Friday, March 21, 2008

Bilder von Gerhardt/Pictures from Gerald

Gerald's touring plans have been somewhat limited by heavy snow that fell in Ulm. This is a photo of Ulm Cathedral, one of the tallest in the world, with 768 steps to the observation tower near its peak. The cathedral is taller than a fifty-story building. Its construction lasted for several centuries, finally being completed in 1890, and it suffered another setback when Ulm was bombed during World War II.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Who Owns Sailboat Racing?

It's been reported that the president of US Sailing has raised the question of whether all racing sailors in the US should be required to be members of US Sailing. President Capron cited other sports, such as tennis, that require athletes to be members of their national governing body.

But, how true is that comparison? Does someone who plays tennis at the local city courts have to be a member of the US tennis association? Fer shore, Bubba doesn't have to be a member of a national bowling congress to throw a few balls to scare some pins at the bowlin' alley down the street! And the very same bowling congress makes it easy for anyone to join and even for them to compete at a high level. Yet with far too few community sailing programs or opportunities to give sailing a casual try, it is often difficult for newcomers to find a place to begin unless they're willing to make a commitment to often expensive classes or to attempt to penetrate the forbidding facade of a yacht club.

And whereas a few sailboat races involve Olympic Sailors, and more races involve class associations that are affiliated with US Sailing, most sailboat races are purely amateur affairs that have no direct connection with the more rarefied levels of the sport. Most sailboat races are rather casually administered, and a whole lot of sailboat racers barely know what US Sailing is, and many have never received any direct benefits or contact from US Sailing. Many of US Sailing's programs don't trickle down very far to the level of the casual racer. Perhaps many sailors, both racers and cruisers, don't see themselves receiving direct benefits that outweigh the cost or inconvenience of membership.

So, the hold of the national sailing authority upon casual weekend sailboat racers would seem to be rather tenuous. To what extent can US Sailing really enforce a membership prescription as part of the Racing Rules? To what extent should US Sailing try to find out why membership hasn't always been enticing to every Joe or Jane Average Casual Sailboat Racer?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Elephant Butte and Heron Lake Update

As of 5:00 p.m. mdt Monday, March 17, 2008, Elephant Butte Lake has begun to receive enough spring runoff to offset water being released for irrigation.

Elephant Butte is at 4,338.54 feet above benchmark, with 485,767 acre feet of water.
It has rising about an inch and 1,300 a.f. in the past 24 hours, and risen a quarter inch and 255 a.f. in the past three days. Since the low point last October 25, the lake has risen 14.14 feet and 162,277 a.f. Long Point will become an island when the lake rises another few feet, perhaps in April.

Heron Lake remains covered in almost a foot of ice. It is at elevation 7,144.61 feet, with 197,790 acre feet, and is up an inch in the past three days. The Azotea Tunnel has been flowing at 73 to 78 cubic feet per second in the past 71 hours, with Willow Creek flowing at 91 to 315 c.f.s. The road to the marina is covered in eight inches of icy, crusty snow; even a four-wheel drive vehicle would probably need snow tires or chains to negotiate it, and part of the trail down to the marina is blocked by two feet of snow. But, the piers are mostly clear of snow.

Buoy 2-1 is about 10 feet from shore, in about two or three feet of ice and water. Buoy 2-3 is about 20 feet from shore, in about four feet of ice and water. Buoy 2-4 is about a foot above the lake level and twenty feet from the lake; buoy 2-5 is about eight feet above the level of the lake and fifty feet from the lake. Current predictions are for Heron Lake to be 75% full with 300,000 acre feet of water as of May 31, 2008.

The heavy winter snows were very hard on residents of the Chama area. The roofs collapsed at the local grocery store, at a church, and for several houses, garages, and outbuildings. Excess snow loading also contributed to the Brazos fire station exploding, with the sad death of its former fire chief. Snow removal and disaster relief efforts have been expensive and difficult. We hope that the coming summer will be a good one for the area, and we hope that the sailing club will be able to help out by hosting some well-attended events.

Weekend updates

General Update

My sailing counter remains stuck on five days of sailing so far in 2008.... 3 in January, 1 in February, and 1 in March, plus some race committee duty. No sailing this past weekend.

This past weekend we towed our MacGregor 26 to Elephant Butte Lake on Saturday to put her in storage near the lake. Our plan is to get the motor back from the shop (electrical work), replace the furling genoa, replace a fitting that supports the bimini top, and do some general boat clean up and cosmetic work.

We hadn't heard until Saturday afternoon that Zorro and Dino had actually made it to the lake, and by the time we were done with storing our Mac and grabbing dinner, Dino was already on the way back to El Paso. His plans to do some boat swapping had come as far as getting a Catalina 25 out of the water, but plans to launch the J/24 were blocked by high winds.

