Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sailing Club Responsibility?

Recent events have had me musing on the topic of who is responsible for what during a sailboat regatta. The racing rules of sailing, along with sailing instructions and age-old tradition, very firmly hold the captain (skipper) of a vessel accountable for the safety of the boat, crew, passengers, and other vessels and their crews and passangers.

Yet, we live in an ever more litigious society. On land, people behave recklessly and then file lawsuits, often winning huge judgments in spite of their own negligence and misbehavior. Friends tell me not to worry and claim that there's never been a successful suit against a yacht club or sailing club based on events out on the race course. But, I wonder if that's really true and whether it's at all wise for a club to dismiss the threat as imaginary.

I would think it prudent for a club to take all reasonable precautions in running regattas. Paperwork (Notices of Race, Sailing Instructions, registration forms, government permits, and, not least, insurance) should be in order. The race committee and other volunteers should be trained. Chase boats, safety equipment, and emergency communications should be in order. Weather forecasts should be checked and the principal racing officer on duty should be prepared to call off racing if conditions are unsafe for the types of boats being sailed.

What happens if these things aren't done? I certainly don't think the club has to do a flawless job, and certainly there are inherent hazards of sailing and racing that can't be eliminated. If the club does a good-faith effort, and shows that it acted as competently and prudently as most other clubs do, then I think the club would be able to defend itself in protest hearings or in the law courts. However, if club race management is really sloppy, and both the paperwork and the on-the-water preparations and activities are substandard, then I think the club and its leaders are really asking for trouble. There are just too many lawyers looking for work.

Besides taking precautions to ensure safety and defend against possible lawsuits, club leaders should want to run regattas properly because it's the right thing to do. It also means the racing is being run fairly, and that skill and hard work are being rewarded. Club leaders should ensure that their race managers are trained and are organizing regattas and races in accordance with national standards (US Sailing), local law, and best practices.

Clubs that rely on very informal or outdated race documents may find that they've exposed themselves to embarrassment or even serious legal liability. For example, a local club had an incident a few years ago in which actions of its protest committee were overturned because it didn't follow correct procedures. And, US Sailing has given guidance that certain legal language formerly found in many registration forms has been held to be bad policy. It could actually put the club at greater risk in court.

If the racers can't predict how the rules will be interpreted, and if racing policies are hard to pin down, or subject to frequent, unpredictable last-minute changes, then racers may feel that they're at the mercy of the race manager's changing moods and might not get a fair shake. If race administration is sloppy, the race managers may open themselves to charges of incompetence, bias, favoritism, or even cheating. The resulting bad reputation could drive good sailors away from the club and quickly drain the energy and fun away from the club.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Heron and Elephant Butte Lake Levels

Weather prediction for Saturday, September 29, 2007 at Elephant Butte, NM:
84/58 F high/low temp, 25% chance rain, winds S 8-12 mph becoming SSW 12-16 mph, gusts to 24 mph. 7:02 a.m. sunrise, 6:56 p.m. sunset, 8:46 p.m. moonrise, moon waning gibbous 88% full

Heron Lake, New Mexico

September 27, 2007, 11:00 AM
7,152.65' elev., 230,884 acre feet
down 0.01 (1/8 inch) and 44 a.f. in 24 hours
even in past 71 hours
down 5.5 inches and 1,984 a.f. in 9 days

September 18, 2007, 11:00 AM
7,153.11' elev., 232,868 acre feet
Up 0.02' (1/4 inch) and 87 a.f. in 24 hours
Down 0.37 (4.4 inches) and 1,609 a.f. in 71 hours
Down 1 foot and 6,500 a.f. from summer high point in August.

Willow Creek, 11:00 AM, August 17, 2007, 120 cfs (4-296 cfs in past 71 hours). The lake level is going down a few to several inches each weekend when the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District takes some water, but yesterday's rains helped the lake recover slightly.

