeglasses. Surviving everything from Lake Dillon "flyswatters" to Poncha Pass rockslides.

(Attention Prospective Crew Members:) Taking advantage of the fully-equipped condo kitchen and outdoor grill to cook up all sorts of great meals, from Margarita Chicken to Chocolate-Chip Pancakes, never letting the fridge run out of beer, finding the local happy hour food and drink specials, enjoying a great local barbecue place, treating crew to pasta dinner at the regatta, and providing comfortable, civilized accomodations for all crew.

Finishing two of the three races held and learning that we could hold our own after all, in spite of conditions unlike any we'd ever experienced and our rookie nervousness. Completing the two races in good form without getting hit or hitting anyone or being protested. At least looking competent and competitive even when we didn't always feel that way.

Passing boats and finishing corrected in top half of one race despite challenging handicap, lack of local knowledge, a sleepless skipper, some lack of confidence, an underweight crew, a minimally experienced tactician/middle, Tadpole losing his glasses overboard the day before, not using spinnaker, getting a late start, and being generally freaked out by being in the middle of a hundred boats going every direction. Holding our own with just jib and main against some boats that were running spinnakers.

Fixing lots of little things on the boat during the week, such as mounting the compass, fixing sheet and line leads, fixing a jib fine tune, etc.

Meeting lots of folks and making friends and gaining admirers for Black Magic.

Learning something about local conditions and finding local resources so we now pretty much know our way around. Getting there a week early and renting a condo where we could cook many of our meals worked out very well.

Back from the Lake of the Mountain Sailor Kings

Batwoman's boat didn't exactly sweep the competition at the Dillon Open at "America's Highest Yacht Club", but for sure we had some fun, learned a lot, made friends, and earned lots of admirers for the beautiful black boat. We did better than we thought we had, and now there are a bunch of Coloradans who want an Etchells; one crew even made an attempt at pirating our ship, but our captain was too skilled at light-air maneuvers to let them board and plunder. Aargh, mateys, now we'll be prepared to return for our own rightful plunder!

The trip back wasn't especially easy. We had been on the water for several hours Sunday before racing was cancelled due to light-to-nonexistent winds. Although some boats were often becalmed, we were nontheless able to ease Black Magic around the course and among the boats, giving us lots of opportunities to show off the Etchells and answer questions from admirers. Prospects look good for eventually forming an Etchells fleet in Colorado. By the time we retrieved and de-rigged the boat and left the area, it was already 7:00 p.m. and raining steadily as we climbed up to Fremont Pass (11,300 some feet above sea level), drove through Leadville and Buena Vista, and into the dark and rainy night with the thirty-foot boat in tow.

A couple of bits of unwanted excitement happened when we had to get through a mud- and rockslide in Poncha Pass and when the screw finally shook loose from the old trailer jack and started hitting the road in Alamosa. (After the original, almost new jack had failed on the way up, Mark and the helpful marina folks at Dillon had cut off the bottom of the old jack so we could replace it with a clamp-on jack.) A fun moment was seeing "Dumbledore" and "Mother" show up with the J-24 Kachina while we were re-fueling Babe at the Loaf-n-Jug in Alamosa.

By the time we left the trailer and Black Magic near the mast-raising crane in her summer home at Heron Lake and then returned to our cabin, it was nearly one in the morning and we still had to unpack our Expedition. Whew! Even harder was getting out of bed this morning and driving a further 170 miles to Albuquerque and work.

Speaking of plunder, CA on her weblog (itsfiveoclocksomewhere) made a list of interesting trip "souvenirs". To that list can be added one home-made wheel chock, one heavy-dity trucker's chock, one miniature bottle of vodka, a crowbar, a screw tap, two-thirds of a case of beer, a regatta cap, Mont Gay t-shirt, and various other implements.

Although our family was away from New Mexico for more than a week, we kept pretty well in touch with local events. Big in the news, of all things, was flooding as powerful rains soaked the previously parched southwest. Zorro's basement in El Paso, Texas, flooded, and worse things happened to his neighbors, with part of a road washing away within a block of his home. The on-and-off rains of the past few weeks continue to improve the previously dire picture for area reservoirs. Although it's far too early to declare the drought defeated, desert sailors are delighted with the deluge.

Heron Lake, 7142.98 feet elevation 191,453 acre feet; down 2 inches and 657 acre feet in 72 hours.

El Vado, 56,251 a.f., up 181 a.f.
Abiquiu, 157,527 a.f., up 2,812 a.f.
Cochiti, 50,465 a.f., up 1,822 a.f.

Elephnat Butte Lake, 4312.98 feet elevation above benchmark, 217,972 a.f., up 5 inches and 12,770 a.f. in 72 hours. This is a far better level than had been predicted earlier in the year.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Snipe Swipeout!

Last Saturday was a lovely day for many Snipe sailors at Lake Dillon, Colorado.

But not for one couple. A leak let water into a tank, perhaps contributing to a capsize and difficult recovery.

The crew and rescue workers got the boat up briefly, but the boat could't be de-watered, so eventually the crew hopped on the rescue boat while the Snipe was towed fully inverted.

The Snipe was towed to the nearby ramp area and righted so it could be hauled out and drained before repairs could begin.

New water for New Mexico lakes

Hold on to your Elephant Butte stock because the south will rise again...

Recent heavy rains, with some flooding in central New Mexico, have dramatically improved the siituation of Elephant Butte Lake in southern NM. Although irrigators are still taking water from the lake (at about 1050 c.f.s., which is about 40% of the normal rate of withdrawal for this time of year), the lake is recovering dramatically.

The Butte is at elevation 4310.62 feet above benchmark and has 199,547 acre feet. It has risen 19 inches and 12,041 acre feet in the past 72 hours in spite of discharging about 6,000 a.f. of irrigation water. The Butte has some 30,000 or so acre feet more water than it was projected to have by now. The news is now good enough that earlier dire predictions may no longer be valid, and the fall recovery is likely to begin a bit sooner than forecast. The Rio Puerco is flowing at 737 c.f.s. with a 72-hour maximum of 953 c.f.s. and minimum of 100 c.f.s. The Rio Grande at San Acacia is flowing at 1020 cfs (72-hr. max. 1410 cfs, min. 484 cfs), the San Marcial Conveyance at 330 c.f.s. (max. 630 cfs), and the San Marcial Floodway at 1900 c.f.s. (min. 1540 c.f.s.).

Other Lakes

Heron Lake, 192,420 a.f., 7143.23 feet elevation. Up 0.6 inch and 175 a.f. in 72 hours.
Willow Creek is flowing at 13 cfs (191 cfs maximum, 9 cfs minimum); the Azotea Tunnel at 11 cfs (112 max.), and the Rio Chama at 31 cfs (63 max).

189,000 a.f., Ute Lake
154,825 a.f., Abiquiu Lake, up 36 a.f. (160 c.f.s. outflow)
118,272 a.f., Conchas Lake (180.8 c.f.s. outflow)
. 56,342 a.f., El Vado Lake, down 61 a.f. (86 c.f.s. outflow)
. 48,529 a.f., Cochiti Lake, up 12 a.f. (347 c.f.s. outflow)

Boats in the Dillon Open, so far

6 Star
7 Ensign
11 J-24
9 J-22
9 Ultimate 20

Partial Fleets and PHRF
3 J/80
2 Melges 24
2 Santana 22
1 Santana 20

1 Etchells
1 J/29
1 Santana 29
1 Holder 20
1 S2 7.9
1 Wavelength 24

1 Capri 22
1 Capri
2 Catalina 22
1 Catalina

14 Laser