Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sunday at the lake

While finishing our boat-related projects late Sunday morning, we heated the last batch of cinammon and bread sticks for breakfast. Placing the spinnaker pole and boom in Babe, we drove to the marina.

There we found another minor obstacle. Apparently, the bracket we'd mounted on the mast had a vertical orientation, which did not become apparent until we tried to put the 3/8-inch gooseneck pin through a fitting with upper and lower annual lobes that was attached to the bracket. The pin would slide freely through the bottom part of the fitting, but would get stuck in the top part. The bracket was upside down. Since the bracket was very securely attached to the mast with stainless steel pop rivets, we decided to experiment before giving up on attaching the pin through the bracket. We did find that gentle tapping on the pin would allow it to go all the way through the bracket in the pin's proper orientation; this was much preferable to inserting it upside down. So, we assembled the pin with spacing washers and carefully tapped it into position. Mission accomplished; boom now attached.

Carol Anne telephoned Zorro to report a near absence of wind. A few nice puffs had come through, but by and large the lake surface had experienced zero to two knots of faint breeze, just enough to create some "fish scale" ripples on the surface. That report eliminated the possibility that Zorro would come again to the lake, but did let Carol Anne find out that a television crew was about to interview Zorro. Zorro was in the news because of an El Paso Times newspaper article describing his forthcoming induction into the Ohio Sports Hall of Fame. We'd just before found a copy of the newspaper and were glad to congratulate him.

Only about an hour of daylight remained when we left the marina (after chatting again with the crew of Ouroboros) and returned home. On the way, we were able to get shoes for Carol Anne at Alco. We fed the cats a light supper and drove north to Socorro, where we tracked down "Seattle" and gave him some Foghorn sailing club newsletters and fliers that he could use for the NM Tech sailing club's booth the next day at the "Club Fair". Not surprisingly, we paused to let Carol Anne refill her growler at Socorro Springs.

Elephant Butte Lake status, 12 noon, January 31, 2007:
4,343.98 feet above benchmark elevation, 557,894 acre feet.
Up .14' and 1,914 a.f. in 24 hours; up .34' and 4,641 a.f. in 71 hours.

Elephant Butte Lake Elev. (feet) . . . . Storage (acre feet) . . . Date
4,343.98 . . . . . . . 557,894 . . . . . . . Jan. 31, '07 (1200)
4,340.54 . . . . . . . 511,683 . . . . . . . Dec. 30 (0800)
4,336.52 . . . . . . . 460,330 . . . . . . . Nov. 30
4,331.24 . . . . . . . 397,510 . . . . . . . Oct. 31
4,327.10 . . . . . . . 351,800 . . . . . . . Sept. 30
4,325.18 . . . . . . . 331,550 . . . . . . . Aug. 31
4,308.50 . . . . . . . 183,870 . . . . . . . July 28 low point
4,339.88 . . . . . . . 503,030 . . . . . . . March 5 high point
4,334.06 . . . . . . . 430,410 . . . . . . . January 1, 2006

Sunday boat projects at the lake

As we awakened Sunday morning, conditions were brighter than they'd been early Saturday, but still frosty. I gathered what tools were available for work on Black Magic's boom and evaluated the four options for attaching the end of the backstay tackle to the plate on the front end of the boom:

(1) insert small eyebolts and find a shackle or swage a wire to use as a bridle.
(2) squeeze an eyestrap so it would fit.
(3) modify a small padeye so it would fit.
(4) drill new holes on each side of the boom near its front end and stick a bolt through the holes.

(1) The small eyebolts wouldn't be very strong. We didn't have swaging tools in the apartment. The bolts holding the eyebolts might get in the way of motion of the gooseneck fitting right in front of the boom endcap.
(2) The eyestraps were only moderately strong to start with; squeezing one could compromise its strength and lead to an unpredictable failure in a component that is not visible for inspection without disassembling the boom. We didn't have a vise in the apartment.
(3) A padeye would have to have a new hole drilled near its center, and have at least one end cut off so it'd fit in the boom's endcap. And, we didn't have much in the way of cutting tools.
(4) I hate drilling more holes in an old spar.

Although I was able to use vise pliers and hand tools to squeeze an eyestrap into the right shape and length, and even get the screw holes to line up with those in the boom endcap, solution (3) was chosen. Although a hacksaw failed to cut through the stainless steel base, I was able to use titanium drill bits to drill a new screw hole and a series of holes across the base of the padeye toward one end, allowing the padeye to be shortened.

Then I had to attach the padeye on the inside of the boom end cap. Unfortunately, the stainless steel screws available were a little long, which made it very hard to thread a shackle around the ring of the padeye. Eventually I succeeded, attached the first shackle to a shackle on the end of the backstay tackle, assembled the boom and endcap, and could chalk up one success.


Spin pole

We had a surprise when Carol Anne disassembled the spinnaker pole to replace the plunger sleeve and spring on each end. Apparently the design had chanced in the intervening years so the new parts wouldn't fit in the old pole ends. So, it looks as though we'll have to order new pole ends. At least better that than a whole new pole!


Brackets on boom

We also plan to install fittings to allow the spin pole to be mounted on the boom. However, the spinaker pole ring we tried had a base that was just a bit too much curved. We're modifying (flattening) the base so it should fit. The ring will be mounted starboard near the forward end of the boom and a ring constructed of heavy webbing fabric will be mounted aft. If it works well, we'll add another set of rings to port.