Heron Lake, NM (Rio Arriba County)
date . . . . level (ft.) . . . storage (acre feet)
12/31 . . . 7,144.85 . . . . 198,729
01/31 . . . 7,137.54 . . . . 171,252
02/28 . . . 7,135.48 . . . . 163,997
03/31 . . . 7,136.80 . . . . 168,721
04/30 . . . 7,140.60 . . . . 182,435
05/31 . . . 7,148.98 . . . . 215,390
06/30 . . . 7,153.96 . . . . 236,551
08/07 . . . 7,154.64 . . . . 239,554
08/07 . . . 7,154.10 . . . . 241,581 (12:00 noon)
08/11 . . . 7,154.11 . . . . 241,581 (12:00 noon)
08/17 . . . 7,154.10 . . . . 241,581 (11:00 AM)
08/31 . . . 7,154.41 . . . . 238,536 end of month
09/18 . . . 7,153.11 . . . . 232,868 11:00 AM
09/27 . . . 7,152.65 . . . . 230,884 11:00 AM

102,888 a.f. SJ-C water in, January through August, 2007.
-4,267 a.f. SJ-C water loss, April-August
-11,499 a.f. SJ-C water discharged, May-August


Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico
Thursday, Sept. 27, 11:00 AM
4,328.10 feet elev. above benchmark with 362,593 acre feet
down 0.10' (1.2 inches) and 1,274 acre feet in 24 hours
down 0.32' (3.8 inches) and 3,495 acre feet in 71 hours
San Marcial Floodway is flowing at 145 cubic feet per second (139-203 cfs)
Flow out the dam is 1,010 cfs (994 to 1030 cfs in past 71 hours)

Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2007, 09:00 AM
4,329.32 feet elev. above benchmark with 375,974 acre feet
down 0.16' (1.9 inches) and 1,776 acre feet in 24 hours
down 0.44' (5.3 inches) and 4,878 acre feet in 71 hours
down 10 inches and 9,100 a.f. in 1 week.

San Marcial Floodway flows have been modest.

Flow out the dam at was 1,070 c.f.s. (1,040 to 1,080 cfs in past 71 hours).

Comparison to operations plan projections:
Ops plan projected lake level for the end of Sept. 18 was 4,327.29' elev., 353,784 a.f.
Ops plan had projected outflow of about 1,300 cfs from August 26 to Oct. 13.
The lake is 23 inches higher and has about 20,000 more a.f. of water than projected.
Although less water is flowing into the lake than projected, less is flowing out at the dam as well.

Elephant Butte Lake, 2007 elevation (feet) and acre feet of water:
1/01 . . . 4,340.82 . . . . 515,3500
1/31 . . . 4,344.02 . . . . 558,4400
2/28 . . . 4,346.88 . . . . 598,4600
3/11 . . . 4,347.72 . . . . 610,490 annual high point
3/19 . . . 4,347.48 . . . . 607,040
3/31 . . . 4,347.62 . . . . 609,050
4/30 . . . 4,343.82 . . . . 555,9700
5/05 . . . 4,342.26 . . . . 548,050 intermediate low point
5/31 . . . 4,347.08 . . . . 601,320
6/05 . . . 4,347.58 . . . . 608,480 crest of spring runoff
6/30 . . . 4,344.96 . . . . 571,440
7/25 . . . 4,337.90 . . . . 477,610
8/07 . . . 4,335.16 . . . . 443,660
8/17 . . . 4,333.72 . . . . 426,384
9/11 . . . 4,330.14 . . . . 385,080
9/18 . . . 4,329.32 . . . . 375,974
9/27 . . . 4,328.10 . . . . 362,593 (19.62' loss from maximum)

Operations Plan Predictions
08/16 . . . 4,332.39 . . . . 410,790
08/31 . . . 4,328.76 . . . . 369,750
09/18 . . . 4,327.29 . . . . 353,784 (actual on 9/27 is 4,328.10, 362,593)
09/30 . . . 4,325.16 . . . . 331,320
10/13 . . . 4,323.04 . . . . 309,654 (proj. max. loss of 10.68 from today)
10/27 . . . 4,324.20 . . . . 321,451

Maximum projected loss still leaves the lake 27' higher than the lowest level during the 2005 drought.

