Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

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Location: Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, United States

Monday, July 31, 2006

Time on the water …

is time well spent

The day started slowly, because we were still working on trailer repairs. We had bought a replacement jack for the trailer, but it turned out that the jack we had bought wouldn’t work, so we took it back. When we bought the new jack, the clerk at the auto parts store had asked whether we wanted the box – I wanted to keep it, but in a rare departure from his pack-rat habits, Pat said that we didn’t want the box. So when we went back to the store to get a refund, we found that the store won’t accept returns unless they are in the original box. We did end up persuading the manager to give us a refund, although we did have to pay a 10-percent restocking fee.

That store didn’t have the right kind of jack, and the two others in the area that might were closed on Sundays, so the trailer repair will have to wait until Monday or later.

So we got to the marina to think about maybe sailing about 11 a.m. The winds had been gentle all morning, but they came up and were beginning to howl just when we got to the lake. But, in case the winds abated later, we decided to rig up the sails. We put on our second-best mainsail, saving the really good one for the big regatta, and we set up our ratty, beat-up jib. While the rest of our sails have been kept at the cabin or on board our other boat, Syzygy, those two sails have been lying in the bottom of Black Magic, exposed to dust from all of the grinding involved in boat repairs, as well as rain and mud tracked in from the path to the Heron Marina. So those sails were filthy. Given that the winds on the lake were howling, we decided to wash the sails while waiting to see whether the winds would abate.

We started by unrolling the mainsail on top of the boat and cleaning it by dumping buckets of water on it and scrubbing it with one of the new long-handled bathroom scrubbers. That worked, sort of. The wind kept picking the sail up and turning it around and twisting it about, so we couldn’t really get it clean, and a couple of buckets of water that were intended to clean the sail ended up missing the sail and drenching me instead.

So we went to Plan B. We made sure the boat was securely moored, and then I slowly raised the mainsail, while Pat with the bucket and Tadpole with the bathroom scrubber cleaned it. By the time we were done, the sail was much cleaner, and I was drenched. While the mainsail dried, we repeated the process with the jib.

Then I used the bilge pump to pump the wash-water out of the boat, so the inside of the boat is also much cleaner, and Pat and Tadpole washed and scrubbed the deck.

At this point, the wind was still pretty stiff, but we wanted to get out on the water. We went out under jib alone, and for us, that seemed to be about right. Several of the local J/24s, who, we assume, are familiar with local conditions, also went out with only one sail up, usually the main. I chose to use the jib rather than the main because in an Etchells, the jib is significantly smaller than the main, and in a place that I’m not familiar with, and that is notorious for sudden, unpredictable changes in conditions, I wanted less power.

For the next two hours, that proved to be an excellent choice. We repeatedly saw boats slammed down, as if they’d been hit by an invisible fly swatter, including a couple of the J/24s running under mainsail alone. The Snipe regatta seemed to escape the fly swatter, but those sailors still had some challenging conditions to deal with. Yeah, with only the jib, which on an Etchells is very small, we weren’t going as fast as this boat can go. But we also weren’t knocked horizontal – we probably only heeled 45 degrees or so in the strongest gusts.

We sailed past the Snipe regatta, and we took a few pictures as we went by. Then we decided to sail to Frisco on the other side of the lake, to try to get a feel for the lake’s wind and weather conditions.

The only thing that’s constant about weather on this lake is that it’s constantly changing. As we sailed today, the general trend was that the wind was slackening, but every time we thought about raising the mainsail, the wind would sharpen, or we’d see a nearby boat get hit by that giant fly swatter.

At this point, I’m even wondering whether I have any business even thinking about being in the Dillon Open Regatta. How in the world can anybody sail someplace where a giant invisible fly swatter can slam someone’s mainsail into the water without any advance clues? No, I don’t have any worries whatsoever about capsizing – I know that more than 60% of this boat’s weight is in the keel, so the only way it’s going to turn turtle is if the keel falls off. My big worry is falling off the boat. On an Etchells, there’s not a lot to hold on to, so if Black Magic gets hit by one of those fly swatters, I could end up violating the Dillon Lake “no swimming” rule.

So we’re going to continue to sail for the next few days to learn more about local conditions. Most of the sailing today, especially later in the day, we would not have had a problem with having both sails up. We’re going to look at when and where the fly swatter is likely to show up. We’re going to look for where the winds are, and where the holes in the winds are.

We arrived back at the marina under gathering rain clouds. We discovered what is probably the greatest discovery of our trip so far – during happy hour, the bar at the marina has a really sweet deal: $2 pints of excellent microbrew.

For supper this evening, we had pork chops grilled on the barbecue grill that comes with this condo, and for dessert, bananas stuffed with chocolate chips, wrapped in foil, and also grilled. As we were putting the bananas on the grill, the rain began.

A side note: The hat that I have been using, advertising a yacht club I have never even visited, has gone missing. I found a new one at Target in nearby Silverthorne. The manufacturer of the hat was at least honest enough not to label the hat “One Size Fits All” – instead, it’s “One Size Fits Most.” Well, I don’t qualify as “most.” But I just had to have this hat. The way that this hat fits most is that the hat’s band and also its fabric contain a hefty dose of Spandex. But my head is so small that the Spandex isn’t stretched, so the hat wouldn’t fit.

