Monday, October 30, 2006

Thermocouples and wind shifts

No, we didn't go sailing. Yes we were right in the middle of a bunch of sailboats that were racing.
No, we didn't go racing. Yes, I pulled ahead of a bunch of boats and circled around others while they were racing (and no, I didn't have a motor).
No, we didn't bring a camera and we don't have pictures of the regatta.
Yes, we had a camera and took lots of pictures of the regatta.
No, our boat isn't fixed. Yes, we did rig, launch, and take our boat out on the water... no, it was not the one being repaired. Yes, we now have a place to stay at the (southern) lake. No, we were not warm and snug; we spent two nights shivering in the cold. Yes, we do now have heat at the lake place. No I didn't have a radio or entertainment system out in the middle of the lake. Yes, I was listening to some barbershop music in the middle of the lake.

Now how do we quite make sense out of a weekend like this past one?

A week ago, we learned that Carol Anne's Etchells, Black Magic, wouldn't be out of the repair shop by this past weekend; the re-attachment of the console couldn't be completed until this week, with more work remaining for us to do when we finally get the boat back. Also, we learned that the race committee needed a committee boat, so we volunteered our MacGregor 26 trailer cruiser as committee boat.

Friday we rigged and launched our Mac at the DamSite boat ramp and put it in Black Magic's slip at the nearby Rock Canyon Marina. We also moved into an apartment that we're renting temporarily several miles from the lake in Williamsburg / Truth or Consequences, NM. There we found that the heater wasn't working and so we spent a chilly night huddled under blankets.

Saturday morning we got a small space heater, but found it too unstable to leave on the carpet and so had to leave it in the front of the apartment Saturday night, so things were still chilly. However, we were able to install a replacement thermocouple on Sunday, so now the apartment has heat again and should be much more comfortable next weekend.

After breakfast Saturday, we got in on the tail end of the sailing club skippers' meeting and met our crew who had volunteered to help out on race committee. Carol Anne and Tadpole had hoped to crew on one of the race boats but couldn't get a last-minute crew slot with any of the skippers they asked as the meeting dispersed and people raced for their boats. Also, none of the race committee gear was present, so we had to drive a few miles to track down the buoys, anchors, flags, air horns, etc.

Eventually we got out on our Mac, and gave a tow to an engine-less race boat. Arriving at the race area a few miles north of the marina, we dropped the pin buoy, then drifted for a few minutes to establish the wind direction. We then lowered our anchor to set the start line and were able to get the start off in spite of light breezes that made for a very slow race.

We hadn't been able to find our camera to take pictures for the "Foghorn" newsletter. But, Charlie sailed by and tossed us his fancy digital camera with a powerful telephoto lens to use. So, although some of the pictures may not have been very good, we shot a lot before exhausting the camera's battery. We returned the camera to him on Sunday without taking more pictures but should be getting some of Saturday's pictures from him soon.

It was hard to pin down the wind direction in the flakey, shifty winds, but eventually it seemed that W to WNW made some sort of sense, so we set a line accordingly and made signals for a short-course race to a mark about a thousand yards to the NW. Because we aren't allowed to keep Olympic Circle marker/turning mark buoys on the lake, we set courses to nav buoys and sometimes have to make do with buoys that aren't exactly upwind or downwind.

Despite setting a short course of perhaps only a mile or mile and a half (round trip), even the club champion and crew on their fast Etchells took more than an hour and a quarter, and one of the slower boats took two and a half hours to finish. So, "Tadpole" and I had plenty of time to take turns kayaking out to and visiting with the race boats while they inched along the course. Only the one race was completed on Saturday. Nine boats were raced, with some more boats and crews that showed up to watch and sail on the lake just for fun.

The rest of the evening was devoted to a sailing club board meeting, where the new commodore-nominee (Buzz B.) discussed some new ideas for how the club could do more for its membership. That was followed by a club membership meeting and buffet dinner with about 25 people dining and a few more visiting. Then we tracked down folks at another restaurant who were eating out with "Firecracker", a long-time club member and spouse of a recently deceased club member. Some of the crews returned to the bar at the DamSite, while "Sister Rosebia" took the boys back to the house to enjoy videos and games; Tadpole got to drive the big diesel truck.

Sunday morning we were at the marina at 8:30 (the time change helped) to get the boat ready and tow another boat out to the race course. Despite a forecast of breezy winds to 15 mph and gusts to 20, the lake had few ripples and precious little of anything that could be called a wind.

