Monday, March 09, 2009

Big Boat Regatta Weekend

On Saturday, we’d set a start line and tried to kick off the Big Boat Race, but conditions wound up being excessive even for our heavier boats. After we got out on the water, the winds came up to about 10 mph stronger than forecasts, with some fairly wicked gusts in the 40- to 55-mph range, fully beyond any of the weather predictions we’d studied. Syzygy was bouncing and plunging like a wild bronco; standing on deck was impossible without hand holds. Windependent suffered problems with traveler rigging, an escaped topping lift, and broken sail slugs. LunaC suffered a broken vang (the hydraulic boom support part), and Erebus had a couple of broken sail slugs. Cultural Infidel and Salud wisely stayed in port. Only Shonto, with only a jib up, escaped damage, though she also had the distraction of engine trouble. Syzygy, which was our committee boat, also had trouble with a dragging anchor (in spite of a 300-foot anchor rode with a good chunk of chain), so we put discretion ahead of folly and gave up on racing for the day.

Sunday dawned much milder. The winds didn't come up until mid-afternoon, just before the finish of the Big Boat Race that had been postponed until 1100 on Sunday. We got to Rock Canyon just as a light breeze started to reach the lake surface. Carol Anne didn’t get a ride on a race boat but was able to help me on the committee boat and get in some reading.

As the starting horn went off at 11:10 (only five minutes behind schedule), winds were about 3 knots (4 mph); but after the first half hour the breeze faded to very little. Constellation started in "exhibition" mode (Windpendent couldn't race because of the previous day's busted sail slugs) with the fleet of Shonto, LunaC, and Erebus, with Cultural Infidel eventually coming to the start and Salud ("Magnum PI") joining the fleet in mid-race. With the winds fading away, we even took the committee boat south to government mark 5A (most of the way to the Elephant) because a few of the racers were worried about too little wind. On the committee boat we thought there was a chance we'd have to shorten the race.

When we hauled up the anchor there was just about no wind near Rock Canyon (say half a knot), but as we caught up with the fleet between Rattlesnake and Horse Islands we saw that most of the boats had enough breeze to keep their chutes well inflated on a spinnaker reach. By around 1:15 a 4-knot breeze came up from the ENE and around 30 minutes later built up to about 6 knots from the E.

Then, just as Shonto approached the finish line we saw darker water and waves to the south; Shonto finished in about 10 knots from the south. LunaC finished five minutes later followed by Erebus in another five minutes; by the time Erebus finished around 2:35 winds were about 14 knots from the SSW with limited whitecaps. It appears that Erebus corrected into first place above the first two finishers in her fleet. Some bigger gusts came around 4:00 p.m. but by then all the boats were long secure; I felt a lot of wind while unloading race committee and personal gear from Syzygy in the parking lot near the Rock Canyon boat ramp. Some of the gusts kicked up clouds of sand.

After Carol Anne and I put away Syzygy around 5:00 p.m., we joined “Dumbledore”, “Ribbons“, Erebus”, and crew Conrad to take possession of the “new” club motorboat at Ace Marine on Warm Springs Blvd., going through all the motor controls. Then, we had dinner at Big Food Express.

Photography wasn't possible in Saturday's conditions, but we did get a few snaps today. Some of those should show up here soon.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

The roaring ocean waves of the desert sea

After the President's Day excitement of the broken tiller and our subsequent safe arrival at the boat ramp, "Cornhusker", Carol Anne, and I retrieved Black Magic and put the Etchells away in her mast-up space before driving north to the Rock Canyon Marina. There we noticed that the waves were still breaking on the beach, with a fair number of whitecaps still out on the lake. It's not all that often that we get much in the waves on this lake, but it happens every now and then. It's also unusual for whitecapping to last ofr more than a few hours. But, this afternoon, the "sheep were in the meadow" for the duration. And yes, the photo doesn't really capture the dynamic activity, or show the occasional blowing sand we experienced, or give a feel for the rocking of the marina.


The luck of the thirteenth sail of the year

Torn tiller. Interestingly, when the winds rose, the tiller didn't break at the connection to the tiller extension, where holes had been drilled that might have weakened it. Instead, the tiller first broke at the front end several inches in front of the tiller extension connection. Then, several minutes later, the tiller broke near the rudder stock. Controlling the boat without a tiller in the whitecaps was an interesting exercise, with crew weight and sail steering inadequate in tight quarters. But, we were able to sail the boat to the courtesy dock and make a precision landing in spite of conditions. The boat the tiller came from had been exposed to a fire; possibly exposure to the heat of the fire, combined with regular stresses from using the tiller, combined to weaken the laminated surfaces of the wood strips that the tiller comprised.

Superstitious sailors might be interested to know that although sailing on Friday the 13th proved to be no problem, Monday's sail was my 13th sail of the year. The Saturday sail also had an interesting conclusion; as Carol Anne and her crew returned to the dock, they faced a jammed halyard and a mainsail that refused to come down the mast.

Vise pliers clamped to the rudder stock.

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Pelicans a plenty

Pelicans and peaks; view to the south and southwest. After some nice sailing, Zorro and I each brought our boats back to Rock Canyon in the fading breeze on Sunday evening, February 15. The gentle motion of the sailboats didn't bother the birds much.

More birds

Pelicans and distant sailboat

Pelican panorama

Three pelicans in cruising formation

Solo pelican

Pelicans in the quiet of the evening, Sunday, February 15, 2009, Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico.

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Donated Powerboat and engine

Starcraft 18' fiberglass runabout/bowrider motorboat donated to the Rio Grande Sailing Club (via Coronoado Optimist Sailing program).

40-hp short-shaft motor that came with the donated boat.

Identifying details

Front of 85-hp Mercury engine to be swapped into the regatta support power boat.

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Fred's boat

One of our directors ("Fred P.I.") acquired a boat through one of his cases and was interested in selling it, perhaps to the sailing club as a support boat. It's an interesting looking machine.

Starboard side, engine uncovered.

Motor uncovered

Fred's boat motor uncovered.

Fred's boat. This is the power boat that he would like to sell to the sailing club as a support boat.

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