Monday, October 01, 2007

Sunrise Regatta, Elephant Butte Lake, September 29, 2007

Friday evening Carol Anne and I arrived at Elephant Butte Lake. We drove by the northern parts of the lake to get an idea of conditions near Monticello Point and Black Bluffs, then arrived at Rock Canyon. There we helped rig USA 438, which we're selling to her new owner, "Carguy". We'd brought some articles about tuning and sailing an Etchells to him, along with a collection of tools for the boat.

With lots of work to be done to make the regatta happen, failures in getting help for preparations on our boat, some bad communication during the week, the need to organize a safety boat and on-the-water staff for the race committee, some damage to be made good on Carol Anne's boat, some items that had been stolen or monkeyed with during the previous weekend while her boat was in the marina, without our usual crew, and with brisk winds forecast, we were unable to race in the regatta.

Saturday morning I took some sails to the mast-up storage lot, ducking around detours for the "Elephant Man" triathlon. Then I drove to the Dam Site restaurant patio, where we held the skipper/crew meeting for the Sunrise Regatta. I registered boats, gave a weather briefing, and handed out copies of the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions.

Afterward, I went scurrying around town trying to find some air horns for the committee boat, which proved to be a challenge; it took five tries to find a store that had them. During the search, one merchant told me that the propellant that replaced freon some years ago has a relatively short shelf life. So, it seems we should have a manually-charged horn (pump up) or whistle as a backup, and we should buy a new air horn replacement can before each spring and fall race series.

Carol Anne wasn't feeling particularly well or up for facing the expected conditions, so she remained in our motel room all day.

With air horns in hand, I hopped a ride on a motorboat that was being used as our safety and chase boat to take the air horns to the race committee signal boat. Then I settled down in the bow of the chase boat, getting dunked with spray in the bumpy conditions as I tried to photograph the pre-start maneuvering and the start of the race. Winds had been forecast to be 10 to 20 mph, but we had close to 22 mph recorded at the airport and in town at the start time, with some gusts above 30 mph during the earlier part of the regatta.

As a result, this year's Sunrise was one of the fastest ever. Zorro's Etchells, "Constellation" completed the 10-mile course in 85 minutes. Even the last boat to finish, "Imagine" in the 25-mile non-spinnaker class, finished before dark.

However, the brisk conditions made the safety boat more than just a good idea. En route to Marina del Sur, after covering the start and initial beat, we saw some people in the water near Rattlesnake Island. It turned out they were in trouble. Four boys had walked out on a narrow, submerged sandspit to try to walk to Rattlesnake. But, the waves washed them into deep water, and not all of the boys were swimmers. So, they were delighted to be rescued.

At Marina del Sur, we visited with "Sutherland", whose Etchells sailboat had experienced a rigging failure shortly after leaving the boat ramp, with the mainsail jammed when halfway hoisted.

Afterward, we noticed that a sailboat was dead in the water with sails down north of Rattlesnake Island. "Captain Groovy" had a rudder failure on his Rhodes 19, so we towed him to a quieter, shallower part of the lake, closer to his marina, where he could make repairs.

Then, we saw that one of the boats in the race, the J24 "40", belonging to the West Mesa Navy Jr. ROTC program, had run hard aground. This was when John, the owner of the chase boat, earned his trophy souvenir of the regatta. Despite being well away from the shore, his propeller was "customized" by some rocks as we tried to rescue the J24. The rocks transformed the prop from a four-blade model to a custom two-blader. Not good. John had to go in the water to change to a spare propeller. Fortunately he was quick, because the anchor we had deployed was dragging.

Another motorboat in the meantime tried to unground the J24, but without success. Finally we were back in action. After rigging an extra-long tow line, we were able to pivot and rotate the J24 off the ground and free her. Mark and Ken started their engine and retired back to Rock Canyon.

Now we were free so I could get more pictures of boats in the regatta. We returned to Rock Canyon, where we picked up a passenger off the J24 that had retired, and gave her a ride to the northern part of the lake, where we observed the last boat in the regatta on its way back to the main part of the lake.

Returning to the Rock Canyon marina, we were talking to some sailing club members who had participated in the regatta. Then we were approached by Tony. Tony and Bo had launched their motorboat at the Rock Canyon ramp, but they had cast off with Bo on board before starting the motor. Unfortunately, the motor didn't start, so Bo and the Bayliner drifted a quarter mile across the lake to the shore of Long Point. We took Tony on board and rescued the Bayliner, though at one point we hit bottom even though we were 50 yards from shore. The lake seems quite treacherous at its current elevation. Returning to the boat ramp, we told Tony and Bo to make sure they tied the Bayliner up before working on it. However, a few minutes later, we noticed Bo and the boat drifting away from the ramp, back out into open water. So, we rescued them again! This time we caught them only 50 yards out from the boat ramp.

Earlier in the day, John, David, and Cheryl, on the race committee signal boat, had come to the rescue of a couple who had fallen off and become separated from their jet ski and were becoming hypothermic.

During the day, the race boats experienced quite a bit of damage. Zorro's boat was one of those that broached, and the spinnaker twing blocks (pulleys) exploded on his boat. Worse yet happened to a boat after the regatta ended. While Bob and William were trying to get a MacGregor 26X from the Marina del Sur boat ramp to the mast-up lot, volunteers for the Elephant Man triathlon directed them through a detour. Unfortunately, the detour took them into an overhead obstacle (guy wire for an electric line), resulting in a broken mast. Had they hit the powerline, they could have been seriously endangered. As it is, they face a very expensive mast replacement.

The previous evening, a couple of people moved an Etchells from the mast-raising pole to a parking area near the Rock Canyon Marina and boat ramp. Unfortunately, there was a power line over the parking lot (which is not standard safe engineering practice to design!), which was not marked. There were no signs along the power line and no warning balls on the line, and very little lighting in the area. It was lucky that no one was seriously injured. As it was, some of the stainless steel rigging became fused by the 7,000-volt power line and will have to be replaced.

Sunday morning we checked out of our motel, visited the mast-up lot, and drove to the Dam Site, where our breakfast and awards ceremony were scheduled. Breakfast was running about 20 minutes late, so we visited with other sailors.

After the prize giving, we went to Rock Canyon, where we hitched, prepped, and launched Black Magic. "Carguy", his girl friend, and two boys joined me on Black Magic while Carol Anne drove the truck and Black Magic's trailer south to Marina del Sur. Sailing out of the marina in light air, we saw and visited a bit with Zorro. Then, about a mile out, the winds gave up, so I fired up the motor and motored to the east side of Rattlesnake Island. By then, the breezes had returned, and shifted, so we had an easy reach the rest of the way to Marina del Sur. We dropped the main about 100 yards out, the jib about 50 feet out, and coasted in to the courtesy dock. My passengers hopped off and Carguy helped Carol Anne get the trailer in the water. Then he joined me to finish rolling up the mainsail after I'd put away the jib and set up some lines for boat retrieval. With the motor, it was easy to back out, line up with the trailer, and get the boat onto the trailer very quickly.

We said goodbye to Carguy, drove to Rock Canyon, and visited with Zorro, who by then had moved USA 438 into his slip and hauled his boat, USA 38, out of the water in anticipation of putting new bottom paint on her. Then we visited with "Dumbledore" and "Mother" at their cabin and discussed scanning documents for the sailing club website, and some work to be done at the mast-up storage lot.

Before leaving town we did a quick "Dumpster Dive". Carol Anne had left her growler bottle in the motel room and we had to retrieve it from the trash before going to Socorro to get it refilled at the Socorro Springs brewpub. The refill was preceded by a nice dinner.


Post a Comment

<< Home