Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Greetings

Ahoy to all sailors, armchair sailors, and assorted creatures of the briny deep.

Our family spent Christmas Day in Los Alamos with Carol Anne's folks, getting to see their new patio and finding a home for a twenty-two-pound turkey. As we ate, we gave a toast to Aleksei in Tomsk, Siberia, who would have dearly loved to have joined us. (Several years ago, when visiting the USA for the first time as a post-doctoral fellow at Los Alamos, and shortly after his arrival, he had been "orphaned" for the holidays; my in-laws had taken him in and he had experienced his first-ever turkey dinner with all the trimmings.)

Then we drove north to Laguna Vista to spend a couple of nights and check on the New Mexico Sailing Club marina at Heron Lake and do a couple of things there (move a gangway, check on things, and put up a sign). We and the felines enjoyed warm flames in our fireplace at our home in Laguna Vista and toasted some marshmallows. It was fortunate that we'd brought some turkey and dressing leftovers with us, because the Chama Valley Market had decided to give it's workers the day off on the day after Christmas day as well as Christmas day itself.

Wednesday we returned to Albuquerque and Thursday we drove south to Truth or Consequences, bringing a kayak south to join the one we were keeping in the marina slip next to Carol Anne's Etchells, "Black Magic". I also paddled a kayak out to check on a friend's boat, but the winds rose and the water started getting rough while I was paddling, so I took the kayak out in a sheltered area and walked back to the marina to retrieve the kayak in our truck and take it to the apartment so I could scrub algae off the bottom.

As 2006 neared it's end, "Tadpole" and I had to drive on Friday, Dec. 29th, to Albuquerque. He and his string bass (bull fiddle) scheduled to attend a group rehearsal for the New Mexico all-state orchestra on Saturday morning. I had also been invited to be part of an Eagle Scout board of review at noon on Saturday.

The weather would have other plans for our activities.

As Tadpole drove north in "El Caballero", we drove through snow; the snow got heavier as we neared Albuquerque. By the time we reached our Albuquerque home, the snow was several inches deep and still falling. We got exercise by shoveling the drive.

Saturday morning we woke to more than a foot of snow and more exercise opportunities in the driveway and street. We learned that the all-state rehearsal had been cancelled. The Eagle board of review had been re-scheduled and re-located to a home not too far from our neighborhood, so we cleared a runway for El Caballero's take-off and put a shovel and bag of cat litter in the trunk. The front-wheel drive car did reasonably well in the deep snow, but had some trouble with ice just a half block from our destination; we and some helpers had to dig our way out at one point. Afterwards, we drove south, leaving the snow behind us halfway between Albuquerque and Truth or Consequences/Elephant Butte in Socorro, where we filled Carol Anne's "growler" jug with ale at the Socorro Springs brewpub restaurant.

Carol Anne and I didn't sail on new year's eve, but I had put a kayak in the water and paddled it around, and we had rigged and launched our trailer-cruiser MacGregor in the water, which Gerald sailed from Marina del Sur a couple of mostly downwind miles to Rock Canyon marina. So our team score for the day was 1 sailor, 1 paddler, and 1 landlubber. The last few hours of the old year 2006 saw our crew playing a board game in the apartment a few miles from the lake. We toasted the passing year with champagne and chocolate cake.

New Year's day was a bit chilly, but that afternoon the wind had come up to an enjoyable 5-10 kts. as we rigged and sailed Carol Anne's Etchells from Rock Canyon Marina to the boat ramp at Marina del Sur. We left the slip under sail and had a great little sail upwind until it was time to turn off the wind as we passed Horse Island.

Sailing into the protected area behind the floating tire wall, our skipper brought us to within a few feet of the courtesy dock pier, where I left the boat to drive our Expedition and Black Magic's trailer to the boat ramp. There I set chocks behind the trailer wheels, attached a hawser between the truck and trailer, and bolted the forward trailer wheel into position. We had a bit of audience, as a couple from El Paso who'd never seen a keelboat retrieval watched the show from their truck. Taking up strain on about 70 feet of the hawser and removing chocks, I let the trailer down the ramp until submerged with only the top two feet of the side ladders showing. Then Carol Anne and "Tadpole" brought Black Magic onto the trailer and attached lines to keep the boat in the proper fore-and-aft position. Then I gently (gently for me, anyway) brought the boat and trailer out of the water, stopping a couple of times so we could make sure the boat was properly centered on the trailer and support pads.

The crew then disembarked, we drove to a spot under the mast-raising pole, and Tadpole and I began to de-rig the boat. We had quite a bit of trouble (not for the first time) with the gooseneck attachment between the boom and mast; the bolt we had used was bent and the pop rivets attaching a bracket to the mast were failing and had to be removed. It was dark by the time we had the mast removed and secured horizontally on Black Magic's deck.

Soon after returning to the apartment, I had to leave for Albuquerque. Carol Anne and Tad would remain overnight, with plans to finish packing Black Magic and to position Syzygy (our MacGregor) in Black Magic's slip while the Etchells was being prepared for her upcoming visit to Arizona.

At work the next day (Tuesday), I had a short workday; only a portion of the labs was open and all workers were required to leave by 3:00 p.m. to give snow removal crews full access to parking lots. I did some more work on the Great Mythical Book of Etchells, re-typing some hard-to-read bad copies of articles about Etchells tuning and racing. Around 6:00 that evening I became restless and antsy. I called Carol Anne and found that she was having car trouble with the Expedition; the Babe had been given a jump-start at the Socorro Springs but had then failed again at the north Socorro freeway entrance ramp. AAA had been called but could only promise a nine-minute response.

After emptying out El Caballero to make maximum room, I drove to Socorro. When I arrived around 7:15 p.m., I found the Expedition parked at Monette Ford, but no Carol Anne or Tadpole and no note to tell where they had gone. So, I loaded the string bass into the passenger (front and back with the seat folded) side of the car along with lots of other stuff, including the cello in the trunk, then drove to Socorro Springs to call Carol Anne -- and find out that she was in the lounge at the dealership, just 50 yards from the truck. One of the Ford folks had stayed late working on a project to allow our crew to stay warm inside where Carol Anne, Tad, and Tres could watch part of the Orange Bowl. (Dulce is not a football fan, but Tres was happy to watch, even though soccer is his favorite tv sport.) Getting two people, two cats, and assorted gear and luggage into El Caballero along with the two instruments was "interesting". But, the rescue from then on went off without a hitch.

Interestingly, the Expedition's alternator that seems to have failed was replaced only recently. This is the vehicle's third breakdown in as many months; in early November the fuel pump failed while we were in Zorro's driveway in El Paso, and shortly afterward we had to have lots of electrical work done in Albuquerque. At least the truck has chosen relatively good places to fail.

On our calendar: All State Orchestra, New Mexico Sailing Club meeting, boat work, surveying the (southern) lake for course for a winter "frostbite" distance race, preparations for an out-of-town regatta.

Shopping: replacement Etchells tiller, high-quality/tough pop riveter (we broke one a few weeks ago; it couldn't handle stainless-steel pop rivets). Also, we need (newer) replacement sails for our MacGregor; the stitching is failing on the genoa, especially on the furler cover, and the main is well blown out and very soft to the touch.


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