Bilge pump

The diaphragm has a crack so the pump sucks air and doesn't pump. Temporarily we have a portable manual bilge pump on board. With warm enough weather, we'll try patching the bilge pump. Otherwise, we'll try to find replacement parts, but the new manual Whale Gusher pumps look different from our third-of-a-century-old model.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Flotsam and jetsam of Friday and Saturday.

This weekend featured a mix of the usual: sailing and working on boats.

Friday we were late getting off to the lake because we had to get "Tadpole" off on a camping trip with his troop. Tad was a bit disorganized because he'd had a bunch of homework to do after Thursday's string bass lesson and sailing club social, but we were still among the first to arrive at the Scout hut. There, Tad unlocked the hut and brought out gear needed for the trip and helped one of the assistant scoutmasters retrieve the troop trailer and load it. We also brought a couple of crates of food, because Tad was grubmaster for the campout. Then, while the Scouts were sorting themselves out, I made an exceptionally quick trip to Costco -- only 23 minutes round trip -- to buy some fresh muffins and cinnamon rolls and buy a "chicken bake" for Tad's dinner.

Finally, I was able to return home to pick up Carol Anne and the cats. We drive the Expedition, "Babe," south, towing our utility trailer with a Sunfish sailing dinghy and its gear on board. We unloaded the Sunfish at New Mexico Tech, stashing it behind "Seattle"'s apartment so it could be used as a display at today's "Club Fair" for the New Mexico Tech sailing club. Of course, Carol Anne also got her growler filled with a half gallon of ale at Socorro Springs.

Arriving at the apartment in Truth or Consequences, we unloaded the Expedition and unhitched the utility trailer. I called for takeout pizza, but the guy at the other end of our phone conversation couldn't process my coupon. Eventually, because of the problem with the coupon, we wound up being "upgraded" or "super sliced" and got half again as much pizza and twice as many breadsticks and cinnamon snack sticks for the coupon price. Fortunately, the apartment had a large fridge for leftovers.

In the meantime, Tad and the older scouts in a Jeep Cherokee, and another group in a mini-van, drove to Grants, NM, stopping at a Subway for dinner (2nd dinner for Tad) and then at their hotel. The troop all wound up swimming in the pool and lounging in the hot tub until 10 p.m. Friday.

Saturday morning we woke slowly. Eventually we bought some housewares at the Family Dollar store in Truth or Consequences, and went by the Lakeshore True Value, which carries stainless steel hardware, to look for boat parts. We found some stainless steel eyebolts, nuts, and washers that might help us re-assemble Black Magic's boom with its new endplate, which lacked a fitting to attach the end block at the end of the outhaul, which is placed inside the forward end of the boom. Then we visited a friend and crew member (Cornhusker), then left Foghorns and fliers at Morgan Marine, and headed for the Rock Canyon marina, where we planned only a brief visit to retrieve the spinnaker pole from Carol Anne's boat and to leave some "Foghorn" newsletters and sailing club fliers at the marina office.

There we found Zorro recently arrived; he said he'd forgotten Carol Anne's cell number and mis-dialed when trying to announce his arrival. With him and ready to sail on Constellation were "Seymour" and his five-year-old, "Seymour Junior". Zorro hadn't planned on sailing with a small fry, since the Etchells is not suited to small children, but apparently Seymour's condition of release from home was taking Junior along. While Zorro and crew were preparing to cast off, I in the meantime had uncovered Black Magic and was furiously stroking away with a portable bilge pump, necessarily because of recent wet winter storms and a tear in the diaphragm of the permanent bilge pump. Black Magic was still missing her boom, so Zorro invited us on board Constellation.

Five people -- even, or especially with one of them a small person -- on an Etchells is rather a crowd, especially on a boat that's often single-handed, and at first my only thought was to stay out of the way as best as I could. The first useful thing I was able to do is help fend off the pier and the prop of a boat's outboard motor as Constellation sailed out of her dock; then I graduated to lee-side rail meat in the light conditions. Eventually Zorro graduated me to bowman, which was rather awkward since that's not my usual position and I was a bit of a klutz, prompting Junior to say something like, "Pat doesn't know much about boats. I guess he's never been on one." Five-year-olds are not generally known for tact. It may also be a generational issue that I cannot get used to the notion of a small child calling me by my first name.

We sailed around the basin near the DamSite marina, then turned north, hoisted the spinnaker, then got fouled by a swirling headwind coming off the Elephant -- an "elephant fart" as we call it. We headed north as far as Horse Island, then returned in variable conditions, then sailed back and forth for a while. As the sun sank, we all got a bit cooler. Because Carol Anne and I hadn't known that Zorro would be at the marina, and hadn't planned to sail, we didn't have our sailing gear; no sailing gloves, jackets, etc. So Carol Anne borrowed a jacket from Zorro. Still, we also had the issue of Junior's limited attention span -- even if it was decent for a five year old, and now Zorro didn't have a jacket. Also, Seymour was a bit distracted by the need to pay attention to his offspring, which meant that the jib sheets didn't get their normal attention. So, we returned to the marina before sunset.

