Monday, January 15, 2007

Weekend at the lake; boat fiddling

Friday was a confusing afternoon for the felines; because I had to work later than expected, the cats had been put in their carriers, but then released before Carol Anne gave "Tad" a ride home from school and I returned. Then we packed the cats, Tres and Dulce, back in their carriers for the drive south.

Tad got in plenty of driving practice this weekend, driving the expedition from Albuqueruqe to Truth or Consequences on Friday, around T or C and Elephant Butte during the weekend, and back to Albuquerque last night (Sunday).

Southbound we stopped in Socorro to refill Carol Anne's growler and grab a fast-food snack. Upon arrival and unloading, we fed the cats (separately because Tres is on prescription kitty food), bought some groceries, and grilled steaks.

Saturday mid-morning, Tad joined "Dino" and his work crew in rehabilitating one of Dino's recent acquisitions, a small complex comprising a rental home, 775-sq.-ft. doublewide, and a small older single-wide. I joked we should reserve the small, '50s vintage singlewide (about an 8' x 30') for Buzz, our Rio Grande Sailing Club commodore, because the "Commodore" model name was stamped on the aluminum front door of the home. It had been updated with a new gas/propane heater and carpet but otherwise still had a strong 50's sort of feeling to it. However, that unit would really only be suitable for a single person to occupy. Yard work, painting, stucco repair, roof repair, and trim installation kept the crew busy for most of the weekend. Dino has begun to diversify his El Paso-based property managment business and now has several properties in Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte. (Carol Anne blogged about the mystery of one of those places, a cabin on Kettletop drive in Elephant Butte.)

Around mid-day, Carol Anne and I towed her Etchells (30'6" sailing dinghy rising ten or more feet over the ground on her trailer) to the mast-raising pole at the Marina del Sur. This was to be the first time that just the two of us had attempted to step the mast, and we had chosen an especially challenging day, with forecast winds of 20 knots gust into the high 20s. The initial step of raising the mast slightly and dipping the masthead down so Carol Anne could attach the windex went reasonably well. But, the wind was a crosswind, so steadying the long mast as we raised it and aligning it through the mast port on deck and fitting it to the shoe over the keel was "interesting". Gusts kept twisting the rig and blowing it far off plumb; while hugging the mast I had to be careful to not lose my footing. With Carol Anne below decks coordinating all the lines and guiding the mast into the shoe, I alternated trips down to the mast-raising winch with guiding and straightening the mast from above the deck. Eventually we got it. Whew! Then, after attaching the forestay and backstay, we found the the side loading on the mast made attaching the windward shrouds another "fascinating" exercise.

By then, it was time to move on to other errands. We left Black Magic parked between the mast-raising pole and boat ramp and drove to the Rock Canyon Marina (still in its low-water site near the dam) to visit with one of the owners and do a little business on behalf of a slip neighbor. We deposited some boat money, which was part of a transaction that wound up with us having yet another boat in the family. The boat is still out of state in Texas, where it needs a bit of repair, re-painting, and re-assembly. Then we plan to bring it to Elephant Butte Lake later this spring and likely to Heron Lake in the summer, giving us another boat for prospective crew or skippers to sail on with us and allowing us another option for trying to revive the sailboat racing program at Heron. Eventually, we plan to fix and spruce up the boat enough that we could sell it to the right buyer, someone who is energetic, quick, and capable of "learning the ropes" on a relatively complex racing machine and will have a lot of fun getting lots of use out of her. Then we chatted more with the marina owner, "Rodeo Mom", learning that a couple of sailboat slips might be available and that she had come into ownership of a 23-foot sailboat (1969 Coronado, price negotiable) for which she'd love to receive offers from prospective buyers.

Also, it looks as though the marina may have to move back to its original location if the lake continues to rise, which will depend upon whether snow and rain continue to fall in central and northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Currently, southern NM had well below average snow in its mountain ranges, and southwestern Colorado is only at about 75% of normal. But, northern NM and most of Colorado have at least normal snowpack levels.

Elephant Butte is now at an elevation of 4,342.30 feet above benchmark elevation, with 535,073 acre feet of water and has risen an inch and 1,073 a.f. in the past 24 hours (as of 0800 Jan. 15, 2007) and 3.4 inches and 3,772 a.f. in the past 71 hours. Heron Lake continues to discharge water to contracting cities and governments, and is at 7,139.31', 177,668 a.f., giving up 1.3 inches and 406 a.f. in 24 hours and 3.7 inches and 882 a.f. in 71 hours. Abiquiu Lake has 161,885 a.f. and Cochiti has 49,755 a.f.