I solved the problem by using a stitching awl to make a tuck in the band of the hat. I suppose if I were smarter, I could change the hatband to make it adjustable and make a hole through which I could pull my hair to prevent the hat from getting lost. This hat, the way it is now, I couldn’t wear in anything but light air – it doesn’t have the ponytail security system (a conventional adjustable hat leaves a hole at the back, and if I run my hair through it, the only way the hat gets lost is if I lose my hair), and that pewter plate on the front of this new hat means that if it goes overboard, it’s gone forever. But still, it’s a fun hat to have.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Photos from Dillon

Ah, it's great to be at a place with high-speed Internet!

Here are a few photos from Black Magic's latest adventures, thanks to the miracle of high-speed wireless Internet, which is another of the amenities offered at this condo complex.Here, Black Magic sits in front of Five O'Clock Somewhere after coming out of Heron Lake, for some work on the boat and the trailer -- most notably, getting all of that gray primer covered with shiny black paint before we take the rig on the road.
We arrive in the parking area at Dillon. In the background are some of the high mountain peaks (in the vicinity of 12,000 feet) that can send sudden winds down onto the lake without notice. Dillon itself is just over 9000 feet. Note the lovely new paint on the trailer.
Highway debris caused a few minor dings in Black Magic's hull. However, Dumbledore's trailer design features a big steel plate at the front of the keel guide, and that protected almost everything below the waterline. If you look closely, you might see that the bottom part of the jack at the front of the trailer isn't in a straight line with the top part, and we don't have the wheel on because the bottom of the jack was damaged so the wheel doesn't fit any more. However, we have plans and backup plans and backup backup plans to deal with it.
Tadpole made this panoramic shot at a stop along the road between Dillon and Frisco, near the spillway, which the lake is nearly over. It covers about 270 degrees. The software that stitches multiple pictures together isn't perfect, and you'll have to blow the picture up to see details, such as the two dozen or so sailboats out there, but maybe you can get at least a little bit of an idea of the beauty of the surroundings.
This is the mooring field at the Frisco marina, at sunset. Those peaks in the background are still in the sun, because they are a lot taller than the surroundings, 12,000 or 13,000 feet.

A lake full of water, and other oddities

The weather’s beautiful, and so is a lot of other stuff

We made it to Dillon with only a couple of minor problems – primarily, we suffered some damage to the jack at the front of the trailer. We’ll see tomorrow whether a couple of whacks with a sledgehammer will straighten it out; if not, one of the services offered at the marina here is trailer repairs, so while Black Magic is in the water, the trailer can get the bent-up jack repaired or replaced.

We checked into our one-bedroom condo, and it is big. Pat and I have a king-size bed in a bedroom that makes it look small, while the living room has plenty of room for Tadpole plus a couple of sails we need to work on, and we’d certainly have no problem fitting someone else in there comfortably. Come the weekend, when we move up to a two-bedroom unit, we’re likely to get lost going from one end of it to the other; it would be a shame to let that space go to waste, so we hope we can get some crew to join us.

The lake itself is stunningly beautiful, and one of its most beautiful features is that it is full of water. Yes, really full – the water level is only two inches below the spillway. For all practical purposes, this lake has all the water that it can hold. To all sides, the lake is surrounded by mountains, especially at the western end, where strong winds can sweep down the slopes and suddenly make sailing … well … interesting.

After checking in and moving a bunch of stuff into the condo (it’s amazing how much that truck holds!) we went to look at the marina, meet the marina people, and find where to park the boat for the time being. Pat has been in e-mail correspondence with some of the people here, and so, even while we were just driving around, we were flagged down by one of the marina people who was driving around in a tractor, and he gave us directions to the parking area, following which, he asked when Mother and Dumbledore would be arriving, and then as he drove off, another marina guy drove up in his car and introduced himself. Amazing what happens when one has a distinctive boat – these guys didn’t even need to ask who we were.

Once we unhitched the boat, we did some reconnaissance. We started at the Dillon Marina, looking at the docks and mast-raising cranes and other facilities. There’s a big Snipe regatta this weekend, and their party was just getting going at the marina bar. We might have been able to join in, but, as Pat commented, except for Tadpole, we don’t much look like the type of people who hang off trapezes – we’d likely get spotted as impostors.

Next, we drove over the dam (apparently Dillon’s not a Homeland Security concern, since the dam doesn’t have a power plant) and around to Frisco, at the other end of the lake, stopping along the way to take pictures (to follow in a subsequent post), and to visit the Wal Mart (a charming, itty-bitty, old-timey one) to get a sledgehammer. Then we went to look at the marina at Frisco. It has just expanded, and its new dock looks hugely like the one we just had installed at Heron, except that Frisco got a more deluxe surface on the piers. I suspect it was built by the same company. While we were at Frisco, we discovered that a boat show was planned for Saturday, and several beautiful antique and vintage powerboats were already on hand. We saw stunning quantities of gleaming brightwork, representing, I am sure, thousands of hours spent on painstaking restoration. These are the sorts of boats Franklin Roosevelt might have been spotted on, or James Dean, or any number of the rich and famous in the days before fiberglass.

Next, we went in search of supper. We found a nice little pizza place in a strip mall not too far from the condo. The beer was not as extremely overpriced as we’ve sometimes seen in touristy areas, and the pizza was phenomenal. Normally, I stick to the basics and avoid the oddball combinations, but this time around, we tried a chicken cordon bleu pizza, and it was perfect – tender chicken, mozzarella cheese, and a phenomenal bleu cheese sauce. Fantastic.

