Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Elephant Butte Lake, Etchells photos taken Sept. 23

The Etchells USA 38, Constellation, enjoys a leisurely return to the marina with "Zorro" at the helm.

View of Turtleback Mountain framed by lake and cloud, boom and deck taken while the Etchells USA 125, Black Magic, was enjoying varied conditions at Elephant Butte Lake on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Monday, September 25, 2006

USA 125 Black Magic, Saturday, Sept. 23 at Elephant Butte Lake

How many strings can you pull on this boat?

Quickie weekend sailing update; pleasant weather at Elephant Butte Lake

This weekend, mostly, we sailed. Well, you didn't think we were going to attend an embroidery show or collectible thimble exposition or some such, did you?

The weekend started out slowly. We'd suffered a few disappointments during the week and had been perplexed by some strange happenings (a couple of them related to a sailing club) going on outside our family. Some of this strangeness had left its mark in a couple of sleep-deprived nights. Plus, we have a kittycat who needs to get medicine regularly and can't be left undosed for a whole weekend. And, Friday's forecast was for winds gusting to 40 mph; well beyond our comfort level.

We greeted the weekend with limited energy and expectations; our inability to spend a whole weekend at the lake would limit our time on the water, much as we craved it.

Nonetheless, the weekend turned out quite nicely. We got a bit of work done on Carol Anne's boat on Saturday, installing labels on controls, working on the back end of the mast port, and installing a security device on the boat (a partial solution to some of the strangeness we'd heard about). Of course we went out sailing, going all the way from the marina near the dam and partway up the channel that goes around Long Point, making the boat go in mostly very modest breezes. There we greeted the skipper of a red-sailed green-hulled pram catboat and also saw a cute, small red-sailed ketch daysailer. We traded crew duties for a while and did a bit of spinnaker practice. We're getting better, but we can safely say we still have a long way to go to reach America's Cup crew standards. Then we returned to sail a while with "Zorro" after he got his boat up to the channel east of Rattlesnake Island, finally returning to the marina in very light breezes. All in all, we sailed perhaps 15 miles in five hours. Besides the two Etchells, we saw only perhaps three other sailboats on the water, even though it was quite a nice day. We visited with a couple of other sailors who'd chosen to spend the afternoon in the marina and enjoyed dinner at La Cocina with Zorro, where we were also able to puzzle out a couple of minor mysteries, before returning 150 miles to Albuquerque so we could medicate a kitty and collapse into bed.

Sunday afternoon we returned to the lake, after having left messages with a prospective crew member and having checked the weather. Winds were forecast to be around 10-15 mph gusting to 20, but then Zorro called and relayed a forecast for 15-25. He told Carol Anne not to go out if the lake was whitecapping and to absolutely make sure her crew knew who was boss if she had any concerns at all about sailing.

When we got to the marina, we found a nice breeze going, but only about 5-7 mph with nary a whitecap in sight. The winds died to almost nothing for a while, but fortunately picked up again to about 4-5 mph as we set sail. We had an escort as we left the marina; Captain Groovy had visited us on his motorized psychadelic sailboard and cheered us on our departure. For a while, the winds died again to almost nothing; we were traveling at the speed of the wind, perhaps 0.8 kt, when Carol Anne called Zorro. He was amazed by our report; El Paso was experiencing the 15-25 mph wind forecast with gloomy, cloudy skies and chilly weather while we were basking in sunshine and bobbing in powerboat wakes. Even my report of a big windline coming from up ahead -- it looked like at least 3 mph -- didn't quite match his expectations. We did see breaking waves occasionally -- but only when a powerboat whizzed by at high speed. Of course, our boat's special sonar capability (one of Black Magic's little quirks; maybe this will be a blog post someday?) warned us of fast-moving high-rpm boats well before we could see them approach.

Enough wind filled in for us to continue sailing beyond Rattlesnake Island and up the east side of the lake alongside the traditional sailing club race area. We put up the chute and practiced gybes and then some other special maneuvers. As we returned to our slip and tied up, the wind suddenly ferociously roared up to its highest velocity of the day. Maybe 9 to 11 mph. Maybe. Oh well -- Carol Anne will get to do her 10-20 mph homework assignment another time.