Projected outflow is 1,280 c.f.s. though to Oct. 12. Actual outflow on Sept. 27 was 1,010 cfs.

Reality check: The Butte probably won’t go below around 4,325.5 ft. elev. and 337,500 a.f.

During October, keelboats may be unable to use the Rock Canyon boat ramp unless heavy ramp clearing is done by the state park folks. (Some was done in mid-September.) However, the Dam Site ramp may be usable (although it no longer has a mast-raising pole).

Sunrise Registration

Sunrise Regatta Registration
September 29-30, 2007
Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico

Skipper name: __________________________________________
Address: ______________________________________________
City: _______________________ State ____ Zip _____________

Telephone: ______________ _______________ _______________
. . . . . . . . . . . . (home) . . . . . . . . (office) . . . . . . . . . . (cell)
E-mail/web: ____________________________________________

Birthdate (required if born after January 1, 1989): ________

T-shirt size, number (one included with registration; additional shirts at $15):
__ S __ M __ L __ XL
T-shirt orders need to be submitted to Vicky Zink by 5:00 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007; otherwise shirts will be first-come, first-served from a limited number.

Race Choice (see boat and equipment requirements in Notice of Race)

_____ 10-mile

_____ 25-mile non-spinnaker

_____ 25-mile spinnaker


Crew name(s): _______________ ________________ _______________


Boat name ___________________ Sail Number ___________
Boat class/manufacturer ______________________________
___ keelboat with cabin ____ open keelboat ____ cruising multihull
___ day sailer/centerboard or daggerboard (10-mile race)
___ open multihull (10-mile race)


Special Information
Please list any allergies, diet restrictions, special medical concerns, or needs for you, your crew, or members of your traveling party. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________



I am a member of _____ RGSC ____ NMSC ____ BOC ____ SJSC
____ _______________ Class Assn. ____ US Sailing ____ SAIL
____ Sailing Club, Yacht Club, or other boating organization: ____________________

Other special features of my crew or boat:


Regatta Fee:

Includes 1 breakfast and 1 t-shirt:

$40.00 per boat, cash or check to
Rio Grande Sailing Club,
PO Box 13953
Albuquerque, NM 87195

40.00 ___ registration
15.00 ___ extra t-shirt(s)
_8.00 ___ extra breakfast(s)

$ _____ ___ total


Agreement and Signature:

I agree to be bound by the Racing Rules of Sailing, the Notice of Race, and Sailing Instructions for the Sunrise Regatta, by class and handicap rules, and by applicable local, state, and federal regulations.

I acknowledge that I alone am responsible for deciding whether to launch, start, or continue in an event at this regatta, and I acknowledge my responsibility for ensuring that myself, my crew, and my boat are seaworthy for conditions that may be encountered during this regatta.

(If skipper is a minor, eligibility requirements must be met, and a parent or guardian must also sign this form and provide a medical release.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Local Sailing Calendar and Weekend Update

local events...
Sept. 21-22, Desert Classic Regatta, Fall Series 1
skippers' meeting 10:00 a.m. Saturday at Casa Taco in Elephant Butte
dinner, club and board meeting 7:00 p.m. Saturday at Casa Taco.
racing continues on Sunday

Sept. 29, Saturday
Sunrise Long-Distance Race
skippers' meeting 10:00 a.m. Saturday at Dam Site
Sept. 30, Sunrise breakfast, 10:00 a.m., Dam Site

Oct. 6, Saturday
work party at Heron Lake

Oct. 13-14, Saturday and Sunday
Governor's Cup and Fall Series 2, Elephant Butte

Oct. 20, Saturday
end of season work party at Heron Lake, close marina for season

Oct. 27-28, Saturday and Sunday
Halloweek Regatta at Elephant Butte

Nov. 17, Saturday only
Commodore's Cup/Fall Series 4 regatta at Elephant Butte
RGSC club and board meeting