We finished the day by getting a few groceries to supplement those we brought with us, so we can cook a lot of our own meals rather than paying tourist-area restaurant prices – another benefit of being in a condo rather than in a conventional hotel or motel. This condo complex even attaches a supermarket discount card to each key, so we got to save even more.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Off to Dillon

Another adventure begins

Posts may be a bit sporadic for the next week or so, as Pat, Tadpole, and I head for Lake Dillon in Colorado with Black Magic for the Dillon Open Regatta. The regatta itself isn’t until next weekend, but we’re going a week early so we can get the boat in the water to practice and get used to conditions up there – from what we’ve been told, they’re super-changeable like here, but more so. Also, before the main regatta, there’s a J/24 regatta that Mother and Dumbledore will be sailing in, so we can cheer them on.

Dulce and Tres have gone to Grandma’s house, and Pat got a fancy “Pet Bistro” food and water dispenser set for Buddy, so even if he doesn’t have our company, he has our handouts. The truck’s all packed, and we’re nearly ready to go. Just a few odds and ends to take care of, and we’re off.

We will have the laptop along, and the condo where we’re staying is supposed to have Internet access, so we won’t be totally out of touch. For the regatta weekend itself, we’ll have a larger unit, so we have room for crew if anybody out there wants to show up to support the team.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Broken Spar Society

I get a feeling dismastings aren’t as uncommon as I’ve been told they are

Once upon a time, way back when I first started sailing, an instructor assured me that dismastings were extremely rare occurrences. He estimated that the average sailor might experience or witness one maybe once in a lifetime.

Over the past few months, I’ve been wondering whether I’ve been jinxed. First, I was out sailing with Zorro when his boat’s mast crumpled to the deck. Not too much later, Zorro’s other boat, which he co-owns with Dino, suffered problems with the base of the mast. More recently, Mother and Dumbledore were at the J/24 regionals at Lake Tahoe, and they lost their mast. And now I learn that Sherry, over at Stay of Execution, has lost her mast as well.

The outcomes have been a bit different in each case. After much delay on the part of the insurance company, Zorro eventually got a check to pay for a new mast, a lovely stiff one from Down Under, which he has recently installed. The rigging that comes with a mast is apparently not always right, and it has taken him some time to get it all adjusted, but he now believes his boat to be a very fast boat. With Zorro’s other boat, the damage to the mast wasn’t total, so it got patched up with a sleeve that will hold it together for a few more years.

Mother and Dumbledore were able to borrow a mast to compete in the regatta, but they never had time to adjust the rigging right, so they finished poorly in the races. Their insurance doesn’t cover the mast, so their choices for replacement are more limited. However, call it luck or karma or Providence or whatever, they did have a backup available. One of New Mexico’s most venerable J/24 sailors has fallen seriously ill, and he has placed his boat up for sale on consignment with Dumbledore, who is a licensed dealer. Following an incident many years ago, Nemo made a point of having a spare mast on hand. So now Dumbledore is buying Nemo’s spare mast so Mother’s boat will have one for the Dillon Open Regatta.

Meanwhile, Sherry’s situation is still very much up in the air. She can’t afford to buy a new (or not-too-terribly-used) mast, and she isn’t sure whether the insurance will come up with sufficient funds to allow her to buy one. She has set up a fund for people to donate toward a purchase of a mast. I’ve recommended that she keep leaning on the insurance company – that worked for Zorro.

One of the things that all of these dismastings have in common is that the masts involved have been old, typically at least 30 years. My own boat, Black Magic, is more than 30 years old, but when I got it, the mast was relatively new. I imagine it had already gone through the time-related mast failure that now all of these others are experiencing. I’m guessing that with boats that are subjected to the stresses of racing, a mast won’t last forever. Based on my observations, I’d say that under those circumstances, any mast older than, say, 25 years, could be expected to fail.

One thought I have had: As Zorro works toward having an Etchells fleet in New Mexico, perhaps, as a fleet, we should keep a spare mast on hand. Yeah, that means we’d have to pay some hefty fleet dues, at least in the first place. But it also means that if somebody’s mast breaks, that person can get right back into sailing with the fleet. Then when the person’s insurance comes through, the fleet buys another spare mast.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Buddy

Yeah, I can already hear the warnings …

They say, once you name something, it’s yours …

Well, there’s this cat. He first showed up the weekend of the Fourth of July. He came, apparently, seeking company and possibly food. He showed up on the front deck of the house, announcing his presence with a very high-pitched, kitten-type mew.

Initially, Dulce and Tres weren’t so sure about him; there was some grumbling and hissing. But after a few days, they seemed to decide he wasn’t so bad after all. They even seemed to take a liking to him, socializing from the windowsills or through the screen door when he came around.

He’s a dark-gray tabby cat – the black on his back is almost solid. He seems to be fairly young; his meow is really more of a kitten’s mew. He seems to have been reasonably well fed; he’s not skinny, and his coat is in reasonably good condition. That leads me to wonder whether he may have come to Laguna Vista for the holiday weekend and then become separated from his humans. Or maybe he’s just really skilled at hunting to feed himself.

He’s also extremely flighty. He’ll come to the window to demand food, but when I bring it out, he’ll dash away. He doesn’t dash away as quickly or as far as he used to, but he still won’t let me get anywhere close to him.