Zorro joined us at the apartment in another attack upon the mountain of pizza. En route we had a casualty; a bottle of merlot fell on its side and its cork popped out, spilling almost the whole bottle in the back of our Expedition. After dinner, Zorro looked at Black Magic's boom and discussed our ideas for attching the new fitting for the gooseneck attachment. We had four options: (1) insert small eyebolts, with the eyes inside the boom and nuts securing them on the outside of the boom end plate; (2) use a vise to squeeze an eyestrap so it would fit within the endplate; (3) cut a new screw hole and cut the end off of a padeye so it would fit in the eyestrap; or (4) drill new holes near the end of the boom and insert a bolt transversely through the boom. Each method had its disadvantages or obstacles to being achieved, especially with the limited sorts of tools we had available.

After discussing the methods with us, and other issues such as committee boat volunteers for our regattas, Zorro headed for El Paso. Zorro planned to call on Sunday, but with light to variable conditions in the forecast, we didn't really expect him to return for another day of sailing, so it would be imperative for us to get Black Magic back in commission. Meanwhile, I was sent off to Cornhusker's home to borrow a vacuum cleaner; there I learned more tales of Bassmaster's fishing adventures and their experience with making their son into a landlord when he went to college in Michigan. After I returned, Carol Anne and I eventually collapsed.

Meanwhile, Tad's Saturday morning was rather different from the usual. After breakfast at the motel, the troop members zigzagged up First, Roosevelt, and Shadow Canyon roads out of Grants to drive up Mount Taylor, there to join the Klondike Derby. Originally, the local scout district had planned a Klondike campout and skills event for Februrary, but that plan had been scrapped, with the scouts instead joining another district for a Klondike on January 27th. Because this was somewhat of a last-minute change, Tad's troop didn't get the information sheet about the event until the evening before, and found that they didn't have all the required equipment and had to do some improvising.

Nontheless, they did well in at least some of the events, getting blue ribbons in a couple of categories. Tad even tried to get extra credit at the knot-tying station by tying a bowline one-handed while blindfolded. They also did well with shelter building, and did well on their lashings, even though they had to disassemble their sled to have poles to lash and weren't asked to demonstrate one of the lashing knots.

The Klondike was generally well organized, although at one point, late in the day, the troop had been given bearings and directions that would have taken them out of bounds onto private land. Also, a late-arriving group had talked the organizers into being allowed to participate, with the result that the awards ceremony was delayed by an hour, leaving a few hundred boys and leaders standing around with little to do but try to keep warm.

A couple of issues surfaced before the day's end, however. Some of the scouts weren't well prepared for the event, having forgotten some necessary items, and a couple of the boys had planned to do other things on Sunday. One boy complained of being tired and cold after having worn his wool socks during the week and then not having them available for the campout; the same boy didn't have waterproof clothing, but flopped down and rolled around in the snow several times. So, even though Tad and the adults wanted to camp out for the night, they were outvoted and the troop returned to Albuquerque. Tad didn't call, so we went to bed Saturday night thinking he was still up on the mountain.

Meanwhile, we were reasonably satisfied; we'd made a wee bit of progress on boat work and had been sailing for a few hours. And, we still had some pizza in the fridge, though by now Carol Anne's growler was empty.

to be continued....

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Weekend approach

Friday, and weather is predicted to be mild and fair, for a change. After the winter storms, a mild weekend will let us complete some boat projects and maybe even get out on the water.

Last night, "Tadpole" and I attended a sailing club potluck dinner and social. Food was abundant; all the vittles and grog a sailorman and pirate queen could want.

Kyriel's skippers provided the progam, which was a presentation about their catamaran charter last year in Belize. They and two other couples took a Moorings 37 (which was replaced with a Moorings 40 after engine problems) out to explore the world's second largest barrier reef complex last October. The main challenge was the need for precise navigation in an area where deep water could instantly turn shoal. They were also glad they had both a dinghy and a kayak to explore the numerous small islands and reefs. The cruising catamaran had lots of space and stability, and its shallow draft let the crew anchor close to the reefs (with care not to damage coral). Normally they'd anchor fore and aft to minimize swing; many of the anchoring sites were tight. The only drawback for them was the cruising cat's ponderousness; even when the winds piped up to 25 kts, and experienced sailors did everything they could to boost speed, they'd be lucky to get 6 kts out of the boat. Because so much shoal water is in the area, the Moorings base in Belize rents only catamarans.

Other notes from the presentation:

The split provisioning, plus a few meals in open-air island kitchens, was more than adequate. One cook had sold out of all of her entrés, but was able to cook up shrimp that the crew brought her, and was able to whip up nice side dishes to go with the shrimp.

The flight through Miami on American Airlines, however, was a near disaster and cost them an extra night of travel; the quality and friendliness of customer service were gravely disappointing. Another couple, who traveled through Houston on Continental, paid perhaps $100 more, but had a far better experience and saved time.

The ten-day charter option was well worthwhile and let the sailors unwind and explore more without being in a rush.

After the presentation from Kyriel's crew, we were treated to some more pictures from "Your Mom"'s trip to Hawaii.

I also got to talk to "Milo" of "Glory Be" about adventures and life in the Virgin Islands. Interestingly -- in a bad way -- it seems that U.S. customs officials in the U.S. Virgins and Puerto Rico have rather a bad reputation for rudeness and red tape. Clearing back into port after visiting the British Virgins is quite a chore, and, even after a day sail, U.S. skippers are required to sign an statement that they've not created any trash while sailing and are told that they're prohibited from bringing trash ashore! They also have to clear in through U.S. customs when traveling from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico and back and are threatened with forfeiture if they don't clear in immediately upon arrival -- and are threatened with severe penalties if their boat arrives in Puerto Rico during non-work hours.

