Thursday, September 17, 2009

Commodore’s Corner draft article

Fall Series sailboat racing has begun with racing and cruising boats vying to be the fastest around the buoys. As cooler weather arrives, the leaves turn color in the mountains, and geese begin to gather for their southward migrations. So, too, do some of our scattered boats re-gather at sunny Elephant Butte Lake. Autumn can be a wonderful sailing season, with cooler weather and no big crowds at the lake.

The fall series has expanded to eight days of racing, plus the Sunrise Regatta, Kris Kringle, and a boat preparation and tuning clinic for racing hosted by race committee chair Larry Jessee. On the social side, we continued social gatherings in the Albuquerque area through the summer and will have special dinners near the lake during the weekends of the Commodore’s Cup and Kris Kringle Regatta. Also, we’re looking to resume Southern Fleet social activities for sailors in southern New Mexico and West Texas.

For my own family, the summer turned out to be less about sailing and more about dealing with other distractions, including a family health emergency that required me to take frequent visits to south Texas. I was on my way back from one of these trips when I dropped in on the middle of the Desert Classic Regatta (after driving 600 miles that day, ugh!) to enjoy a social gathering and dinner on Rich and Sue’s porch. During the summer I did get to watch a bit of salt-water sailing on one of my trips and also performed a “kayak circumnavigation” of Heron Lake.

In the meantime, our son Gerald has gone off to Arizona State University for a second year; this year’s major seems to be photography. He’s also started sailing practice with the ASU sailing team (a low-budget organization that is sincere about encouraging all students, including disabled students, to participate) as a helmsperson and club treasurer, and looks forward to exploring the deserts and mountains in his Jeep Cherokee, nicknamed “Der Gila Monster”. Gerald also reports that condo life is much better than dorm life, as well as much less expensive! Back at home, I finally performed the "Ecological Transformation" of Gerald's room.

Our own relative lack of time on the water, however, was more than made up for by the activities of several intrepid members. They towed three boats to Washington state, then journeyed all the way to Alaska and back. Most of the expedition was under motor, but the crews enjoyed some occasional good sailing after enduring various mechanical ordeals. There was also one medical emergency that could have turned out worse than it did. I’ve also seen some of the photos from the journey, including some spectacular footage of grizzly and black bears and some of our boats in the middle of glacier-spawned ice fields. Brrrr!

In the larger world of sailing, the America’s Cup has been victimized by a lot of lawyering and questionable sportsmanship. Fascinating things are going on in this area, but the spirit of fair sailing is not particularly evident. But the billionaire’s shenanigans are far and away not what sailing is truly about and other elements of the sport show much more health.

More fascinating, and perhaps more healthy although not without controversy, has been the success of two American and British teenage boys in circumnavigating the globe solo. And, not to be outdone, a pack of teen girls (including a younger sister) plans to break the boys’ records. Some critics are wondering about the safety and advisability of these attempts and one proposed attempt has been met with government action.

Boating safety has also been in the news, with accidents on local lakes and elsewhere, including the recent non-injury accident caused when the New Mexico governor’s chief of staff plowed an eighty-foot houseboat into other houseboats and parked jet skis. Folks, that’s called a non-optimal docking. More seriously, anyone who scans the international maritime news should be rapidly disabused of the notion of “it can’t happen to me”. Accidents happen in the strangest ways.

This is the perfect segue for me to plug another of my activities. During the summer I helped teach two New Mexico boating safety classes. The classes are required for anyone born after January 1, 1989 to skipper a boat and are still a good idea for older boaters. The standard class focuses on boating laws, equipment requirements, navigation rules and procedures, and responding to emergencies, with a focus on powerboats, but a class can be customized for sailors if enough are interested.

It’s been some time since we’ve enjoyed some traditions such as raft-up boat gatherings and dinners, or held an out-of-area cruise. I hope we can get those going again. We need hosts to lead these activities. Volunteers?

Your club leadership has not been quiet during the summer and has been working with state park leaders to improve our ability to enjoy the lake. With good fortune, we should have more news in this area soon. An interesting potential development at Cochiti may have us exploring boating improvements there in combination with the Boat Owners of Cochiti and Cochiti Pueblo. It’s too early to tell just what might happen, but “stay tuned” and let your club leaders know if this sounds promising or interesting. Also, we’re hoping to develop opportunities for more young people to learn to sail. It may take quite some time to lay the groundwork but this is a way in which we may be able to give back to sailing and to our communities.

Also, speaking of club leadership, it’s time for nominations for club officers and directors. The club benefits most when we have a nice blend of experience, enthusiasm, and diversity.

Also, leadership doesn’t just come from elected officers; anyone who wants to make something happen – by organizing a raft-up or pot luck dinner, by hosting a workshop or giving a show and tell about a trip, or by bringing in an interesting speaker or setting up a class or demo, or by taking some youth or other prospective sailors out on the water and showing them how to operate a boat safely and efficiently – is a leader and can do much to make the club more useful and fulfilling.

Please think and then tell us about who you’d like to lead the club and about the time, talent, and resources that YOU can bring to YOUR club!

Snug lines


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