We put away the boat, saving some boat work projects for a future visit. (We have a long list of projects ahead of us, including replacing the floorboard supports; coping with unstable decking in the cockpit has been "interesting".) Then we visited with the marina owner, and visited a friend/crew member in T or C and learned about the oil-painting workshop she'd attended during the weekend. We drove north to Socorro, stopping at the Springs for a well-earned meal and libations, then continued on to Albuquerque. This morning before work I got to run/walk/jog on the treadmill while watching a sailing video; we've hung a liquid-crystal-display television on the wall in front of the treadmill so we can make the exercise less boring. I guess it works; I knocked several seconds off one of my best times.



How do we know if it's good?

How do we respond if it's a little off-target?

How long do we keep smiling and accept it with gracious equanimity and heartfelt thanks when we know that it is, well, just a wee bit unfair or based on incomplete information?


A sailor, who hadn't been sailing much lately but who is said to have a very high level of experience sailing mostly bigger boats on the ocean, saw Carol Anne and her crew on what may not have been our best day. She had bought the boat just a few months before, and because of work needed on the boat and other sailing commitments had only sailed the boat for two months. She had sailed the boat perhaps ten times with various crew; as a family, we had sailed the boat together perhaps five times.

Heron Lake is known among sailors for a unique feature, "The Narrows", a half-mile long cliff-bound passage between the main body of the lake and Willow Creek Cove, where the marina is sited. The passage runs about 50 to 100 yards wide (at current lake levels) and has a few twists to it. Sometimes it funnels and intensifies the wind; sometimes wind piles up and strengthens or weakens or even disappears in places behind the cliffs, and sometimes it swirls around, descends at some vertical angle, or even reverses direction. It's a funky place.

A few local sailors know it well and can generally master its moods and tricks, and even enjoy sailing through the Narrows. Other sailors will sail through when moderate prevailing breezes allow a gentle downwind run. But, most cruisers, novice sailors, and the lazier or more impatient racer-cruiser folks simply motor through the Narrows. Especially during the 75% or so of the time that it seems to be upwind!

Before Carol Anne got her go-fast boat, we were among the sailors who would more often than not motor through; perhaps we'd motor about 80% of the time when it was upwind and 40% of the time when the passage was downwind. In our partial defense, we had a water-ballast centerboard trailer-cruiser boat that was not particularly weatherly, which heeled quickly even in moderate winds, and which was hard to control upwind in a breeze.

Once we got the Etchell, however, we started to appreciate the discipline and training the Narrows could offer us. However, we have only begun our "studies" and have much to learn. Plus, the boat is still new to us, we've only been racing for a very short time, and we still need to do a lot of work on crew roles and communications. So, perhaps it wasn't such a huge surprise that when Mr. Grizzled Ocean Veteran sailed with us, he had the following

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Criticism: Your boat handling isn't instinctive. You should have anticipated the wind shifts in the Narrows and been prepared for them before they hit. The helmsperson needs to have her head out of the boat and see and anticipate the new wind, no matter where it comes from or how fast. You don't have time to read stuff out of a book and think about it. You need to know exactly what to do, and do it, BEFORE you get caught by a puff or shift or microburst or storm or whatever.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

And, when we got caught docking in tight quarters as a passing storm boiled up shifty winds, we had more lessons to learn. The Etchells sails quite well under either main or jib. Under main only, it still has a lot of power and requires careful navigation and good boat handling skills in tight quarters. Under jib only, the Etchells is nicely depowered in a blow, but tacks through a much greater angle and is more vulnerable to sideslipping or falling into irons if pinched. And, even docking under bare poles, life can get quite "interesting" if the crew's timing isn't perfect or if the wind decides to change at just the wrong moment.