Another good note: "Cultural Infidel" has been repaired and is back in the mast-up lot; she should have her mast up probably this weekend but probably won't get to go in the water for another month.

Elephant Butte Lake (12 noon, Friday, Jan. 26):
4,343.42 feet elevation, 550,246 acre feet.
Up .12', 1,640 a.f. in 24 hours; up .30', 4,094 a.f. in 71 hours.

Heron Lake:
7,138.11, 173,301 a.f.
Down .34', 1,234 a.f. in 71 hours.

Elephant Butte Lake Elev. (feet) . . . . Storage (acre feet) . . . Date . . . rise/fall
4,343.42 . . . . . . . 550,246 . . . . . . . Jan. 26, '07 (1200) (up 2.70' to date)
4,340.72 . . . . . . . 514,050 . . . . . . . Dec. 31, '06 (2400) (up 4.20')
4,336.52 . . . . . . . 460,330 . . . . . . . Nov. 30 (up 5.28')
4,331.24 . . . . . . . 397,510 . . . . . . . Oct. 31 (up 4.14')
4,327.10 . . . . . . . 351,800 . . . . . . . Sept. 30 (up 1.92')
4,325.18 . . . . . . . 331,550 . . . . . . . Aug. 31 (up 15.98')
4,309.20 . . . . . . . 188,970 . . . . . . . July 31
4,308.50 . . . . . . . 183,870 . . . . . . . July 28 low point
4,312.98 . . . . . . . 217,970 . . . . . . . June 30
4,339.88 . . . . . . . 503,030 . . . . . . . March 5 high point
4,334.06 . . . . . . . 430,410 . . . . . . . January 1, 2006

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ahhh, how cute... and, look, it wants to follow us home.

Etchells USA 438 is the latest addition to our little flotilla. It's a good boat, although in need of some TLC. The topsides need some serious sanding and then they and the deck need repainting with marine epoxy paint. Hardware needs to be replaced/installed, and the mast is due for replacement due to some past damage. The bow received an "owie" resulting in a chunk being removed from just a few inches below deck level. Here USA 438 is shown on the side of the Franklin Mountains State Park in Texas, at Dino and Sister Rosebia's mountainside aerie. How they got the thirty-foot-six-inch boat up their steep, twisting, James-Bond-style driveway is a bit of a minor mystery that probably involved a strange mixture of towing competence and fearlessness.

Eventually, we hope to have Intrepid looking good and ready to go. We can use it as a training boat and tuning partner for Black Magic, Constellation, and White Lightnin'. And, if Carol Anne is training hard with women this spring, it can be the guys' boat. We may also be bringing it up to Heron Lake this summer to help revive the New Mexico Sailing Club's racing program. And, maybe someday we'll find the exact right someone to give Intrepid a new home.

In the meantime, would-be boat owners are advised that we might be able to set them up with a nice MacGregor 26, a Sunfish dinghy, or even a rare piece of styrofoam history, a Snark.

View forward under the cuddy top.

Side-mounted manual bilge pump.

View showing a portion of the cockpit at the helm position. Lines above right are part of the traveler control system.

Topsides, the decks of an Etchells are nice and clean, free of the obstacles that plague the decks of most racing boats and lurk to snag the unwary crew. But, belowdecks, life can resemble the aftermath of a spaghetti-factory explosion, especially in this view of mostly unconnected cordage.

A few control lines are positioned on the cockpit console (Barney post) within quick reach for the helmswoman or tactician.

Two sailboats... how different can they be?

One boat has a camp potty, cabin, electrical system and berthing.
The other has none of the above. It just goes fast.

View from the mountainside

Dino and Sister Rosebia's mountainside aerie in El Paso has views that stretch to some very distance horizons.

Feline Repose

Tres and Dulce, while giving lessons in elegant yet alert repose, wait for... something.

Lake Scenery

Pelicans sun on the rocks of Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico. As the lake rises, these rocks will become more of a navigational hazard. A group of rocks and shoals is located between coordinates 33 deg. 11.619 min. North latitude, 107 deg. 10.723 West longitude, and 33 deg. 11.900 North, 107 deg. 10.772 West.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A couple more weekend reflections.

Or maybe there was some snow and we just got lucky in avoiding it. This morning I learned that southern New Mexico seems to have gotten enough snow last night for the Interstate to have been closed in some places.

We have so many projects, on and off the water, that photography has suffered. But, we took some snaps of our latest project and should have them posted before long.

The Rio Grande Sailing Club "Foghorn" newsletter is just about ready to go, so let me know if you'd like a copy. And, we're taking the first steps to organize an Etchells racing fleet in the southwestern and Rocky Mountain region. On a more humble note, we just got in some boat parts so we can refurbish a spinnaker pole and make a mount for it on our boom. Last night we also used our Expedition to transport some jibs and a spinnaker from El Paso to Truth or Consequences.

Minor note: Despite having a perfectly good middle-American accent, one of the waitresses at the coffeeshop where we stopped last night in Socorro was originally British, passing her childhood in the south near Portsmouth. I mentioned to her that Carol Anne had spent a year in south Oxfordshire and that we knew of a couple of boats in Portsmouth Harbour. The waitress indeed had visited HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, but she, having lived in Gosport, was much more familiar with another vessel: the Gosport ferry.