I will say that since he’s been around, we’ve had a major reduction in rodent activity; the field mice and packrats have definitely not been as problematic as usual.

For want of anything better to call this cat, I’ve taken to calling him “Buddy.” I couldn’t just keep calling him “Hey You.” I’ve been asking around whether anybody’s missing a cat, but so far, I haven’t had any hits.

Lately, Buddy has definitely expressed a wish to come into the house. And Dulce and Tres don’t seem to object; they seem to regard him as a friend. Of course, Buddy has a couple of rites of passage before he gets to come in, such as getting a vet checkup, and vaccinations, and a flea treatment if necessary (fortunately, at this altitude, with this dry and cool climate, fleas aren’t a big problem). Oh, and one other thing … yeah, if he’s going to be part of this household, he gets neutered. It’s the best thing for his health in the long run, and the last thing I need is a tomcat making his marks all over the place.

I have heard tales of cats adopting humans; now, it looks like Buddy is working to adopt us.

Somebody help me

I can’t even read my own blog!

For the past three hours, I’ve been trying to get to my blog to see what responses I’ve had lately. However, when I try to go to the blog, I just get a hodgepodge of apparently random alphanumeric characters. I don’t get this gibberish when I go to other people’s blogs, including those on the same server mine is on.

I’ve had this problem a couple of other times recently, and logging off and restarting the computer has solved the problem. Not this time.

I’ve been to the troubleshooting areas both for my blog server, and for my Web browser. Mozilla’s trouble-shooting area was helpful. It told me to go to “Tools -> Page Info” to see what MIME type I was set for. Turns out, I was set for the right type, “text/html.” So that wasn’t where the problem was.

Blogger’s FAQs suggested I try a different browser to see if I got a different result. So I fired up Internet Explorer, and, yeah, I could at least see my blog. Problem was, while I could at least read the text, IE doesn’t show the pages properly; instead of the main text being alongside the stuff in the sidebar, IE pushes the main text down so it doesn’t start until after the sidebar ends. That problem demonstrates why I quit IE in the first place.

I am especially frustrated because this bug seems to affect my blog, and my blog only. It does not affect other blogs, even those on the same server. Neither Blogspot’s nor Mozilla’s FAQs come anywhere close to providing answers. I have also spent a good deal of time on Mozilla’s interactive Q&A forum and found nothing useful.

So, Dan, and any others out there with some knowledge … why can’t I see my blog on Mozilla? (I could also ask why I can’t see it right on IE, but I’ve already heard a litany of why IE doesn’t work right.)

Even as I post this, it’s an act of faith. I can’t go to the blog to see whether it posted successfully. If you are reading this, well, that means it did post successfully.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 39

A Wizard Skirmish

Caution: There’s some material in this chapter that had to remain in order for the plot to make sense, but it may offend some tastes. Normally, I can redact “adult content” with the result of weakening but not destroying the storyline; I couldn’t do so here. While the content is relatively mild, if you’re squeamish about such matters, you might wish to skip this chapter.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 39

Betsy came into the restroom. “Hurry,” she said. “Dad’s in a warehouse by the river, he doesn’t know exactly where, but with you along we should be able to recognize the place.” She led me out of the Metro station to where Alois sat behind the wheel of his Renault, and we got in, me in the front passenger seat and Betsy in the back.

Stephane applied the cattle prod to Pierre’s other foot. “Who are your contacts?” he asked. Pierre remained silent. “Time to get more creative,” Stephane said, putting away the cattle prod. “Let’s work on your mind, shall we?” He placed a hand on Pierre’s forehead, and suddenly Pierre felt crushing, heavy pain, as if his head were being squeezed in a giant vise. His vision went dark, and an intense ringing rose in his ears. After what seemed to be hours of agony, but which I was sure only lasted a few minutes, the pain subsided. As Pierre’s vision and hearing cleared, Stephane said, “Now, that’s only a little bit of what I can do. You’d do best to answer me.”

Pierre remained silent. Alois, Betsy, and I arrived in the warehouse district, and we began to drive around, looking for the warehouse that Pierre had seen the back of. I reached out with a finding spell to see if I could get a clue what direction to look, but I couldn’t detect Pierre; the Others’ torture gym was doubtless well shielded. “I got word out to Runyon and the other sailing wizards,” Alois said as he drove. “They’re gathering to pool strengths for whatever you need to do.”

“Thanks,” I said, unsure how I might make use of the group’s strengths, but sure they would be needed.

Stephane applied more pain to Pierre’s brain, even more intensively than the first time. It came as a relief when Pierre passed out – both a relief and an additional worry, because with Pierre unconscious, I was no longer in touch with him, so I couldn’t know what was happening to him.

At last, we found what appeared to be the right warehouse; at least, it all looked like what I could remember of what Pierre had seen, and there was a car parked nearby that looked like Mildred’s. “Once I get inside this door, I should be able to do something,” I said. “Let’s start by breaking the protections on this door.” I reached out my hand toward the door, not quite touching it, and felt its magic field. It was strong, but it was also a fairly ordinary seal; with extra strength from other wizards, it would be very easy to crack. “You two, hide in the shadows beside that trash bin,” I said. “I’m going to try to take Stephane by surprise; once I have him neutralized, the other two with him are not magic, so they shouldn’t be as much of a problem. I’ll give Betsy a signal when it’s time.”