A combination of tight quarters, strong quartering winds, crew miscommunication, and a last-second change in wind direction taught us a hard lesson the weekend of July 4th, resulting in a very awkward docking and bit of unhappy fiberglass. Unfortunately, the bow rode up into a cleat on the pier; had it not hit the cleat there would have been a most only a small scratch. As it was, the damage gave Carol Anne and Gerald an opportunity to learn fiberglass patching. Their first job, while not perfectly smooth or up to professional standards, came out very nicely, and is surprisingly hard to find if you don't know just where to look.

So, it was no big deal in the long run, though Carol Anne was clearly unhappy for a week until she got her boat back in full commission. And, since then, we've been getting better and better at our dockings and departures. Most times we sail out of our slip and return without touching the motor. (It wasn't even on board for our last race.) We've practiced upwind and downwind dockings with various sails, under bare poles, etc., both at Heron and at the Butte. We've gradually improved crew communication and the understanding of who does what. We've traded crew roles to better understand each others' jobs and needs. We've talked about what we need to improve as a crew. And, we've even impressed some of the local Heron sailors, who shake their heads and say, "Why do you guys even have a motor -- you hardly ever use it."

However, the bad docking did lead to another

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Criticism: When things go haywire, you have to do everything right. Instinctively.
You should crew with better sailors until you know exactly what you're doing. Otherwise you'll be sending yourselves or someone to the hospital. The helm has to keep her crew under her control and make sure they understand her plan for docking and are trained to react instantly and correctly to any sudden changes in wind or to the reactions of other boats. Anything that goes wrong is the helm's fault for not anticipating.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Hmmm. I think this is somewhere between a little too harsh and pure b.s.

Yeah, it's vital to train and drill the crew to respond correctly to changes in conditions and to forseeable emergencies. Sure, the helmsperson needs to communicate plans clearly and make sure the crew understands them. Yep, it's far better not to force a docking in bad weather, especially a downwind docking in swirling winds, and especially if a temporary docking can be made upwind. All valuable lessons, and all things we already knew, in theory at least, but didn't have the experience to implement automatically, correctly, and in time to meet the demands of fast-changing conditions. And, we're working on the cure: Time on the water. Practice. Communication. Coaching. Anticipation. We spent two afternoons on the water this weekend (and were almost the only sailboat on the water), with much more to come.

But, even the best trained, drilled, and experienced sailors can't anticipate every emergency or respond correctly to everything that happens on the water. Sometimes things happen too fast, sometimes things break, sometimes good crew just plain old screw up. Even world champion sailors make mistakes. Some are quite open about the mistakes they made as novices, and continue to have made as champions; others are a bit more reticent to discuss their not-so-stellar episodes. "The time I wiped out and keel-hauled and nearly drowned Bob" or "The time I jibed out of control and boomed Cathy in the face" understandably isn't some helmsperson's favorite cocktail-hour story. And, an experienced sailor was at the helm when Carol Anne got hit by a boom and went to the emergency room; and Carol Anne was crewing with an extremely experienced skipper and a very seasoned fellow crew member when she experienced her first dismasting.

Further, this sort of criticism could likely be applied to 90% of sailors in New Mexico. Only a relative handful of truly seasoned, experienced sailors are actively sailing in the region. Other experienced sailors live in the state, but have been inactive of late. For the rest of us, improvement comes slowly; we live in a state with no formal sailing schools, no chandleries or sailboat shops, no bricks-and-mortar (or pier-and-showroom) sailboat dealers, very few sailing instructors, limited regatta opportunities, few crew training oportunities, a very small corps of seasoned hands, and generally very little infrastructure to support sailing. Our lakes fluctuate with the passing seasons and droughts, sometimes leaving boat ramps or marinas high and dry. One dry summer we even convoyed a dozen boats almost a thousand miles to the ocean. Local sailors have to be pretty tough and desperate for their aquatic fix.

As a family, we've done the best we can to learn from the best local sailors. And, we've traveled to the ocean to take classes and lessons and do charters. We traveled hundreds of miles this summer to participate in a regatta with a hundred other boats. We've read books and magazines, watched videos, and prowled sailing blogs again and again. Within the limits of our schedules, budgets, and other commitments, we're seriously working hard to be better sailors and to share our knowledge with others. Rather obviously, we won't always get things right, but we do try to watch, listen, and learn -- even if it isn't always obvious that that's what we're doing. And, sometimes I know I need to learn when to shut my mouth and pay attention; to see what's really going on around me and to listen to people who know better.