Lake Level Stuff:

Elephant Butte Lake, Monday, January 22, 2007, 12 noon:
4,343.04 feet above benchmark, 545,059 acre feet.
up .14' (1.7 inches) and 1,896 a.f. in 24 hours.
up .34' (4.1 inches) and 4,589 a.f. in 71 hours.
210 cubic foot per second flow at San Acacia
8 cfs outflow at the dam

Heron Lake, 10 a.m. Monday 1/22/2007:
7138.55', 174,896 a.f., down -.11' (1.3 inches) and 400 a.f. in 24 hours, down -.29' (3.5 inches) and 1,051 a.f. in 71 hours. Average depth in the marina cove is 13 feet.

Navajo Lake: 6,074.89', 1,544,462 a.f., up .04', 561 a.f. in 71 hours.

Abiquiu Lake: 6,214.85', 163,802 a.f., up .24' and 904 a.f. in 71 hours.

Cochiti Lake: 5,341.26', 50,676 a.f., up .69', 848 a.f. in 71 hours.

Santa Rosa Lake: 4,741.62', 85,231 a.f., up 3.49[ and 11,262 a.f. in 71hours.

Sumner Lake: 4,258.11', 31,003 a.f., up .20' and 443 a.f. in 71 hours.

Brantley Lake: 3,247.51', 20,749 a.f., up .25' and 488 a.f. in 71 hours

Conchas LAke: 4,177.18', 145,823 a.f., up .05' and 254 a.f. in 71 hours.

Mostly Dry

...but at least I got on a boat, even if it was parked on the side of the mountain and many miles from sailable water.

The winter storms that had been forecast proved milder than expected. Friday night's storm only left about an inch of snow on the ground; Sunday evening's storm was also relatively dry, bringing more wind than moisture. But, we did get some good out of the storms and perhaps the mountains got a good bit more.

We remained in our Albuquerque home for a good part of the weekend -- an unusual activity for us. Friday night we remained at home because Saturday's Frostbite regatta had been canceled. Even though the predicted half foot or more of snow didn't quite materialize, temperatures were cold enough for sunbelt sailors, who aren't prepared for true frostbiting conditions, to give the weekend a pass.

On Saturday, instead of attending the regatta, "Tadpole" participated in a string bass recital along with two bass teachers and their students. A variety of pieces and styles were on display; we had one little girl plucking "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" after only her third lesson, with older and more experienced students playing much more sophisticated pieces. We had perhaps a couple of inches of snow, but the roads were quite clear.

Saturday night we weren't quite ready to travel anywhere, and we were still leery
of the forecast, so I re-read several chapters of Ernie Pyle's Brave Men while Tadpole and Carol Anne watched movies.

Sunday morning I was restless enough that running a load of laundry and cleaning off the overburdened dining table weren't enough. After Tad finished practicing on his cello, he, Carol Anne, and I loaded a sailboat boom and some equipment in our Expedition, Babe, fueled, and drove south from Albuquerque to Elephant Butte. There we pulled into the state park, where we'd left our MacGregor in case it had been needed as committee boat for the now-cancelled regatta, hitched her up, took down the mast and tied it in place for travel, and let Tad tow a boat for the first time. We left our MacGregor along with an Etchells boom at the apartment several miles from the lake, grabbed a quick snack, and then headed south yet again.

This time we drove just outside of New Mexico territory into old El Paso, where we stopped at Zorro's home to present him and his feline pride with some late Christmas gifts and talk about plans for the new Etchells Fleet 31 and for rehabilitating our very recently acquired Etchells racing sailboat, USA 438. We also picked up a reaching spinnaker, mainsail, and some jibs.

Driving around a mountain, and making a quick stop at a convenience store, we then headed out from downtown and then a little ways up the side of a mountain to Dino and Sister Rosebia's place, which is where 438 currently resides. Tadpole and I clambered aboard the boat while Carol Anne watch from the top of the ladder as we took a look around the cockpit and enjoyed the view. With the sun just setting over the mountain to the west, we could see much of the city -- and further south to Juarez in Mexico -- just as the muted daylight gave way to the city lights of the evening. Perhaps it's not too often that one gets to stand on the deck of a thirty-foot yacht while gazing several hundred feet below at the lights of densely populated cities in two countries.

We enjoyed some tasty snacks, chatted, and then had to leave town. We enjoyed the view as we began to leave, or at least part of the view. We didn't get to enjoy the whole view, scenic as it was, however, because Dino and Sister Rosebia's driveway twists up the side of the mountain like something in a Bond movie; it demands a certain amount of attention and respect. During the most recent winter storm, ice, unusual in El Paso, had hit their neighborhood, leaving ice and forcing Dino to leave his truck at the bottom of the driveway, quite a distance from his home. Of course, Dino has just the right sort of toy available for such an emergency, since he has a snow cat. Probably the snow cat was bought with visits to mountains in mind; otherwise, many years might pass before it would have much of a chance to be useful in El Paso.

A stop in Truth or Consequences to unload sails, another in Socorro for fuel and a late dinner at Denny's, and then we rolled back home. En route, we saw some snow that had accumulated around Belen and Los Lunas, but the interstate remained reasonably dry and did little to impede us.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Winter Wonderland ... in southern New Mexico, huh?