Meanwhile, we saw Zorro's car at the Fleet 141 compound and figured he must be there. But knocking on doors and banging on windows and hollering loudly got no response whatsoever; he was sleeping the sleep of the dead. This was a shame, because the winds had moderated to around 8 mph an hour before sunset yet we wound up going to the lake and not sailing. (It would have been way after dark by the time we'd rigged, launched, sailed, and returned our own boat to the mast-up lot.)

Sunday we drove north to Heron Lake to check on the marina and our cabin. The road to the marina was treacherous with eight inches of icy, crusty snow, so I hiked a few blocks. A shady portion of the path to the marina was blocked by more than two feet of snow, but most of the marina piers were clear of snow. The marina and the lake are still locked in perhaps a foot of ice, but water is flowing into the lake from Willow Creek and predictions for this summer look very good. We haven't been able to stay at our cabin so far in the New Year because our water heater burst and hasn't yet been replaced.

The previous weekend, March 8-9, was the Rio Grande Sailing Club Spring Series 1 regatta weekend at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico.

It was an interesting weekend. We'd arranged for a couple to crew with us, which was good given that Carol Anne was still recovering from a bug and hadn't recovered her energy. But, our crew got yanked at the last minute to help someone else sail. (During the skippers' meeting, a short-handed skipper called the couple who were going to crew for us and told them that Carol Anne and I weren't going to be racing, and that he needed them so that he would be able to race. Later, he apologized and said he'd misunderstood something that someone said at the skippers' meeting. Carol Anne was seriously disappointed; had we known we'd be without that crew we could have tried harder earlier to get crew. But, by this time, we'd already gone to the trouble to launching Black Magic, so we figured we'd go out and at least try to race. )

We had a pretty decent start, with good speed on port tack through a big hole. But, a couple of our competitors, "Zorro" and "Apple Lady", managed to get further upwind before the wind died, and wound up with wind first when it eventually returned, shifted further left; while the wind lasted they got some good separation on everyone else. We wound up finishing close behind the Santana 20, which loves light-air days, but felt pretty good about our sailing, and we were way ahead of "Sutherland's" Etchells.

Sunday we were debating going sailing at all; we had a brand-new sailor who we wanted to take out, but conditions were looking a bit rough for taking out someone who was new to sailing. Winds were blowing into the marina at about 15 to 20 mph, with some stronger gusts. We'd originally showed up very early with the idea of maybe meeting someone to help us try to fix the topping lift, but he was running late and hung over and had to rush on to catch his boat. Two Etchells and a J/24 had to get towed out of the marina by a pontoon boat. We readied sails and I got help turning the boat upwind into the waves, so it could be sailed out, but we weren't ready to go out. It looked like might be done with racing for the weekend and were going to have to wait a few hours for things to calm down enough to take out a new sailor. We were about to leave the marina and grab lunch when we saw something odd... a boat returning to Rock Canyon. An Etchells.

Apple Lady, her husband, and "Penzance" came in with a busted main halyard. Now Apple Lady was boatless, which was a shame on what was shaping up to be a good sailing day, and Carol Anne got the idea of offering them a ride on Black Magic. So, after thinking about it and taking care of some boat stuff, the four of them took Black Magic out. That way, Zorro would have someone to race against and wouldn't just be leading everyone on a parade. (Although Zorro's crew was a bit hung-over, Sutherland was not yet on the course, so Zorro started as the only Etchells and had nothing to worry about, with nothing between him getting bullets and all the other Etchells getting DNC's, with the spring series practically decided on the first weekend. Until...)

Carol Anne and crew got to the start area while Zorro and the A and B fleets were spread out on the first beat, starting, and eventually catching some boats during the first race Sunday. Black Magic had a broken topping lift and bad bearings in the traveler, so the crew had some extra work, and Carol Anne, Penzance, Apple Lady, and her husband had never all sailed together on Black Magic, so getting the sets and jibes working well took a few tries.

For the second race, Black Magic was the victim of a bogus protest at the start but still wound up close on the heels of Constellation, finishing only about a minute behind.

Rules digression -- A J/24 to leeward called for room near the committee boat, which was incorrectly positioned at what should have been the pin end of the line. The race committee error had created a "coffin corner". The J had the right to room under rule 11. However, the J/24 didn't take up the room that he had available to come up, and didn't give Black Magic any time to hail the next boat upwind (Kachina) for room so that Black Magic could in turn give room to the hailing boat.