Harsh, off-balance criticism doesn't help or motivate us to learn. But, insightful, constructive, supportive criticism is a whole different kettle of fish. That's the stuff we want, and are learning to crave.

Got any suggestions? Maybe even a really nifty Criticism?

New Mexico Lake Water Levels including Elephant Butte and Heron Lakes, September 25, 2006

In spite of drier fall weather, most New Mexico lakes continue to hold up better than had been predicted this spring.

Navajo Lake: . . . . . 1,414,863 acre feet, up 1,825 a.f. in the past 71 hours.

Heron Lake has 197,203 acre feet at elevation 7,144.46 feet as of 7 a.m. MDT, Monday, Sept. 25. Heron is up 1 inch and 314 a.f. in 24 hours and 2-1/4 inches and 744 a.f. in 71 hours. Willow Creek is flowing at 169 cubic feet per second (104 c.f.s. minimum, 225 c.f.s. maximum in the past 71 hours) and the Azotea Tunnel flow is 152 c.f.s. (97 c.f.s. min., 254 c.f.s. max.).

El Vado Lake: 52,853 a.f., up 57 a.f. 153 c.f.s. outflow.
Abiquiu Lake: 155,490 a.f., up 148 a.f., 99 c.f.s. outflow.
Cochiti Lake: 49,683 a.f., up 360 a.f., 536 c.f.s. outflow.

Elephant Butte Lake is holding steady:
4,327.00 feet above benchmark elevation, with 350.732 acre feet.
Down 1/4 inch and 216 a.f. in 24 hours.
Up 1/4 inch and 212 a.f. in 71 hours.
The Butte reached elevation 4,327.04' with 351,163 a.f. at 0600 on Sunday, Sept. 24th.
San Marcial Floodway is flowing at 24 cubic feet per second (23 c.f.s. min., 26 c.f.s. max. in 71 hours). Outflow from the dam is 18 c.f.s.

Lakes on the eastern side of New Mexico have given up some of their water:

Santa Rosa Lake: 79,725 a.f., down 96 a.f.
Sumner Lake: . . 23,758 a.f., down 316 a.f.
Brantley Lake: . . 24,200 a.f., down 1,268 a.f.
Eagle Nest Lake: 33,296 a.f., down 29 a.f.
Conchas Lake: . . 157,448 a.f., down 1,186 a.f.
Ute Lake . . . . . . . 207,000 a.f., down 2,000 a.f. (approx.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Something's different about this picture...

Even a MacGregor 26 looks more impressive when it's on a tall trailer. On Saturday, we hauled our Mac out of the water and placed it on Black Magic's trailer so we could re-attach the centerboard uphaul line. The big-boat trailer made a fine sling, enabling the board to go down most of the way so we could reach the hole where a new cable needed to have a loop swaged into it so it could be attached to a bolt than ran through the hole in the board. Afterward, I gave Syzygy a quick test sail in the Narrows at Heron Lake ... but it still sails like a MacGregor.

Weekend miscellany and lake conditions

With Tadpole's Friday night of architecture and a sleepover, a cat who wouldn't do well to have his medicine interrupted, and a need to accomplish boat projects at both the northern and southern lakes, many miles wound up being driven this weekend.

On Friday, we went south with a motor, boat compass, and assorted bits of gear; boat work got done but no sailing because of gusty winds.

Saturday we went north to Heron Lake, hauling the MacGregor out on the Etchells trailer so we could suspend the centerboard and replace the broken uphaul line on the centerboard. After finishing the repair, I snuck in a bit of sailing.

Sunday we went south to the Butte and did projects on Black Magic; this time we also got in a good sail. Winds were initially light and switchy, but we took off and had our patience rewarded as the best winds of the day filled in. We did several spinnaker jibes on our way north from the dam cove and sailed around the end of Horse Island to the bay between Marina del Sur and Rattlesnake Island before returning around sunset.