Pierre was gradually beginning to regain consciousness; his vision and hearing were still out, but the pain in his body was coming back, as well as the smell and taste of his own blood in his nose and mouth. “Don’t worry, honey, I’m coming,” I said. He twitched a bit of a smile in response.

I sent magic feelers to the core of the spell on the door and then gave it a quick blast of magic to shatter it, instantly bursting into the door. Stephane, startled, turned toward me, a hand raised to hurl a spell at me, but I was ready with my own hand up and turned that spell back at him. He doubled over, holding his head in agony; he had been using that pain spell on Pierre, so that was what was convenient to try to use against me. I moved toward him, casting an immobilizing spell.

That backfired. Stephane was ready and reflected my spell back upon me, freezing me. Quickly, he pulled some nylon straps from the drawer in the massage table and bound my wrists and ankles. “Ah, so your daughter has come to rescue you,” Stephane said, and I realized that I was still in disguise as Betsy, in the clothes I had worn to the meeting. “Let us see if we can use her to get you to talk.” He strapped me to a vertical panel of the weight machine and began to unbutton my blouse. Pierre’s vision was coming back, but it was still blurry. Through the ringing in his ears he was only catching part of what Stephane said.

From the moment I had burst into the room, Peter and Mildred had stood frozen, unable to make sense of what was happening. I knew that Mildred knew about the magic, but I didn’t think Peter did, so much of the action that he had just seen would mean nothing. Stephane now turned to him. “Peter, my boy, now there’s a favor I want to ask of you, and I think you’ll like it,” he said. “I know that you have been wanting this girl since you first saw her, and now she can be yours.” He took Peter’s hand and pulled him toward me, slipping the hand inside my bra to rest on my breast, where it sat, inert, clammy, trembling a little. “Just take her, right here, right now.” He drew Peter’s other hand around to rest against the small of my back and pressed Peter against me.

What a devious trick Stephane thought he was pulling. If he could get Peter to rape Betsy, that would destroy her power and his mind, getting rid of a powerful adversary and a dangerous witness. He didn’t know that he was dealing with a woman whose powers had been secured.

Peter stood frozen, as if he were the one under the immobility spell. The look on his face was of confusion and a bit of fear; his skin was pale, and his eyes were wide. “Go ahead,” Stephane said, starting to unfasten my jeans. “You want her. I know you do.”

Pierre was now alert enough to know what was going on, and he was clearly as upset at the idea of his wife being attacked as his daughter. “No!” he yelled; the echoes of that sound revived the ache in his head from Stephane’s torture. “Don’t touch her!”

Peter bolted, dashing out the door. I sent an alert to Betsy, but it was probably too late; Peter had turned in the direction away from where she and Alois were hiding.

Stephane turned toward Mildred. “We shall have to deal with young Peter later,” he said. “But we did manage to get a bit of a rise out of our guest of honor, didn’t we? Daddy seems very fond of his little girl …”

My paralysis was wearing off, and my concentration was returning. The nylon straps that bound me had protective magic, but I was quickly able to unravel the spell and begin unraveling the straps themselves, on their undersides where Stephane wouldn’t be able to see. I wished I could also do the same for Pierre, but the clamps around his wrists and ankles were fully visible, so I couldn’t take that risk.

Stephane approached me and began to run his hands up and down my body, standing at an angle so Pierre could see everything he did. He reached behind me and unhooked my bra, then began fondling my breasts. Pierre’s breath was rapid, and the pain in his head wouldn’t go away. “No, please, no,” he moaned. Stephane laced the fingers of one hand through the hair on the back of my head, seemingly to caress it, and then he suddenly pulled my face to his in a kiss so fierce my lips were bruised; I felt the lower lip split. “No!” Pierre shouted again.

Stephane slid his hand down the front of my jeans, his fingers probing, seeking and then finding the spot that triggered a physical reaction, against my will, a pulse of arousal in my lower body. “Ah, so the little girl is really a woman, ripe for the picking. It’s a pity I can’t be the one to do that …” His fingers continued to move, stroking me and then gently sliding into the opening, triggering more waves of arousal.

“No,” Pierre said. “No. Stop!” Stephane would have no idea how much he was really tormenting him, with Pierre able to feel all the sensations of my body.

Stephane’s long, slender fingers were now inside, probing deep into me, triggering another spasm, and his eyebrows raised in surprise. “Well, well, this is my lucky day,” he said. “Someone’s already been here before, so I don’t need to worry about repercussions now, do I?” He slid my jeans down, and he pressed his groin against mine, so I could feel the swelling hardness as he began to unfasten his pants.

“Nooooo!” Pierre screamed.

My bonds were free; in a sudden, swift motion, I stepped forward from the torture machine, spun Stephane around, and pulled the nylon strap that had bound my wrists across the front of his throat, pulling it tight until he lost consciousness, then dropping him on the floor. I turned toward Mildred, but before I could even take a step, she had dashed out of the door. I knew Betsy had already outrun her once that night; she ought to be able to catch her this time. Then I went over to Pierre and unbound him from the table, helping him to sit up against me, touching his injured face and shoulder. I couldn’t concentrate on the complex rearranging that actual healing involved, but I could provide some pain relief. Not that I needed to; he passed out in my arms.

