Sunday, June 29, 2008

More Sunfishing

This weekend saw a lot of dinghy action at Heron Lake. Ross, who sails at Elephant Butte Lake "and beyond" -- including past voyages circumnavigating Vancouver island solo in Canada -- has two grandsons who'd never been sailing until a few weeks ago at the Rio Grande Sailing Club's Anniversary Cup. Ross's daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren decided it was time they learned more, and they visited Heron Lake this weekend. The Sunfish were ready and waiting for them. Here, Gerald shows one of the boys some of the basics of sailing a 'fish.

Leo's new MacGregor M

After a lot of frustration caused by the boat dealer not bothering to make sure everything was quite put together and ready to go, Leo finally got his brand-spanking-new Mac M ready to go and went sailing last weekend at Heron Lake.

Shopping wish list

No doubt something similar is posted on your refrigerator door:

canned mushrooms
rye flour
buttermilk baking mix (prefer Pioneer)
curry powder
parsley flakes
caraway seeds
fly swatter(s)
microballoon filler
Kevlar cloth
heavy-weight fiberglass cloth
biscuit joiner
floor supports
first aid, CPR renewal
new upper shrouds
new mast
more boat speed

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blog reflection and visitor geography

Usually, posts in this blog are about sailing adventures, personal challenges, "learning opportunities", and pretty pictures of boats and scenery. Seldom do I indulge in reflections about the blog itself; it somehow seems silly to me to go too far into audience analysis, counting up visits, and paying much attention to all of that. Occasionally, I'll look at the log to get an idea of where blog visitors are form and what sort of information they might be looking for, but at other times I'll completely pass over that sort of information.

Just for fun, and perhaps as a reference point, here's a breakdown of where most of the last 100 visitors originated (the total is fewer than 100 because of some unrecorded origin points):

NORTH and SOUTH AMERICA, 77 visits:
Mexico, Veracruz-Llava, Tampico
Canada, British Columbia, Vancouver
Ontario, Toronto
Ontario, Thunder Bay
USA, New Mexico (30):
Albuquerque (x17)
Las Cruces
Santa Fe (x4)
Santo Domingo Pueblo
Socorro (x2)
Tularosa (x3)
USA, Southwest (14):
Arizona, Camp Verde
Arizona, Tucson
Colorado, Denver (x2)
Colorado, Englewood
Texas, El Paso (x5)
Texas, Houston (x2)
Utah, Salt Lake City
USA, Far West (9):
Alaska, Wasilla
California, Eureka
California, Hemet
California, Pasadena
California, Salinas
California, San Jose
California, Stockton
Hawaii, Kaneohe
Washington, Seattle

USA, Central and Eastern (18):
Indiana, South Bend
Kansas, Olathe (x2)
Louisiana, Baton Rouge
Massachusetts, Quincy
Maine, Buxton
Minnesota, Saint Paul
Missouri, Lees Summit
New Jersey, Ramsey
New York, Jamaica
New York, Larchmont
New York, Levittown
Ohio, Cincinnati
Rhode Island, Cranston
South Carolina, Fort Mill
Virginia, Blackstone
Wisconsin, Sun Prarie

India, Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal
Malaysia, Pulau Pinang, Butterworth
South Africa, Gauteng, Pretoria

Czech Republic, Hlavni Mesto Praha, Praha
Jihomoravsky Kray, Ceska
Denmark, Staden Kobenhavn, Copenhagen
France, Centre, Tampes
Ile-de-France, Paris
Netherlands, Noord-Holland, Huizen
Portugal, Faro, Portimo
Slovakia, Bratislava
Spain, Andalucia, Marbella
Turkey, Denizli
United Kingdom, Gloucesthershire, Gloucester
/Wales (Cymri), Rhondda Cynon Taff, Porth

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Black Magic on the move on Heron Lake

Shortly before the start of the race, Carol Anne and Gerald faced a major challenge when the pedestal (which holds the mainsheet, boom vang, backstay control, pole topping lift and downhall, tore out of the floor of the Etchells. Carol Anne and Gerald used the topping lift to keep the pedestal attached to the boat, but were limited in their ability to sheet the main as tightly as they'd like. Nonetheless, the fast-moving boat made for a beautiful sight on the waters; a nicely trimmed boat surging upwind is a gorgeous thing.

Before the race could begin, we had to collect boats, many of which had a hard time seeing the anchored committee boat against the background of the eastern shore of Heron Lake. Here is Black Magic, powering out into the lake after exiting the Narrows.