Leaving the marina, we stopped at Hodges' Corner for a late, much-needed lunch; but even as hungry as we were we had leftovers to take home to the apartment. We checked in at Dino's rental complex and found Tad still working away, so we stashed the food at the apartment, hooked up the trailer for our MacGregor ("Syzygy") and then drove back to the marina, where Syzygy was temporarily occupying Black Magic's slip. Carol Anne took the truck and trailer to Marina del Sur, a couple of miles north, to wait for me. Because we were running out of light, I had to rush to get the boat ready to go, unlocking the hatch and bringing gear up, opening the fuel vent and installing the kill switch, raising the centerboard, untying dock lines, and running the motor.

By the time I was under way, the winds had moderated to what felt like about 12 or 13 knots (but according to the weather service it was still more like 15 kts gust to 20 kts), with a few erratic gusts, and were on the Mac's stern quarter. So, I was able to unroll the genoa to add its power to the 9.9-hp. Tohatsu and make good time downwind. With the twisty channel south of Horse Island still rather narrow and hard to pick out in the fading light, I continued on around the north end of Horse Island. After rounding and heading on a tight reach across the bay toward Marina del Sur, I was hit with some pretty strong gusts that bounced the water-ballasted Mac around pretty well. While still in open water, just before reaching the marina, I furled the genoa and came in under motor only, with the centerboard all the way up so it wouldn't snag on the trailer.

The boat ramp had partial protection from the worst of the winds, but there was still a healthy cross-wind. With limited visibility (about 20 minutes after sunset), my best choice was to approach with enough speed to "stick it" on the trailer. Fortunately, my aim was good, with nothing more eventful than a thump as I pushed the bow onto the y-yoke at the front of the trailer. I came forward and stepped onto the Expedition's bumper and the tongue of the trailer to clip the winch hook to the bow eye and snug the boat onto the trailer. Then I laid back aft to run the motor dry of gas (after unclipping the fuel line), raise the rudder, turn off the electrics, and, after Carol Anne moved the boat a few feet up the ramp, begin draining water from the ballast tank. With temperatures sinking and the breeze still blowing, we made quick work of the retrieval and of leaving Syzygy parked next to Black Magic near the mast-raising pole.

Retrieving Tad from his work site, we returned to the apartment, fed the cats, and began cooking supper in the apartment kitchen for the hungry sailors and workers -- Carol Anne, Tad, me, Dino, his work supervisor, Dino's housemate/jack of all trades, and another worker meant seven big appetites for dinner. Fortunately, we had a couple of big packs of chicken legs and thighs, plus mashed potatoes and salad fixed up by the time everyone returned; also, Tad, even after his day of labor, was able to wash up and do most of the cooking -- one of his many talents. Special K cereal was used as the breading for the chicken, which was then oven-baked. The food was devoured readily, and even our scaredy-cat, bashful "ghost cat" Tres, hung around and socialized with people in hopes of a handout. (Tres is on a diet and people were hungry, so he was disappointed.) And, while we were enjoying the dinner, we had fudge brownies baking in the oven, so the brownies were at their gooey, hot prime just in time for dessert. Carol Anne enjoys it when we have a crowd, because then we don't have to worry about leftovers.

Reported wind history at the Truth or Consequences airport for Saturday, January 13, 2007:
Time . . . . wind
0753 . . . . 16 mph, gusts to 27 mph
0853 . . . . 12 mph, gusts to 29 mph
0953 . . . . 24 mph
1053 . . . . 22 mph, gusts to 31 mph
1153 . . . . 25 mph, gusts to 31 mph
1253 . . . . 27 mph, gusts to 35 mph (beginning of mast stepping on USA 125)
1353 . . . . 22 mph, gusts to 31 mph (mast stepped, secure shrouds and move boat)
1453 . . . . 24 mph, gusts to 29 mph (visit marina)
1553 . . . . 24 mph, gusts to 28 mph (finish lunch, check on Tad)
1653 . . . . 18 mph (south), gusts to 26 mph (take Syzygy north to Marina del Sur)
1753 . . . . 13 mph (southwest) (load Syzygy on trailer and leave in state park)
1853 . . . . 14 mph (southwest)

NEXT: Sunday -- Pop goes the riveter!


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