Alois drove Pierre and me to our flat in his Renault; Betsy had captured and tied up Mildred, and she took Mildred and Stephane – who was alive, but barely – in Mildred’s car to the Paris wizards’ meeting place. With Alois’ help, I carried Pierre up the stairs and put him in the bed; Elaine was already waiting there with Louis, a wizard who in his non-magical capacity was a doctor.

Together, Louis and I worked on Pierre’s injuries. Louis pulled the dislocated shoulder back into its socket, and I began the process of encouraging the torn muscles and tendons to knit themselves together again; I was too spent to do more, and even at my full strength, I wouldn’t have been able to complete the full healing, just speed it up more. Pierre’s nose was also broken and a couple of teeth loose; I wanted to save some energy for those as well.

Pierre regained consciousness while I was working on the shoulder. “Sarah,” he said.

“Shhh,” I said. “I’m here, and I’m all right, and you’re all right, or you will be soon. Let me work on healing this shoulder now, and then I’ll do your face.”

Pierre smiled. “I love your touch any time,” he said. “But this … this is so much more.”

“I’ve never seen actually magic healing before,” Louis said. “I didn’t believe it was possible.”

“Oh, it’s possible,” Pierre said. “With Sarah, anything’s possible.”

The next thing I knew, I woke up in the bed beside Pierre; his injured arm was in a sling, and his good arm around me. Late-afternoon sun was streaming in the windows. Betsy poked her head in the bedroom door. “How are you two doing?” she asked.

“I’ve been better,” Pierre said. “But I’ve also been worse.”

“Actually,” I said, “we’re starving.”

“I can believe that,” Betsy said. “You’ve been out for a day and a half.” She left for the kitchen.

I looked at Pierre. His large nose now had a slight bend in it, and he had two black eyes; his lower lip was split, and there was dried blood on his face from that and from where his nose had bled when it was broken.

“Man, I do look a sight,” Pierre said.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “You’ll always be good-looking to me.” I stroked his nose with my finger, healing as I went, and kissed him to heal the split lip.

Pierre chuckled. “When I was little, my mother used to always say, ‘Let me kiss it to make it better,’” he said. “You can actually do that.” He pulled me toward him.

“I just wish I could make it all better,” I said.

“Oh, what you can do is more than enough.”

Betsy came back into the room, followed by Elaine, with her baby in a cloth sling across her body. Both carried trays of food. “Breakfast in bed for both of you,” Betsy said, “provided we can pry you two apart to make room for these trays.”

On each tray was a large bowl of French onion soup, prepared the traditional way, with a slab of crusty bread on top, and on top of that, melted Swiss cheese. Pierre and I quickly devoured the savory, salty soup, but we were still ravenous. Betsy and Elaine came in as we were finishing, carrying more food. “Louis told us you would need a lot of sleep, and then a lot of food,” Betsy said, as she and Elaine replaced the soup bowls with large salads.

“So we’re getting a five-course dinner in bed?” Pierre asked.

“Just what the doctor ordered,” Betsy replied, laughing.

We proceeded through the remaining courses of the meal far more rapidly than a five-course dinner had probably ever been eaten before; by the time we finished the dessert, Pierre and I were feeling much better.

“Well, I suppose we need to get back to the business at hand,” Pierre said. “What’s being done with Mildred and Stephane?”

“There’s a meeting tonight to decide just that,” Betsy said. “As soon as you two are up and about, we can go.”

Monday, July 24, 2006

Boat condition update

You know all of those repairs the previous owners did?

Well, guess what? They patched the WRONG SPOT!

Last Tuesday, we put Black Magic back into the water following some repairs, most particularly to correct some horribly inept patching done to the inside of the boat below a bulkhead. After grinding away the old patches, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the original hull. So I filled in the portion of the hull that I had ground out with a much neater and, I hope, much more reliable, patch.

After we put the boat in the water, I inspected the patch, and it seemed to be doing well, as was the patch in the bow – although since that’s above the water line, I’m not so worried about it.

Friday we returned to the boat after two very rainy days, and we found that the boat was leaking – but NOT at the patch. Rather, above the patch (and above the water line), water was trickling into the boat. It didn’t take much more investigation to discover where the water was really coming from – it was leaking in around the chainplate and seeping into the hull, emerging originally where all of that old patching was, but now coming out through cracks in the interior paint above my nice, solid new patch. So for many years, I have no idea how many, previous owners of this boat have been slapping patch over patch over patch where the water enters the interior of the boat, rather than looking for where the water actually enters the boat in the first place. The port side chainplate is also leaking, but not as badly. Fortunately, the hull is glass-core rather than wood-core, so it doesn’t look like we will need to worry about core rot. Or rather, it doesn’t sound like we need to worry – we don’t hear any disconcerting mushy sounds when we tap on the surface, just reassuring, solid pings.

We now have Black Magic out of the water again, preparing it to go to Dillon, Colorado, for the Dillon Open Regatta. We’ve been reading up on hull and deck repairs, and we know that silicone is NOT the right substance for making most repairs; we’ll be looking for the adhesives that the books recommend for reseating chainplates to find one that sets rapidly enough to be ready in time for Dillon; if we can’t get one quickly enough, we’ll just let the chainplates leak at Dillon and fix the problem before putting the boat back into the water here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Nonlinear Music

Changes in technology … changes in perspective

Last year, Tadpole’s grandparents got him an iPod for his birthday, and Pat and I got him a gift certificate for iTunes to download music for it. He’s made good use of the gift certificate, and he’s also taken CDs we already own and copied them onto his computer, and from there to the iPod. Meanwhile, I’ve also loaded a lot of our CDs onto my computer in Albuquerque, and a few onto the computer here at Five O’Clock Somewhere.