USA 125, the Etchells Black Magic, comes out of a tack shortly after the start of the Summer Breeze I regatta at Heron Lake in northern New Mexico.

The sloop Black Magic accelerates out of her tack.

Sloops crossing in the afternoon

Black Magic, close hauled, passes upwind of Highlander, a Hunter 26. Winds varied from about 7 to 22 knots -- fairly steady and consistent by mountain lake standards.

As Black Magic and Highlander pass, you can appreciate the contrast between two very different sloops. Most of the Etchell's weight is in her solid lead keel whereas the Hunter is ballasted with water. The Etchells has absolutely no accommodation whereas the Hunter has a huge interior volume. And, even though Black Magic is several feet longer than the Hunter, it's significantly slimmer and has minimal freeboard.

Here's a closer look at the Hunter 26 Highlander under minimal sail.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Lochinvar starts at the Summer Breeze I regatta, Heron Lake

Lochinvar approaches the line at the start of the first Summer Breeze regatta at Heron Lake. Unfortunately, some of the boats entered in the race couldn't find the anchored committee boat, so the start was delayed. Lochinvar and her crew passed very close to the committee boat, just clearing our anchor line and providing for some good close photos.

And they're off!

Shopping List (cabin near Heron Lake, New Mexico)

Shopping for our cabin near Heron Lake is still tricky while the Chama Valley Market, whose roof collapsed under heavy winter snows, is still rebuilding.

canned mushrooms
fresh mushrooms
chicken broth
soy sauce
lemons, limes
swiss cheese
mozzarella cheese
lunchmeat (especially pastrami, corned beef)
veggies; onions, garlic, potatoes
hand cream

Highlander sails the chill waters of Lake Heron

Stern view of Highlander pushing through a brisk breeze and choppy water. Like our first boat, a MacGregor 26 classic, the water-ballasted Hunter can heel quickly when a gust hits. To keep the boat on her feet and compensate for being crewless, Highlander's skipper has reefed deeply.

"Highlander" is a water-ballasted twenty-six-foot Hunter 26. Her skipper, also known in this blog as "Highlander", was soloing the boat in gust winds. Just before the start of the race, he shook out a reef in his mainsail. Unfortunately, a bad knot led to a sail tear and so Highlander's participation in the race was short-lived. Highlander (the skipper) is also the New Mexico Sailing Club's commodore and can frequently be counted upon to reward his crew's hard labors with an appropriately sailorly libation.

Etchells "Black Magic" approaches the finish at Heron Lake

Carol Anne and Gerald on the Etchells "Black Magic" approach the finish line. With a small crew, sometimes strong winds, and a broken console (that held the mainsheet and other controls), they had to forgo hoisting a chute, but still made very fast time.

The Etchells USA 125 approaches the pin at the finish of the Summer Breeze I regatta at Heron Lake. In the background can be seen the southeastern shore of Heron Lake, a high-altitude no-visible wake lake popular with anglers who prize its cold-water species such as big lake trout and kokanee salmon. Heron Lake is in far northern New Mexico, only about 15 miles south of the Colorado border. It is one of very few freshwater lakes where

Just after the finish, Black Magic continues to charge downwind.

After the finish, Black Magic heads up a little higher to make for the Narrows on the afternoon of June 14th, 2008, at Heron Lake, New Mexico.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

23 By Accident, 24 from Zero to 40-Plus with Zorro

During the weekend of June 14th, we held a small regatta at Heron Lake which had some interesting challenges and "learning experiences". Our committee boat was a Catalina 22. After the pre-race meeting, the Catalina's skipper and I placed some racing marks in the deep waters of Heron Lake, then anchored near the lake's eastern shore to wait for the racers to gather and start the race.

Unfortunately, the racers later told us that our anchored boat was very hard to find against the background of the shoreline. Also, some of the longer-term club members remembered when the previous Olympic Circle race course had been further out into the lake, and went looking for the committee boat further out in the lake. It took us quite a while to collect enough of the boats to start a race, and one of the starters ripped a mainsail when unreefing in the still-vigorous winds.

After the race, we had another surprise. The Catalina's outboard motor, which never in its skipper's memory had failed to start -- did just that -- failed to start. So, we raised anchor and sailed off our mooring and back to the marina under sail. We hadn't planned on sailing, but conditions were wonderful, with about 8 or 9 knots of breeze to give us a nice ride.