Elephant Butte Lakes continues to defy statistics and expectations by rising. The Butte now has 349,883 acre feet and is at 4,326.92 feet above benchmark elevation. It is up 1/4 inch and 213 acre feet in 24 hours and 1.2 inches and 1,062 a.f. in 72 hours. Only 18 c.f.s. is oozing out of the dam vs. 180 cubic feet per second coming into the lake via the San Marcial Floodway (492 c.f.s. maximum inflow in the past 72 hours.)

Cochiti Lake has 48,992 a.f., down 153 a.f. in 72 hours with an outflow of 503 cubic feet per second.

Heron Lake is at elevation 7.144.10 feet with 195,793 acre feet. Heron is up 1/2 inch and 157 acre feet in 24 hours; up about 3 inches and 1,000 a.f. in 72 hours. Willow Creek is flowing at 104 c.f.s. (96 c.f.s. minimum, 481 c.f.s. maximum in 72 hours).

For the month of August, Heron received 1,274 a.f. of Rio Grande water and 4,858 a.f. on San Juan-Chama water. 2,024 a.f. of Rio Grande water went out, along with 3,026 a.f. of San Juan-Chama water. 0 loss of San Juan-Chama water was recorded. At the end of August, Heron Lake had -243 a.f. of Rio Grande water and 193,625 a.f. of SJC water, 193,382 net a.f. at elevation 7,143.48. For the season to date, the lake has received 60,312 a.f. of SJC water, lost 5,560 a.f. of SJC water (net 49,752 a.f. compared to the nominal 96,200 a.f. for a "normal" year), and discharged 6,773 a.f. to the SJC water contractors.

Depending upon the spring runoff, the cove will dry out and leave the marina in the mud sometime in mid- to late February and the cove floor will wind up about six feet above the lake surface at the low point around early April.

About 24,000 a.f. (about 1/4 of the normal "full yield" of 2007 runoff will be needed for water to begin to reach the level of the cove floor. With normal runoff, this level might be achieved sometime around May 10--15.

About 36,000 a.f. (3/8 of normal yield) would allow the shallow draft portions of the marina to float in a few feet of water and allow pontoon boats and retractable centerboard boats to use parts of the marina. With normal runoff, this level might be achieved sometime around May 20--25.

About 48,000 a.f. (1/2 of full normal yield) would bring the marina cove to a depth of around six feet and allow most boats to use the marina and boat ramp. If 2007 is a "normal" year, this point might be reached somewhere close to Memorial Day. A good runoff year would allow the marina to be fully open and all ramps usable by Memorial Day weekend. A worse-than-average runoff might delay marina opening or require that part of the marina, if possible, be moved to deep water.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sunrise Regatta, Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico

Behind Black Magic, Constellation and Wind Rush lead the parade of boats in light air after the start of the Sunrise Regatta.

Fleet panorama with Black Magic a mile up the course. Later on, the breeze moved aft and strengthened, allowing much of the fleet to close in on our position.

Constellation and Wind Rush try to keep their headsails flying.

The prize; trophy for 2nd place in the 10-mile race.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Leader of the pack ... temporarily

Good crew and a great start gave Black Magic the lead during the first few miles of this past weekend's Sunrise Regatta at Elephant Butte Lake. At right is the Etchells Constellation, owned and skippered by Zorro, the perennial fleet champion. Many of the boats had difficulty in keeping clear of others and in getting good air in the light conditions. Team Black Magic was able to hold off Constellation for about an hour and a half and a third of the distance, but finally got passed for good after sailing into a wind "hole" near Rattlesnake Island and fell further behind with a bad spinnaker douse at the turning mark, settling for 2nd place in the 10-mile spinnaker division. But just wait until next time!