Dec. 1, Saturday
Kris Kringle regatta,
RGSC holiday party

Dec. 8, Saturday
boat parade, Elephant Butte

Dec. 15, Saturday
NMSC holiday party

Weekend update in brief...
Friday drove to the Laguna Vista neighborhood near Heron Lake in northern NM. Poured concrete from 6:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m.
Saturday did some marina work; Tadpole and I took a family out sailing. Moved 26 Rhino floats from Henry's to the Willow Creek courtesy dock. Brought lumber to the marina. Assembled another piece of the raft for the gangway extension. Helped swing rotating gangway. Too late to attend Oktoberfest at Shroyer Center. Returned to Albuquerque.
Sunday, towed "Black Magic" south to Elephant Butte. Rigged boat and installed in mast-up lot. Watched Zorro sail from shore; tried to get his attention when he sailed by. Visited with a marina manager and "Dumbledore"; discussed sailing club plans for hosting regattas. Saw that a couple of highway bridges had been completed and that the DamSite marina (formerly Rock Canyon) has just begun to move across its cove. Visited Husker. Late dinner at Denny's, which had to improvise a bit on desserts, then drove home to Albuquerque.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New Mexico Sailing Club, Heron Lake update

Although a few boats have left the marina, fall sailing can be one of the great secret pleasures of Heron Lake. Fall colors, geese flying overhead, and a quiet lake are just a few good reasons to go out on the lake.


The Buccaneer Rodeo on Labor Day weekend was a big event, with 9 Buccaneers (18-foot centerboard sailboats with main, jib, and spinnaker) from Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, plus 6 B fleet and 5 A fleet boats racing. Another Bucc came from Colorado just to socialize and watch. Pictures, results, and lots of info have been posted to the regatta web site,

Please let me know if you have any pictures to share from Labor Day weekend or this summer!

We had a big crowd for the social on Saturday, Sept. 1st, as well as a successful ice cream social and awards ceremony. Lots of thanks are due to Carol Merovka and her team for organizing the potluck, and to folks who helped out on race committee, including Lee Brammeier, Gerald Byrnes, Mack Jordan, George Soto, and Bob Hopper. A quick board and club meeting on Sunday ended as a fierce rainstorm drove some us inside the dockhouse to discuss the possibilities of filming a “marina survivor” episode.

This past weekend Al Sharp, Gary Landon, and I installed another piece of finger pier for widening the connecting walkway. We still need to connect a few more bolts and put some cleats on the east side. There is only about a five-foot gap to be filled to finish the widening project.

The raft to support the gangway extension is also coming along; it’s now a trimaran. The state parks will be bringing us one of our old 32-foot gangways to put on top of it.

Pete Barlow has ordered parts for the pump-out.

Kevin Duncan has the parts and the motor from the work barge to be repaired.

The club has ordered more floats; we need to confirm when they might be arriving so we can hire a forklift and have people to unload them.

Herna at Henry’s wants us to get the concrete anchors out of their yard.

Mark Paz plans to dive at the marina on the weekend of October 20 to help prepare the marina down for winter by disconnecting moving the cross trusses between B and C docks..

Does anyone have information on the “Black Pearl”, a black motorboat with a large awning? This Saturday, Sept. 8, 2007, it came to the marina from the main body of the lake, where it had been beached in the Laguna Vista cove, stopped in a slip that it didn’t belong to, then, when leaving, collided with Camelot and at least one other boat. The operator did not apologize or leave information; he just hit and ran. We believe the operator was a trespasser/freeloader, and not a marina customer or guest of any members.

The lake has come down a bit lately, with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District releasing some water on weekends, but we are still within about a foot of this summer’s highest levels and have plenty of water to enjoy with the lake well over half full.

Heron Lake is at an elevation of 7,154.04 feet, with 236,915 acre feet as of 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9, 2007, with about 28 feet of water in the marina area. Since 8 p.m. Thursday, it went down 4.5 inches and 670 acre feet. During the middle of August, the lake hovered around a peak level of 7,155.10’, with 241,581 acre feet of water.