This past Tuesday, I got in a different sort of sailing, driving south that afternoon to Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico. It was hot -- really hot. Temperatures were expected to break 100 degrees F pretty much all week long, and the air conditioning in the car simply couldn't keep up with the heat. In Truth or Consequences, I picked up some end stops for a bimini top track from a chandlery, and bought 250 feet of light rope for use in setting up race marks at Heron.

Then I arrived at the Rock Canyon Marina, where Zorro and some other sailors were ready for sailing practice. Winds had been mostly quite light, and the sun a bit brutal, but there was just enough breeze picking up to make it worth going. I crewed on the Etchells "Constellation" with "Dumbledore", who usually sails a J/24; and Zorro, Mother Superior, and Space Invader all took out "Kachina", a J/24. The wind was at a right angle to Constellation's slip position, so I took a bowline and did some athletic crawling over boats and piers to get the boat headed into the wind while clear of obstacles. We then raised sail and were quickly off. We dropped a buoy and anchor in position to make a mock startling line. We did a couple of practice starts, then sailed upwind to a mark, turned around, and deployed chutes. I don't do much foredeck, so I wasn't the fastest crew around, but I was able to get things going and then keep the chute happy in spite of very light conditions.

Later on, as we were sailing in the area not far from the marina, Dumbledore noticed signs of stronger winds brewing to the west. Some clouds gave warning of changes in our weather, and then dust began to whip on on the western shore. I tightened controls and we wound up having a pretty wild ride as some wanna-be thunderstorm cells whipped through parts of the lake. The experience was both exhilarating and a bit awesome, and it was hard to predict just where the strongest winds would occur on the lake as the gusts and downdrafts roared across the lake. Sometimes the most intense winds took the forms of tongues of blowing sand and wind-lashed whitecaps; the winds in between the tongues would be 20 mph or so, but gusting into the 40s or 50s within the intense tongues of hard, hot wind.

Sailing within the less windy areas or in between the periods of strong winds was quite manageable, even with a short-handed crew, but sailing in the stronger wind patterns got to be quite a bit of work ... especially with shifts in the wind.

As the winds moderated for a while, we returned to port, making a nice docking in the still good breeze. We received word that the marina crew had recorded gusts in the 40's and 50's (in mph), and the marina is in a somewhat protected located. So, we knew we'd earned our fun!

On land, we visited with our fellow sailors, the marina workers, and a sailor who was resting on the patio, and with his very well behaved German Shepherd, "Buck". Zorro kept watching for the winds to abate, as they continued to cycle up and down in force and to change direction, with some pretty strong chunks of wind blowing across parts of the lake now and then. Zorro looked for reassurance that the winds seemed to be abating and that he'd have a chance for more sailing before having to face the long, hot return drive to El Paso.

Soon, things were tamer and the oscillations in wind speed were less pronounced and more predictable, but by then "Mother Superior" and her crew wanted to return to their cabin. So, just Zorro and I went out on Constellation. Winds mostly cycled between around 8 and 22 knots, with some changes in direction, and gradually softening, so we had a nice ride with lots of gear switching. An an upwind mark, we put up the chute; this was the first time I'd tried running the spinnaker while the jib was still up, and I was having a challenge with the stiffness of the jaws on Constellation's spinnaker pole. Pulling the release line didn't necessarily open the jaws, and one end was having trouble with the jaw opening and closing properly, letting a spinnaker guy escape once. I also got to deal with a couple of wraps and tangles, but that wasn't a big deal.

Keeping the spinnaker full and drawing is one of the things in life that I particularly enjoy, so sometimes it was a challenge for Zorro to get me to pay attention to anything other than the luff curl on the chute. As the winds continued to soften, it became harder and harder to keep the chute happy, but a bit of cooperation between helm and trim kept the kite drawing so we could get to the marina before dark fell. As one point, Zorro thought the wind had shifted 180 degrees; it hadn't (yet!), but instead we'd gotten into a velocity header that happened when we outran the fading breeze. Soon the breeze had faded far enough that it was about time to take down the chute.

As we neared the marina, however, we saw the the squirrelly weather on the lake wasn't at all done toying with us. Not far to our east, on Long Point, was saw winds begin to swirl up some dust and a big dust devil began to from ... and start marching up the point, in our general direction. I had just taken down the chute quickly, and now Zorro wanted me to dump the main -- Fast! -- just in case that whirlwind kept Constellation in its sights and wanted us to play with it. Fortunately, the dust devil stuck to land and faded away. Although the winds strengthened, they didn't do so too radically, and we were able to make a couple of judicious tacks with the jib (Etchells don't seem quite as maneuverable under jib as the J/24; the Etchells jib is only a small portion of its total sail plan) to return to the slip. I hopped off and caught the boat just as the winds freshened and began to whistle in the rigging, lashing up some white caps.