Earlier this week, Tadpole noticed the dearth of music on this computer, so he plugged in his iPod and copied what he had on it. I gained some fascinating insights. For one thing, I don’t need to be worried about Tadpole’s listening habits. He’s not listening to anything that advocates violence or wanton sexual activity. His playlist is hugely eclectic – some classical, some country, some alternative rock, some classic rock, some folk, a good deal of Frank Sinatra, a whole lot of Jimmy Buffett, a whole lot of Yo Yo Ma.

But more interesting than what he’s listening to is the way he’s listening to it.

Originally, records came on clumsy discs in which the sound waves were mimicked in spiral grooves, and the disc was spun at 78 revolutions per minute while a needle picked up vibrations from the groove and, in early technology physically, and later through electrical pickups, converted the vibrations to sound waves. Each disc could contain one song on each side, provided the song wasn’t too long. Record companies could sell collections of songs by packaging several discs in a volume that resembled a photo album; such a collection came to be known as an album.

Then in the late 1950s, technology improved, and the “microgroove” record was invented. This groove was much narrower than the groove in the old 78s, and so more music could be recorded in less space. The technology took two paths. The 45-RPM single continued the tradition of the old 78s, with each record having one song on each side. The 33-RPM album put a whole album onto a single disc, so one wouldn’t have to change records every three or four minutes. The 45 had higher fidelity, but the 33 won out on the basis of convenience.

So when I was a teenager, it was the age of the 33, album-oriented rock. Yeah, if I liked a particular individual song, I could go out and buy the single, but it just didn’t make sense. It was just too much hassle to play a single if I didn’t want to be fiddling with the stereo all night long. I could buy the album that included the single, and in most cases, the album contained other worthwhile music that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to hear.

Thus, when I listen to music, I have become accustomed to getting the whole album, and listening to everything on the album, in the order that it is recorded on the album.

However, Tadpole isn’t restricted by the expectations of the album. When he goes online to buy tunes, he doesn’t have to take the whole album, and he’s not restricted by the bothersome technology of the old 45 – he doesn’t have to fiddle with changing the record. He can pick and choose. So there are several singles on his playlist, and he doesn’t even have the B side that the old 45s had. And there are many albums that he has chosen to download only partially, where I wish he would have downloaded the whole thing, such as The Best of BTO – he got nine of the 12 tracks. Why not all 12?

Even when it’s a CD we already own, so he doesn’t have to pay for the music, he often picks and chooses what he puts on his iPod, rather than having the whole album. So he’s left a couple of tracks off Jimmy Buffett’s License to Chill. And he left several tracks, including “The Silverton,” off when he copied C.W. McCall’s Greatest Hits. I can’t fathom why.

The other musical difference between Tadpole and his parents is the advent of “shuffle play.” After Tadpole had done his uploading from his iPod, I set the computer to playing one of my favorites, the soundtrack from Evita. At first, I was baffled, because things were playing out of order. But then I realized Tadpole had set the player to “shuffle play,” which plays the songs in random order. I grew up with albums, and the songs on the albums were in a certain order, and that was the order they were in, and that was that. Really, it’s not all that big of a deal, so I don’t really know why I actually get so distressed about the songs coming in the “wrong” order. Yeah, for something like Evita, which has a plot, the order is important. But for something that doesn’t have a plot, why am I so put out?

Count it as a generational difference, I guess. I’m sure it’s a blessing that the problem I have with my kid’s choice of music is that his way of listening to it is alien, rather than that the music itself is dangerous.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Back in the water again

Repairs aren’t completely done, but Black Magic seems to be seaworthy

Tuesday morning, Tadpole and I finished work on the patches on the inside of Black Magic and painting on the patches and filler on the bow. Tuesday evening, Pat was planning to come up to the lake with a sailing friend who owns a Thistle, who up until recently worked as a bartender – we’ll call him Sam – so late Tuesday afternoon Tadpole and I wanted to get the boat in the water so that, weather permitting, we could all go sailing.

Under looming clouds and building winds, we let the trailer into the water, and we discovered that the trailer didn’t have to be very deep at all for the boat to float free – the front V needed to be only about three inches below the surface of the water. This is good to know for future retrievals of boats, since it means we can do well even on ramps that aren’t so steep. The design of the mount for the front tire also performs well – it’s not an easy pivoting mount, so it requires a lot of extra time to unbolt the tire from its carrier and then mount it, with all six lug nuts, on its axle. But the stability gained is worth the extra time; this trailer is going to roll straight backwards, never turning, never stalling because of a wobbly wheel.

Our biggest problem had nothing to do with either the trailer or the weather. There was a group of Girl Scouts in canoes who were launching from the shore next to the boat ramp. This was a much younger bunch than last week (Tadpole’s comment about the earlier bunch: “Oh, bikinis!”), and they were just beginning to learn how to handle canoes, so we had to watch out for them. There’s a Girl Scout camp in the Jemez Mountains, near Cuba, and the camp has started keeping some canoes here at Heron Lake to provide an aquatic program. I can envision the New Mexico Sailing Club cooperating with the Girl Scouts so that, in addition to canoes, the girls can also learn sailing – hey, we now have four Sunfish for them to have fun on, plus a couple of Lasers, a Windmill, a Sabot, and a Snark.