For the first hour or so after the start, boats were moving slowly; here Constellation is followed by Chuck A.'s Freedom 21, Wind Rush.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Elephant Butte and Heron Lakes: still on the rise

Elephant Butte Lake conditions, Friday morning Sept. 8, 2006:

339,707 acre feet, 4,325.96' elev. above benchmark.
Up 1.2 inches and 1,170 a.f. in 24 hours.
Up 3 inches and 2,600 a.f. in 72 hours.
663 cubic feet per second is being released from the dam.
559 c.f.s. is flowing in at the San Marcial Floodway
(minimum of 345 c.f.s. and maximum on 1,170 c.f.s. in past 72 hours).

Heron Lake:
193,620 acre feeet, 7,143.54' elevation.
Up 1/6 inch and 77 acre feet in 24 hours.
Up 1/12 inch and 39 acre feet in 72 hours.
Willow Creek has been fluctuating with recent rains, with flows ranging from 5 to 100 c.f.s. and typically about 15 to 20 c.f.s. in the past 72 hours.


After our Saturday afternoon sail with "Y-woman" and "Specs", Carol Anne and I were gathered with other sailors under the marina pavillion, staying out of the rain and remarking upon our adventures and the fast-moving weather. For a while, we had whitecaps even within the protected waters of the cove. I had been enjoying a beverage proferred by Highlander, when we all noticed an Official Presence.

Kayak Lady, one of the park service rangers, joined our group and explained her difficulty. The park service boat was in the garage and not immediately available for launch, and she was the only park ranger available to respond to most situations until later in the evening. Yet, the park folks had received reports of two boats in trouble near the southeast corner of the main body of Heron Lake. One was beached and probably okay, but another apparently was stuck aground in shallow water a little ways from shore. Could the sailing club send someone out to check on them?

Highlander prepared his boat (a water-ballast Hunter named Highlander), with Skidmark and Domebuilder joining him in the cockpit and me on the bow. The winds had by then moderated, but the rain was still drizzling, limiting visibility. We motored out the Narrows to the main body of the lake and proceeded south, soon sighting a boat in a cove near the appropriate corner of the lake.

As we approached, we had to stop and back off when we ran into water only a foot deep yet a few hundred feet from shore. Reefs and sandbars of silty mud with some cobblestones barred the most direct way into the cove. We had to edge closer to the eastern shore to find deeper water, where we could carry 4-1/2 or 5 feet minimum. Fortunately, the water-ballast Hunter 26 had nothing worse than kick-up rudders to run into the bottom with the centerboard already up, the bottom was visible once it got really shallow, and I was poking a boathook down into the water to let us know if we got into anything too shallow.

We approached cautiously to within about seventy-five feet, then threw a cushion attached to a hundred-foot towline. The boat's operator, D, explained that his wife, K, was disabled and down below. They had just recently purchased the Venture 22 and the sudden change in weather had been too much for them, blowing them out of control into the corner of the lake. The boat had a crank-up centerboard, but the rudder had carved a furrow into the shallow mud, trapping the boat firmly. D had been afraid to climb overboard to try to work on the rudder, fearing that he'd sink into the soft mud and be unable to re-board his boat without K being able to do anything to help him.

After several attempts at freeing the Venture, and having a knot come undone on the Venture at one point and having to re-throw the line (I got to where I could have the line brush right along the Venture's forestay), we were able to shift the grounded Venture around and D was able to unpin his rudder. By having D move his weight around on the bow, and applying pressure on the towline from the Hunter, we were able to free the boat and back out into deeper water. Then we moved the towline to the Hunter's stern and towed the Venture out of the main body of the lake, up the Narrows, and to the boat ramp courtesy dock. D and K were grateful.

Later, Carol Anne, Tad, and I left the marina pavillion and reported on what our group had accomplished to the park superintendent. We then visited the boat ramp, where D and K had retrieved their boat and were putting it away in the mast storage ramp. The experience of running out of control and becoming hopelessly grounded had been especially traumatic for K, but the response of fellow sailors helped soften the blow and give D and K the chance to look forward to better times. We also suggested that, in the future, K would be very welcome to hang out at the marina with the sailing gang while D played out on the water.

