Wednesday, October 07, 2009

This time the winds were perfect -- not just on average

Often I'll say that the winds at our mountain desert lakes are perfect, on average.
On average, however means trading off days with little or no wind or too much wind.

But, that wasn't at all the case for last Saturday's Sunrise Regatta distance race. The winds were astonishingly consistent in strength and direction, at least by mountain lake standards.

The winds were strong, but not so strong as to require boats to reef or to cause significant damage. (I did hear of a busted spinnaker pole ring, a shredded spinnaker, and a broken fingernail and some strained muscles, which isn't bad for fifteen boats spending a day out in good wind.)

As a result, almost all of the twenty-five-mile-race boats finished their races before dark, and even the fifty-mile-race boats didn't spend too much time in the moonlight (for future reference, we need to remember to use a buoy a bit further north next time). And, a couple of the boats in the ten-mile race finished in under two hours.

Saturday, October 3, 2009
(time in 24-hour clock, wind direction from, wind in mph, max gusts in mph)
1253 . . . S . . . 13.8
(1323 10 and 25-mile race start, 1334 50-mile race start)
1353 S 11.5
1453 S 17.3
1553 S 16.1
1653 S 15.0 23.0
1753 S 19.6
1853 S 16.1 21.9
(1830 moonrise, 1850 sunset, 1915 civil twilight)
1929 S 12.7 --
1953 S 10.4 20.7
2012 S 16.1 --
2022 S 13.8
2049 S 11.5
2053 S 11.5

However, on Sunday the winds proved to be way too much of a good thing. Earlier, when I'd arrived at the State Park to stow some race committee items in the utility shed and do some housekeeping for the lot truck, winds had been light to calm. I met with the park superintendent about some sailing club business and then drove several miles north to Rock Canyon Marina to move Syzygy south along with the club's motorboat, whose engine had quit the day before.

Wind history for Sunday. As sometimes happens, the winds snookered me and built up rapidly while I was bringing our MacGregor down the lake with a motorboat in tow.

Sunday, October 4
(time in 24-hour clock, wind direction from, wind in mph, max gusts in mph)
953 S 4.6
1013 S 8.1
1053 SSW 5.8
1153 SSW 10.4
1203 S 12.7 18.4
1235 SE 10.4 24.2
1253 SE 8.1 16.1
1353 S 19.6 33.4
1453 S 27.6 35.7
1553 S 25.3 36.8
1653 S 24.2 33.4
1753 S 20.7 31.1
1853 S 25.3 34.5
1953 S 16.1 24.2
2053 S 16.1 26.5

The motorboat that I was towing had an off-center bitt on its bow, so the whole boat wound up cockeyed about ten degrees while it was being towed, which made for some clumsy behavior on the motorboat's part. When I first set out around 11:30 a.m., winds were nothing but light breezes. but by the time I got a mile down the lake they began a rapid buildup; soon I was trying to steer both boats through lots of whitecaps and periodic strong wind gusts.

Docking two boats by myself in the strong crosswinds was an interesting exercise; I was about to bring our MacGregor to the south side of the courtesy dock nearest the boat ramp, tie a quick cleat hitch off Syzygy's starboard quarter, and then catch the motorboat as it drifted toward the east end of the courtesy dock pier.

I was then able to line the boat to the landward side of Syzygy and set up lines to bring the motorboat onto the trailer once I'd retrieved the lot truck and backed the motorboat's trailer into the water.

Then came the big problem: the tilt control for the motor had failed, with the large, heavy, long-shaft 80 hp motor in the down position. A fellow boater helped me wedge lumber under the boat transom and wrestle the bottom of the motor up a few inches, enough so the boat could be trailered gently back to the mast-up lot without grinding off the skeg or prop.

Because the winds were so strong, I had to give up the original plan of trying to retrieve some flashing lights that had been attached to a few buoys for use during the regatta. Eventually, Carol Anne and I took our MacGregor out about an hour before sunset, when the winds weren't quite so howling. However, they were still around 20 mph with 30 mph gusts; rather a challenge for lassoing buoys and unwinding yards of duck tape while trying to keep my arms from being ripped away from the buoys. We managed to retrieve two of the flashing lights, but it was quite a job; the winds were still generating lots of whitecaps and holding onto the buoys against the force of the wind blowing on our boat took enormous effort. I still have a few cuts and bruises from that exercise.


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