After dropping the pin buoy and its anchor and rode, we drifted about and then anchored while waiting to see what the weather would do. The race committee chair, who is no fan of faint zephyrs, was skeptical that we'd get wind in time to race and thought we might only wait thirty minutes beyond the nominal 10 a.m. start time before giving up on the racing. Fortunately, we didn't, though we did have to wait for our wind. For a while, another boat rafted up to us and we snacked, treated another skipper to a kayak ride, and listened to music while the other boats sailed around, with bare steerageway in about a knot or a bit more of faint breeze that came and wind. For a few minutes, a westerly breeze of perhaps three knots fooled us into thinking we'd have a start and race upwind to the west, but it faded away.

Finally, a steady breeze filled in from the north and we scrambled to re-set the mark, hoisting a new course signal and sending Tadpole out on the kayak to shift the pin buoy westwards to re-set the starting line. The boats all got off to a good start in about 5 knots of wind. It was a picture-perfect moment.

Then the wind shifted, allowing some of the late starters to gain distance on the leaders. Then the wind faded and almost died to nothing. Groan. Were we going to have to abandon the race? That was a new worry, and a painful one after we'd waited so long and gotten such a great start for the race. I paddled out a quarter mile or so to some of the boats in case I'd need to communicate with some of the radio-less crews. Then, the wind filled in ... from the SSW/SW, almost a 180 degree wind shift. The glassy lake grew wavelets and bigger waves and even a few whitecaps. I paddled back to the committee boat in time to watch the finishes at the boats finished in 8 to 10 knots of wind.... a great improvement from Saturday's minimal breezes. We were worried about running out of time for a second race, but fortunately even the slowest of the "B fleet" boats finished well in time for us to continue.

For Sunday's second race, we called for a longer "full sausage" course that sent the fleet SSW and then N before returning to the finish line. Despite the course being twice as long, boats finished it in good time, giving us three races for the weekend. One minor incident nearly resulted in a protest as a boat reaching upwind got in the way of a close-hauled boat because the upwind crew didn't keep a good lookout. (Both boats were on starboard and the leeward boat had the right to make the windward boat point head up toward the wind, which the windward boat was very slow to do.) All in all though, it was a good race, with relatively steady winds that created a few whitecaps but then settled down to a comfortable 8 or so knots and didn't shift as they had in the previous race.

After waiting for the last finisher, I used the kayak as a "mark boat" to retrieve the pin buoy and its anchor. Back at our Mac, Tadpole and the rest of the crew then had a very tough time retrieving our boat anchor, which had lodged on something heavy on the bottom. Eventually we got moving and back to the marina, where we put away the boat, loaded committee boat gear into our vehicle, and said goodbye to our faithful and helpful crew. We returned to the apartment, where we prepared to return north to Albuquerque and Tadpole installed a replacement thermocouple for the furnace. Then we enjoyed a late lunch at a local cafe with our sailing friends before making the drive north.

Race 1, Saturday, October 28, 2006, Wind BN 0-1
Elapsed Time Boat, sail
A fleet
1:17:49 Etchells "Constellation" USA 38
1:33:28 J22 "Sciroccos Song" 720
1:49:54 J24 "Kachina" 4441
1:50:19 J24 "Hot Flash" 1565
1:56:30 J24 "La Sonadora" 1511
B fleet
DNC J22 Imafirst
1:57:23 H26WB "The Hunter"
1:59:06 Freedom 21 "Wind Rush"
2:05:23 Mac26sk "Mac Goddess"
2:30:52 H240 "Dado"

Race 2, Sunday, BN 2-3
Elapsed Time Boat, sail
A fleet
0:58:41 J24 4441 "Kachina"
0:56:20 Etchells 38 "Constellation"
0:59:23 J22 720 "Sciroccos Song"
1:00:04 J24 1565 "Hot Flash"
1:03:29 J22 "Imafirst"
DNC J24 "La Sonadora"
B Fleet
1:10:51 Freedom 21 "Wind Rush"
1:11:38 H26WB "The Hunter"
1:13:22 Mac 26sk "Mac Goddess"
1:29:58 H240 "Dado"

Race 3, Sunday, BN 2-3 Pl Pl
Boat, sail Elap Time
A fleet
0:37:52 Etch 38 "Constellation"
0:40:31 J24 4441 "Kachina "
0:42:04 J22 720 "Sciroccos Song"
0:43:45 J22 "Imafirst"
0:46:51 J24 1565 "Hot Flash"
DNC J24 "La Sonadora "
B fleet
0:47:24 H26WB "The Hunter"
0:49:45 Freedom 21 "Wind Rush"
0:52:50 Mac 26sk "Mac Goddess"
1:10:15 H240 "Dado"


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