The next day, Sunday, when we arrived at the marina late that morning, a "thank you" gift was waiting for the crew of Highlander... a couple of bottles of wine for all to enjoy.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Musings on the past weekend

Labor Day weekend was a bit disjointed and rather busy; it's hard to try to tie it together in anything resembling a unified blogpost. So, you've been warned.

Friday afternoon Tadpole hopped aboard Babe and we headed north to EspaƱola. We were hungry enough to order a bunch of fast food; my triple-burger might cause a vegetarian to swoon and Carol Anne ordered four items from the value menu, to her later regret. Then we ventured into Wallyworld to buy some big buckets of ice cream and other groceries before continuing the drive north. At least the construction zone north of Cebolla (by Jeff & Mary Spill's ranch) was better, with most of the area now paved. We stopped by the cabin to offload perishables, then drove on to the marina.

By then, only about an hour of light remained and Carol Anne's system was making her pay for indulging in fast food. So, it was tough for us to rig and get out, and it was a bit heroic for Carol Anne to stand by the helm, but that's what happened. We lined her Etchells out of the slip, then sailed out of the marina in very gentle, 2 mph breezes. With little wind or light left, we stayed in the marina cove and the upper part of the Narrows, tacking around buoys and sailing by the marina pavillion. At least we'd sailed, and we were able to sail back into our slip before visiting with some folks at the marina.

Saturday morning we took care of some household chores and ran down to the transfer station, finally arriving at the marina late in the morning. I spread a bit more gravel on the trail and Tad and another teen went out in one of our Sunfish.

At noon, we held a sailing club meeting, where the club approved buying more knee braces for reinforcing the attachment of the B dock finger piers to the mainwalk pier, along with encased floats to replace the old open foam floats. Then the club members got into the fun stuff, discussing club policies for granting waivers to slip tenants and the slip rental priority list. The gist of the discussion was that the old policies were appropriate for when the lake and marina were full, but do not serve the club well in times of drought. Essentially, the old rules force the club to try to find a sublet renter for a senior slip tenant who wants to take a year or two off from keeping a boat in the marina, and deprives the club of revenue in times when the club is most in need.

After the meeting, we hosted an ice cream social under the marina pavillion (see pavillion picture in a recent post). We had about five flavors of cream, plus nuts and various toppings; sunny weather made the event a success.

During the meeting we had met a new member and a couple of prospective members. After the ice cream social, we took a couple out sailing; one member ("Y woman") had never before sailed but both enjoyed themselves. We again sailed out of the slip, tacking upwind through the Narrows and out into the main body of the lake. We explored portions of the east end of the lake, but light winds and distant thunder and storm clouds kept us from venturing too far. Finally, as the weather threatened to close in, we returned to the marina, sailing into the slip under jib. We were just in time, too; just after we had secured the sails the rain and a bit of a blow began. For a bit, we even had whitecaps within the protected confines of the marina cove.

to be continued with.... Rescue!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What to do on a rainy afternoon at Heron Lake

When the rains come at Heron Lake, it can be pleasant to take refuge under the canopy of the marina shelter and enjoy a meal or a snack with beverages and nautical conversations.

Sunday at Heron Lake: Black Magic on her way out of the lake

Black Magic is being loaded on the trailer in this view. The trailer is attached to Babe, the towing vehicle, by about seventy feet of heavy rope. Precise placement of the boat on the trailer is needed in order to support Black Magic securely. The somewhat steep ramp is ideal for launching and retrieving keelboats, except when the lake drops about twelve more feet and the cove becomes shallow and the lower end of the ramp is covered in silt. Photo provided courtesy of "Highlander", who took it from the point up above the marina.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Black Magic returns to Elephant Butte

Ready to launch, Black Magic stands poised near the ramp.

The skipper checks over Black Magic.

Black Magic and Babe with Kettletop Mesa in the left background.

More fish n scouts

Sunfish in silhouette near the upper end of The Narrows in the Heron Lake marina cove.

Still Life with Foredecks and Storm Glow.

Heron Lake State Park Visitor Center, where troop members did landscaping work as a service project.