This coming weekend's Frostbite Regatta has been called off due to too much Frostbite Potential. Readers from places like Portland ME, or Toronto ONT, or Minneesota might chuckle at the irony, but we poor New Mexicans and west Texans don't take too well to the real frostbiting stuff, especially if we don't have hot green chiles on board.

Forecast Averages put this weekend's temperatures at close to 20 degrees below the seasonal average (normal daily high temperatures are around 55 to 56 degrees Fahrenheit):
Friday 35/25 degrees F high/low, 65% chance of rain, freezing rain, or possibly 1 to 4 inches of snow, NE wind 4 to 9 mph with some higher gusts.
Saturday 36/21 degrees F high/low, 25% chance rain or snow, mostly in the morning, variable SW to NW wind.
Sunday 44/22 degrees F high/low, partly cloudy to mostly sunny, possible snow or freezing rain Sunday night.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pop! goes the riveter

Sunday morning we had breakfast and eventually sorted outselves out to go to the state parks parking lot and work on Black Magic. Conditions were chilly and we had to bundle well to cope with near-freezing temperatures and a steady northerly of about 10 knots. At least conditions had moderated; it had been rather windy on Saturday, with a small craft warning flying all day, and even into the first few hours after sunrise on Sunday.

Carol Anne, Tad, and I got more rigging done on the Etchells but still couldn't get everything needed done; in particular, drilling out some old rivet heads and trying to remove a bent, but rather inaccessible gooseneck pin consumed far too much time and energy. So, we decided to launch without the boom; the small motor had a full tank and we could always launch a jib if we needed to sail out of trouble. The Etchells doesn't have a reefing mainsail, but is quite docile and predictable under jib alone, even if it can't be tacked as easily or tightly without the main and requires a minimum bit of care to avoid pinching and resultant leeway or going into irons. Also, even without reefing, the Etchells offers many avenues to depowering the boat in heavy conditions; at Dillon last summer we were able to keep sailing and stay upright even when we saw some boats around us being knocked down pretty hard by the Dillon "flyswatters".

After positioning USA 125 on the ramp, chocking the trailer, installing the third wheel on the front of the trailer, and tying on about seventy feet of heavy rope, I moved the truck up to pull the boat and trailer off the chocks. Then Carol Anne moved into the truck while I boarded Black Magic for the launch. Usually I'm the truck driver, and this was the first time for me to be on board during a USA 125 launch. Tad and I sat on the bow to keep weight over the trailer tongue; we were about nine feet above the ramp as the boat and trailer began their descent into the water.

Once the Etchells was afloat, Tad and I released two lines to free her from the trailer and motored a few boat lengths to the courtesy dock to do some more rigging and tuning. Then, Carol Anne drove to the apartment to drop off the trailer and look for a Dremel tool. Tad and I motored south with Black Magic and returned her to her slip at Rock Canyon Marina. Despite the more settled conditions, we didn't see any boats on the lake anywhere outside of their marina slips. Except for the cool temperatures, sailing conditions were really nice with a steady 7 to 8 kt. NNE breeze, so it was a huge pity we didn't yet have the gooseneck fitting repaired.

Carol Anne arrived, but without the Dremel tool, so after doing some more work, we left Tad behind while we went in search of more tools. We returned with a couple of hacksaws and a small bolt cutter in time to help Tad, who had borrowed a hacksaw in the meantime, finish cutting a bent stainless steel gooseneck pin and drill out some old pop rivets.

The pop rivets were being used to install a new bracket on the mast, which was to be used to hold a bracket and gooseneck pin that would connect the boom to the mast. The old bracket and gooseneck pin had been too flimsy, causing the bracket to work loose and the gooseneck pin to bend or break. The rivets were 3/16-inch aluminum ones that hadn't held very well. Previously, we and a friend had used hardware-store hand pop riveters to install rivets. But, the small hand riveters couldn't handle stainless steel rivets. A larger pop riveter had been too large to handle the 3/16 rivet size. So, our previous rivet installation hadn't worked very well.

This time we'd bought a heavier-duty pop riveter, and it worked out quite nicely, though even this new, long-handled riveter needed a lot of force to set the rivets. Now, the rivets should be there for good. The new bracket is nicely installed. To set a rivet, one of us would insert the long, slender pop rivet mandrel into the nosepiece of the pop riveter, then insert the rivet end through holes drilled in the items to be riveted. Then one of us would squeeze the riveter handles while pressing the rivet into the hole. Sometimes we'd have to squeeze multiple times and push harder until we could feel a lot of pressure building up in the pop riveter handles; then, as we pulled the handles back apart we'd hear a noticable POP! and the rivet was set in place and severed from the rivet mandrel.

Unfortunately, we were running out of time to get new fittings on the boom, which is a disadvantage and hazard of boat work during short winter days. The screws that held the old end plate and bracket on the forward end of the boom wouldn't budge, so we de-rigged the boom and took it home to Albuquerque to work on during the coming week. After leaving the marina, we went by the apartment to feed our cats and selves (lots of leftovers needed to be eliminated), then load the cats in the carriers along with our gear and Tad's cello. Tad got to drive north, with us stopping in Socorro for fuel and a refill of Carol Anne's growler with a half-gallon of India pale ale.