Had the protesting boat planned things out properly, he could have taken both Black Magic and Kachina over early. (A sudden puff about 40 seconds before the start had left Black Magic and Kachina in a bad position and having to run down the line instead of starting on the right side. Black Magic had nowhere to go, with the hailing boat and committee boat to leeward, Kachina to windward, and Constellation immediately behind. 17.1 did not limit the leeward boat.) However, the complaining boat yelled and flagged protest before giving Black Magic time to respond under rule 16, and without first taking the room he had available to him. So, if there had been a protest hearing, he would have lost the protest.

But, to be safe, Black Magic did a two-turns penalty and so wound up behind Zorro and Constellation instead of in front of them. Still, it was a close enough race to make Zorro nervous. At the leeward mark, Black Magic rounded 53 seconds behind Constellation. (I timed it while watching from shore.) On the final beat, Black Magic gained about 25 seconds, but then lost about 30.

Third race: Unfortunately, the Etchells started just as the Santana 20 and Freedom 21 were finishing. Bad timing. By this time, Sutherland had joined in, so the fleet was back up to three Etchells. Carol Anne's crew saw the B fleet finishing, and actually took advantage of the Santana sort of as a blocker, starting on Cougar of the Lake's hip just a few seconds after the Santana finished! But, LJ's crew didn't seem to see Charlie on the Freedom 21 in time or maybe they didn't even realize Charlie was still racing. So, Carol Anne got a great start, but Zorro didn't.

Zorro made up some ground on a tacking duel, but then Black Magic pulled away. There was a very slight bit of delay for starting the downwind leg, because Black Magic's topping lift was still broken (part of a long list of stuff that needs repair), but the crew were able to improvise and get things working well enough. Zorro's crew were hoping that Constellation would have enough raw boatspeed to roll Black Magic, but that didn't happen. Apple Man faced backward to call puffs and warn Carol Anne whenever Zorro tried to make a move on her wind. Near the finish, Zorro tried taking Black Magic up and forcing them into an extra jibe, hoping that Carol Anne and crew would mess up the jibe. Zorro also tried some vigorous sail pumping, taking over some duties from his exhausted foredeck crew. But, all of that was too little too late, so Black Magic crossed the line ahead of Constellation.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Heron Lake Marina, New Mexico, in snow and ice

Telephoto shot showing the work barge, shed, pavilion, and gangway extension at the Heron Lake marina. Snow has been shed from the roofs and the southwestern-facing slope above the marina is bare. However, the road to the marina was covered with about sixteen inches of snow and the blocked by a two-foot ridge of ice and snow from highway snowplowing. These pictures were taken on Saturday afternoon, March 1, 2008, several days after the most recent snowstorm.

Although this snow, when it melts, is destined to replenish the Rio Grande watershed and its water users, snowmelt water to the north is expected to do its bit to raise Heron's water level this summer to the highest it's been in several years.

Laguna Vista, Five O'Clock Somewhere cabin in the snow

Some people think that New Mexico is a desert. Right, so what's all this white stuff doing here? And this was after several days of melting and compaction.

Toward the right can be seen an area where I cleared snow off a portion of the roof. On this north side, snow was eighteen to twenty-four inches deep, even after evaporating and compacting for several days after the last snowstorm. On the porch, snow was piled up thirty inches high. By contrast, snow was only about eight inches deep at most on the south side of the roof, with a third of that side completely clear. On the ground, snow was about sixteen inches deep in most places, deeper in some shady spots. The snow had probably compacted to about half its original depth.

Door to exterior closet for water heater; some stains can be made out where water flowed out after the water heater burst. Our damage from the extreme winter storms was small, nonetheless compared to what was suffered by others in the area, with roofs collapsing at the only local grocery store, a church, several houses, and many sheds, barns, porches, and outbuildings.

Other updates from the neighborhood: Chama is still without a grocery store. After much of the roof caved in (one of several buildings to suffer that catastrophe), the owners are waiting for federal disaster response. Given the inefficiency and inertia of agencies such as FEMA, they and other locals who suffered from building collapses may have a long wait. It's too bad that Chama couldn't have gotten disaster relief from a more competent and compassionate relief organization such as the Hell's Angels. In the meantime, aside from some very limited groceries available at the Family Dollar, Sundial convenience store, and Cooks and Books in Chama, or Henry's in Tierra Amarilla, residents have to travel about 25 miles to Dulce (capitol of the Jicarilla Apache nation), 50 miles to Pagosa Springs, or 80 miles to Espanola to get groceries and most provisions.

Turkeys in the snow

As we drove away from out cabin, we noticed that we had some visitors. A flock of turkeys was making all sorts of noise as they big birds marched up the hill by our cabin on Saturday afternoon, March 1st.