After the rest of the Scouts left, it was time to round up some boats to bring them back to our cabin. Here Tadpole sails a Sunfish while towing a Snark.

After the Scouts and other sailors leave at the end of the weekend, all is quiet again at the Heron Lake Marina.

Sunfish n Scouts; weekend of August 26, 2007

Another beautiful day at the Heron Lake Marina in northern New Mexico.

Sunfish mill around behind a dock full of larger sailboats.
Scouts watch as a Sunfish approaches the dock. It didn't take long before many of the youth were able to handle the boats as the maneuvered around the marina cove.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fleet social and lake conditions

Last night's fleet social was a success with thirty sailors telling stories and catching up on news of summer adventures. With the fall racing season almost upon us, people are excited to be prepping their boats. Nature continues to cooperate by providing much-needed water for our reservoirs.

Elephant Butte Lake
4,325.24' elevation, 332,189 acre feet.
Up 1.7 inches and 1,450 a.f. in 24 hours.
Up 6.1 inches and 5,400 a.f. in 72 hours.
940 cubic feet per second inflow at San Marcial.
146 c.f.s. outflow at the dam.

Heron Lake
7,143.47' elevation, 193,350 acre feet.
Down 1/8 inch and 38 a.f. in 24 hours.
Exactly even in past 72 hours.

El Vado: 48,187 a.f., down 91 a.f.
Abiqiuiu: 157,601 a.f., down 10003 a.f.
Cochiti: 48,187 a.f., down 307 a.f.
Navajo: 1,412,901 a.f., down 2,796 a.f.
Ute: 207,000 a.f.

Last days of the season...

I've been thinking about the meaning and role of the seasons in a part of the world where stereotypical cultural norms and the pictures on calendars don't mean much. Sailors living on the top 1/4 or so of the globe are feeling cooler nights and an impending pronounced change of seasons. Sailors in much lower latitudes are chuckling at their northern brethren's preparations as they loll about in their hammocks and grasp for frozen cococtions in the land of warm breezes and giant insects. And out friends down under are just gearing up for warm-season voyages.

Here in the Desert Sea, we are in an in-between sort of world. This isn't the world of the traditional four clearly-defined seasons, but neither is it the land of constant warmth. Seasons we have, but not always well-defined ones; the hot and cold, sun and cloud, wind and calm, wet and dry all come and go somewhat as they please, sometimes gently and sometimes with a rush and a roar. But then, the place is full of contrasts, of geography intertwined with climate, as well as in other respects. The state has a two-mile altitude range from its semi-arid steppes and high deserts to alpine peaks that creates rich bio-climate diversity.

We sailors, living as we do in a challenging and tenuous environment far from the ocean's tidal rhythms, must adapt. Adapt, or ... well, probably not drown, because too often there's little enough water for that. Adapt, or, not have opportunities to sail and refresh our spirits. So, adapt is what we do, driving for hours for a simple day sail, migrating our boats with the seasons, learning to cope with the fluctuations that render local knowledge of a lake partially obsolete within weeks or days. Even our marinas must adapt; the Rock Canyon Marina at Elephant Butte has had to move three times in the past few years, prompting the owner to quip, "Sure, the other guys have marinas, but we _USE_ ours!"

And so, our sailing season doesn't come to an end with the passing of summer, but rather makes a physical and emotional passage. In a few days, we plan to move Black Magic from Heron to Elephant Butte Lake. Gone will we be from a marina operated by sailor volunteers and surrounded by trees and often in view of snow-clad peaks and home to cold-water species. We will drive south some 300 miles into a land that can truly be called a desert sea, to a lake that is set in a Sonoran desert, where the nearest mountains are dry and sere.

Topography and hydrography will alter, yet the result will be that we continue sailing throughout most of the year. Some boats will also make the migration, and other boats and crews will be greeted as old friendships renewed after months of separation. And boats and crews come and go; this year we will cherish the memories of friends who died and hope whatever craft they sail now are truly winged. And we will greet new friends and work to train new sailors and not even try to guess just what new adventures may lie before us.