Sunday evening we ordered a few more boat parts. I think some of the boat chandleries are getting used to us making a new order about the beginning of every other week! We still need to research and order parts and supplies for other boat projects. USA 125 has a diaphragm tear in her manual bilge pump, still needs a new tiller, needs spinnaker pole holders installed on her boom, needs to have some paint dings touched up, and needs to get a mast-butt mover installed. Our recent acquisition needs to be painted on her topsides and deck and have hardware re-installed, so we'll need some $80 per gallon epoxy / polyurethane paint. Then we'll need to repair cracked floorboard supports, order some more gear to make her fully class-legal, and, in the long term, replace her mast, which is sleeved over a crack near the mast butt. When the weather is warmer, we'll need to do some work on the floorboards and supports of both racing boats. And, then our MacGregor needs lots of minor repairs; re-installation of a bimini track (knocked off by a careless boater at Heron Lake last summer), replacement of a hatch handle, repair of some dings and scratches, trouble-shooting a radio circuit, and general clean-up. And, if we can get to it, the Sunfish flotilla needs some work, including new lines, sail repairs or replacements, and replacement or re-carving of a couple of centerboards and rudders. Oh yes, the rowing dinghy could use some teak work and the bottom of one of the kayaks needs a good scrub. Ah yes, the pleasures of yacht ownership.

Carol Anne is quietly and carefully recruiting crew in a very low-key way (I tend to be much less subtle), especially for womens' sailing. We've learned the hard way that the best way to have crew come on the team is gradually, with folks going along for a fun ride on a non-race day just to see how they like the Etchells and whether they and the skipper and other crew are a good fit and have good feelings about the experience. Having crew show up for the first time ever on a race day doesn't work nearly so well; it's far better for crew to get used to each other and the boat, which has quite a lot of complexity, in a less frenzied and pressured setting.

As a new racing program, and as sailors in the wilderness of New Mexico, we don't necessarily expect or want to recruit highly seasoned old salts. No matter how experienced, a crew member who can't be counted on to show for races, practices, and boat work, or isn't supportive of the team, isn't worth much. Our priorities are commitment, enthusiasm, the courage to try new things, and the ability and willingness to learn. A crew member who shows up consistently will gain the needed experience and a crew member who is positive and eager to learn will fit in quickly with the rest of the team. If we can get crew members who are also athletic, energetic, eager to excel, and able to travel and enjoy sailing in a variety of places, that would be a great bonus.

Various strengths and talents are welcome and useful in different crew positions on the boat and for different kinds of sailing. Athleticism, agility, timing, light-footed grace, and the ability to recover from various minor emergencies are at a premium on the foredeck; strength, a sense of the wind, and unbreakable concentration are the hallmarks of a spinnaker trimmer; and quick cool thinking under pressure is a treasure in a tactician. And, as we grow our program gradually, bit by bit, we'll welcome people who might not be commited to being racing crew, but would like to be support crew, or learn to help with race committee duties, or help teach young people and members of other special groups to sail.

Also, and especially as we get the boat we've just acquired ready to go back in the water, we'll have more crew slots open and the ability to take both boats out for fun, practice, two-boat tuning, or fleet practices with the other Etchells race boats. And, we can go out just for fun and to introduce novice or seasoned sailors to the Etchells or share the joy of a beautiful day on the water.

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!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We didn't spend much for the yule holiday....

... so does that mean we can spend more money on boats in the coming year?

Well, maybe, though I hope our family doesn't break last year's record for boat spending (or for that matter, on spending to repair the Expedition).

Another record, however, we do hope to break. Roughly figured, I sailed about 51 days in 2006(counting some "quickie" sunset sails along with fuller, more honest days on the water) with another 14-plus or so days of kayaking, motoring, and fiddling on boats without sailing. I also spent 7-1/2 days of "work party duty" at the NMSC marina, served on race committees for 7 days (most of those also were sailing days), and raced for 10 of the 51 sailing days. (Carol Anne had about 18 days of racing in '06, plus lots of days of race training, for something like 64 days of sailing, many of them quite intensive.)

Compared to 2005, in 2006 I was out on the water about twice as much, but did somewhat less marina work. That's quite okay. We also invited Tadpole's Boy Scout troop to Heron Lake, where they spent a weekend learning to sail, took a trip to Ventura, CA, to pick up USA 125, and sailed in our first-ever big regatta, the Dillon Open with a hundred keelboats.

Boats keep following us home. "But she looks so lonely, without anyone to sail her." In 2006, our most notable acquisition was "Black Magic", a thirty-foot Etchells "racing dinghy" for Carol Anne. We also picked up another thirteen-foot Sunfish dinghy in August, and a styrofoam Snark sailboat that was given to us in January. By contrast, in 2005, all we added to our fleet was one Sunfish in January and a couple of one-person kayaks in July. Prior to '05, all we had were our MacGregor, which we'd bought in February of 2000, a ten-foot fiberglass rowboat, and a couple of Sunfish we'd bought inexpensively, plus a couple of rafts.

Will our fleet grow or shrink in '07? For the short term, it looks like it's going to...
grow. Yep, sports fans, stay tuned for a major announcement that should appear in these pages in the next week.

This coming weekend we'll be... at the lake (Elephant Butte). Our planned trip to Arizona won't happen, because of other interesting developments, so we'll work on re-launching Black Magic, pop-riveting the gooseneck bracket to the mast, sailing if the weather allows, and generally messing around. And, working on the beginnings of that special project.