New Mexico Sailing Club


Rich Koch, Commodore
Ernie Newman, Vice Commodore
George Soto, Treasurer
Lisa Carlson, Secretary

Board of directors nominees

John Davey
Mack Jordan
Ed Knop
Clif Meyer

Continuing terms:

John Polk
Rich Strasia
Roger Vinyard (will need sub until May)

Terms ending in December 2007:

Bob Hopper
Dan Hoyer
Ken Mitchell
Tom Riggs

We still need MANY volunteers for plenty of jobs to be done.



September 15, Saturday

– a bit of work on the marina to get the connecting walkway’s latest widening finished, clean up the marina, re-adjust gangways and winches, perhaps get anchors out from Henry’s yard, work on the gangway extension and set a location for its skidway, set up for future end-of-season work parties.

– Oktoberfest in Laguna Vista

September 22, Saturday – Desert Classic Regatta at Elephant Butte

September 29, Saturday – Sunrise Regatta (long distance race) at E. Butte

October 6, Saturday

Heron Lake Town Hall Meeting, Visitors’ Center, 10:00 a.m.

– last NMSC club and board meeting at the lake, 1 p.m.

– Fall work party; get floats under dockhouse, clean up

October 13, Saturday – Governor’s Cup Regatta at Elephant Butte

– last weekend of dockmasters

– note that the gates for the road to the marina point will be locked after the last dockmaster leaves, except when we have weekend work parties or someone working on the marina

– remove club dinghies from the water

October 20, Saturday

10:00 a.m., End of season work party; prepare marina for winter; remove BC cross trusses, swing out long trusses from B & C docks, stack picnic tables, stow grills, remove vhf radio, remove life rings and fire extinguishers, post marina closed signs, lock gate at end of weekend

December 8 – boat parade at the Butte

December 15 – tentative date for NMSC holiday party, probably in Bernalillo

January, 2008 – club budget meeting, date and place to be arranged

April 5, 2008 – possible low-water point and mini-work party to keep marina on an even keel and repair any possible winter damage

April 19, 2008 – possible date for spring work party

May 3, 2008 – possible opening date for Heron Lake Marina

May 24 – Memorial Day weekend; regatta

May 31 – Mallory Cup at Elephant Butte

June 21, Saturday – summer solstice weekend

July 5, Saturday – Fourth of July weekend; regatta, etc.


Special Representatives from:
New Mexico State Parks
Bureau of Reclamation
New Mexico Sailboat Club
New Mexico Game & Fish
Come and express your views!!  Refreshments will be served!!
*** A Thank You picnic will follow at the Group Shelter for those who helped
with OspreyFest and to build the new trail.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Yes, it was a busy weekend

and there's quite a bit to tell.

Our family survived the Rocky Mountain Buccaneer Rodeo and Marina Survivor. Highlights for me included running a regatta for 20 boats, more or less organizing the race committee, a potluck dinner and an ice cream social, New Mexico Sailing Club board and club meeting, thunderstorms, the largest social gatherings we've had at the Heron Lake Marina, spreading wheelbarrow loads of gravel on the trail to keep ahead of the wet weather, and building a trimaran raft. Carol Anne got to sail and race "Black Magic" for the first time since nearly a month ago in Dillon, and "Tadpole" got to help run mark set boats and sail a Sunfish.

Ten Buccaneers, nine of whom were raced, and their crews arrived at Heron Lake on Friday night and Saturday morning. We had arranged for them to be able to stow their boats in the park's mast-up lot as part of the event, and many of them camped close together in the Island View reservation campsites. A rain shower passed through late Friday afternoon, the first in several days for the area.

Saturday morning arrived rapidly. Before we even realized it, it was time for me to lead the skipper/crew meeting and introduce the Buccs to Heron Lake. Twenty boats participated in the regatta: 9 Buccaneers (18-foot centerboard sailboats with jib, mainsail, and spinnaker) from New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona; 5 A fleet boats from the NMSC (an Etchells, a Moore 24, and 3 J24s); and 6 B fleet cruising boats. We also had a race committee signal boat, mark set boat, and a couple of boats and skippers to take photos and spectators out on the race course, plus some casual cruisers who enjoyed watching the regatta.

A passing thunderstorm stayed away from our racecourse, but came close enough to deter some people from racing on Saturday.

more to come