In the marina, we rolled up sails before dark fell completely. I carried an extra mainsail up to Zorro's Mercedes. Opening the door of the car I'd traveled in, I found that the roaring winds had deposited a layer of sand inside; dusting that aside I made the short drive to Dumbledore and Mother Superior's cabin for a rest before tackling the long night drive 150 miles back home.

Saturday's unplanned sail made for sailing day number 23 so far in 2008 for my logbook. Tuesday's pair of sails brought the count up to 24 sailing days. That's an average of about once per week, with some other days being taken up with race committee duties, working on the marina, playing around in kayaks, and other good things.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sailing the Olympic Circle at Heron Lake

When the Olympic Circle is complete, it will comprise 8 buoys laid out in a rough circle and numbered 1-8.

Right now, 4 buoys have been placed in the eastern third of Heron Lake. They correspond to positions 1 (south), 2 (southwest), 3 (west), and 7 (east) on the map. The buoys do not have numbers painted on them. Later on they will be replaced with numbered markers and other adjustments may be made.

The signal boat, start/finish line, and the race start will be near the downwind side of the Olympic Circle. The turning mark will be to windward. It will be designated by a number pennant on the committee boat. Note that the committee boat may be hard to see when it is anchored near a shore. Also, if winds are strong or if the water is too deep, the signal boat might not be able to remain at anchor and might have to do a “rabbit” start on the fly, with the other boats starting behind it as it reaches past the starting pin.

So, for example, if you leave the Narrows and find that the wind is blowing from the direction of the wind warning island or a little south of there (wind from the southwest), then the race will probably start near position 6 (northeast, a block or so south of the Narrows) and go upwind to mark 2 (roughly in line with the wind warning island and roughly to the southwest).

But, if the wind is blowing from the West to WNW, then the race will probably start near position 7 close to the eastern shore of the lake, and go upwind to mark 3, off a point on the north side of the lake.

And, if the wind is blowing from the North to NNE, the start will probably be near Brushy Point and will go to position 5 in the Laguna Vista cove that is west and northwest of the Narrows.

If the wind makes a huge shift in direction, the signal boat may move the race course, or move the place where the next race starts. The decision may depend upon weather conditions, equipment on board, and the ability of the signal boat crew to move the boat quickly and signal the racing sailors.

Course Guide, New Mexico Sailing Club Racing

In the version of the Olympic Circle that many sailors are familiar with, the races begin and end in the middle of the circle. We are establishing a small Olympic Circle and will be racing from one side to the opposite side, so the courses are adapted from the traditional courses. In a larger Olympic Circle, course G would go from the center to the windward mark, then down to a leeward mark, and back upwind to the finish. Here we have no leeward mark, so the start/finish pin does extra duty as a rounding mark between the second and third legs of the race for course G.

Course W takes advantage of a popular geographic feature of Heron Lake and Course T is reserved for special distance races.

Attachment B, Heron Lake Race Course

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Black Magic heads for the Narrows and Heron Lake Marina

Heron Lake and Sailing Scenery

A dinghy load oof sailors enjoy their outing on Heron Lake.

Lochinvar approaches the finish line

Lochinvar, a Catalina 22, approaches the finish line at the Summer Breeze I regatta at Heron Lake, New Mexico, June 14, 2008.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sunfish number four sails to the marina

Gerald sails another Sunfish to the marina, putting part of the fleet in place for use by a visiting Scout troop. At left can be seen the end of the A dock of the Heron Lake Marina.

Sailing is such hard work

Can you find the Sunfish in this picture?

Lazy Sunfish Sailing

Gerald glides along in a Sunfish between the Heron Lake Marina and the marina point. Beyond can be seen a portion of the marina pavilion and the gangway to shore.

Splashing a Sunfish

Today we brought two more Sunfish sailing dinghies to the Heron Lake Marina. Gerald sailed one of them to one of our marina slips and I then retrieved another 'fish, launched it, and paddled it to the marina. Some of 'fish still need quite a bit of work.

Friday, June 13, 2008


The long gangway has been re-installed at the Heron Lake Marina. Now that lake levels are high enough the gangway can descend gently to the marina from the saddle south of the gangway's original location .

View of the gangway at the southeast corner of the Heron Lake Marina. In the left foreground is the work barge and in the right foreground is a large float.