Lake conditions as of Wednesday morning, January 10, 2007:

Heron Lake, northern New Mexico, 6 a.m. Jan. 10, '07
7,139.77 elev., 179,359 a.f.
down 1.4 inches and 442 a.f. in 24 hours
down 4.1 inches and 1,255 a.f. in 71 hours
Contractors have removed about 38,000 a.f. of their 96,200 a.f. allotment.
At its low point around mid-April, the cove floor will probably be exposed and about a foot above the lake level.

Elephant Butte Lake, southern New Mexico, 8 a.m., Wednesday, January 10, '07
4,341.80 feet elevation above benchmark, 528,367 acre feet
up 1.4 inches and 1,592 acre feet in 24 hours
up 4.3 inches and 4,789 a.f. in 71 hours
Long Point Island will very soon be cut off from the mainland.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Water in the desert

Those who visit this blog might wonder about a particular obsession that makes itself rapidly evident within these pages. It becomes quite obvious that I pay a great attention to the water levels on the lakes where we, as members of the Rio Grande and New Mexico sailing clubs, sail.

Once when visiting Marina del Rey in southern California, for a sailing charter, I could joke,
"Gee, I was worried when they started taking a couple of feet of water out of this big lake. But, several hours later, they started putting it all right back. Some impressive engineering for a lake that's several thousand miles wide!"

In New Mexico, we can't count on the water being put right back. In August of 2003, we had to close the marina at Heron Lake when most of the water was drained from the lake. (Long story involving water law, growing populations, environmental law, a minnow, panicky city fathers, and lots of politics!) For two years, the marina remained closed, and the New Mexico Sailing Club lost more than a third of its members. Many other members sold their sailboats, especially the larger keelboats.

In 2005, after partially repairing the marina, which had been damaged by the grounding, and finding a new insurance carrier, we finally re-opened the marina. Even after the long absence, we couldn't fill the marina with boats; many people seemed to have a hard time believing that the water was really back up to an enjoyable level. And, the lake was still low enough so that we couldn't rig a gangway from the loading zone; we had to cut a crude path that was too steep and treacherous, especially at night or in the rain, for our older or less agile members.

At the time, I was the club's vice commodore and informing people about water levels -- and what we could do in response to them -- became one of my projects.

Because we migrate our boats from summertime fun at cool, mountain-girt Heron Lake to winter sailing further south at Elephant Butte Lake, and because we've also sailed at Cochiti and Navajo lakes and know the inter-dependency of water and people, we have an interest in the overall health of all of our lakes... especially the sailable ones.

Lake conditions as of Friday morning, January 12, 2007:

Heron Lake, northern New Mexico, 10 a.m. Jan. 12, '07
7,139.55 elev., 178,550 a.f.
down 1.3 inches and 405 a.f. in 24 hours
down 3.7 inches and 1,140 a.f. in 71 hours
Contractors have removed about 38,500 a.f. of their 96,200 a.f. allotment.
At its low point around mid-April, the cove floor will probably be exposed and about a foot above the lake level.

Elephant Butte Lake, southern New Mexico, noon Friday, January 12, '07
4,342.00 feet elevation above benchmark, 528,367 acre feet
up 0.7 inches and 799 acre feet in 24 hours
up 3.6 inches and 3,989 a.f. in 71 hours
up 1.28 feet in January so far, 4.02 feet in December, 5.28 feet in November
2.12 feet higher than March 5, '06 high point
33.5 feet higher than July 28, '06 low point

Long Point Island will very soon be cut off from the mainland.

Midnight, December 31st, 2006 (2400):

Elephant Butte Lake
4,340.72 feet above benchmark, 514,050 acre feet

Heron Lake
7,140.78 feet, 183,110 acre feet

Elephant Butte Lake Elev. (feet) . . . . Storage (acre feet) . . . Date
4,343.98 . . . . . . . 557,894 . . . . . . . Jan. 31, '07 (1200)
4,342.30 . . . . . . . 535,073 . . . . . . . Jan. 15, '07 (0800)
4,342.00 . . . . . . . 531,031 . . . . . . . Jan. 12, '07 (1200)
4,341.80 . . . . . . . 528,367 . . . . . . . Jan. 10, '07 (0800)
4,341.24 . . . . . . . 520,921 . . . . . . . Jan. 5, '07 (1100)
4,340.72 . . . . . . . 514,050 . . . . . . . Dec. 31, '06 (2400)
4,340.54 . . . . . . . 511,683 . . . . . . . Dec. 30 (0800)
4,336.52 . . . . . . . 460,330 . . . . . . . Nov. 30
4,331.24 . . . . . . . 397,510 . . . . . . . Oct. 31
4,327.10 . . . . . . . 351,800 . . . . . . . Sept. 30
4,325.18 . . . . . . . 331,550 . . . . . . . Aug. 31
4,309.20 . . . . . . . 188,970 . . . . . . . July 31
4,308.50 . . . . . . . 183,870 . . . . . . . July 28 low point
4,312.98 . . . . . . . 217,970 . . . . . . . June 30
4,339.88 . . . . . . . 503,030 . . . . . . . March 5 high point
4,334.06 . . . . . . . 430,410 . . . . . . . January 1, 2006

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.