Anyhow, getting back to the boat launching: We got Black Magic into the water with no difficulty whatsoever, even as the winds were building. Tadpole and I were just getting the trailer reconnected to the truck when Pat and Sam arrived at the marina and came over to the ramp with Syzygy. If they had only showed up twenty minutes earlier, when the trailer was still in the water, we could have put Syzygy on Black Magic’s trailer and hauled her out to work on that centerboard. But storm clouds were gathering, and I didn’t want to spend time unbolting and rebolting that tire, especially since we had a temporary letting-up of the wind that would let Black Magic get safely to her slip in the marina. So Tadpole and Sam took Black Magic, Pat took Syzygy, and I dropped the trailer off in the parking lot above the boat ramp and then drove the truck around to the marina.

About the time I got to the marina, the skies let loose, with rain, wind, and lightning. It was clear we weren’t going to get in any sailing. So we cooked up supper (Sam raved about the burgers – more testament to the quality of meat from the Chama Valley Supermarket), and we watched the rain fall. Finally, the rain abated, and Pat, Sam, and Tadpole took the truck south (Tadpole has music lessons on Wednesdays, which means he takes the cello and bass, which means he and Pat take Babe, the truck), while I got El Caballero. Unfortunately, they seem also to have taken the camera, so I can’t post pictures of the boat repairs yet.

I’m not completely satisfied with the repairs on Black Magic. The patch over the cleat-gouge in the bow is dented in. Next time we get the boat out of the water, I want to sand and then apply more filler, doming it outward so we can sand it flat and then paint it later. But at least for the moment, the boat is in the water, and it does appear to be seaworthy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 38

More action

Apologies for missing not one, but two weeks, especially since I left off with somewhat of a cliff-hanger last time around. I’ve been busy with boat stuff. I’ll try not to leave you all hanging for quite so long until the next chapter.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 38

Stephane and Mildred took Pierre to Stephane’s building, but they didn’t go up to the flat. Instead, they took him around to the back and down some stairs into a cellar. The stink that assaulted his so-sensitive nose was almost as bad as the pain in his arm, back and shoulder. There was the stench of raw sewage, combined with an acrid chemical odor that turned Pierre’s stomach – and mine, too. “Ooh, honey,” I whispered, “hang in there. Remember Chartreuse de Parme.”

“Chartreuse de Parme?” Betsy asked.

“The scent he gave me,” I said. “It identifies me. I didn’t realize how much until just now. He can be blind and deaf, but he’ll still know me. It’s that nose.”

“That nose.” Betsy gave me a half-smile.

Stephane threw Pierre down onto the floor of the cellar. The stone floor was hard and cold, and rough, tearing his clothes and scraping his skin on his knees and elbows. The floor was also wet, so Pierre’s clothes were soon soaked and clinging to him in a frigid mass, and the moisture made the floor slippery, so that when Pierre struggled to get up, he could not. The moisture on the floor wasn’t plain water; as it seeped into Pierre’s lacerated skin, it stung, and then as it sank in deeper, it burned. He moaned.

“Who are you?” Stephane asked, in a screeching whisper. “What are you? What are you up to?”

“Well, I can tell you who he is,” Mildred squawked, in a voice that sounded like a fast-food drive-through speaker. “He’s my no-good, totally useless, fourth ex-husband.”

I had had no idea Pierre’s second wife was a serial divorcée. “He didn’t know it either,” Betsy said.

“You’re a wizard, aren’t you?” Stephane said. He held out a hand over Pierre, not quite touching. “Oh, yes, quite a wizard. Such a lot of power. How did you escape our notice? You just can’t hide that size of talent. But clearly, you can, if you’ve been hiding it for, oh, forty years or so. Where did you come from? Where have you been until now?”

“You’re telling me this son of a bitch has wizard talent?” Mildred asked. “You gotta be kidding.”

“Absolutely not,” Stephane replied. “Are you telling me you were blind to it when you were married to him?”

“He had no talent,” Mildred insisted. “All he was good at was worshiping that no-good brat of a daughter of his and mooning over his dear departed Dora. Far as he was concerned, I was an unpaid nanny and a good lay once in a while.”

“But, see, you must be wrong,” Stephane said. “He has talent, and I get a strong feeling that ‘no-good brat of a daughter’ has talent, too. You said you unloaded her at a fancy boarding school … might that school have been located underground?”

“They’re onto you,” I told Betsy. “They know Pierre’s a wizard and that you were at the wizard school.”

“Well, it was a very unusual setup,” Mildred said. “Tuition free, even. When the chance came to unload the brat, the choice was simple. Besides, that girl he’s now saying is his daughter, can’t be. His real daughter’s face is all scarred up and ugly. No way that beauty queen that looks like his wife could be her.”

“Mildred, dearest,” Stephane said with a sneer both on his face and in his voice, “your answers are proving most unsatisfactory. Let us see what sort of answers we can get, as it were, straight from the horse’s mouth.” He prodded Pierre’s body with his foot, turning him over onto his back. Agonizing pains shot from Pierre’s shoulder throughout his body, and I bent over double, gasping.

“We’d better get you to a sheltered spot,” Betsy said. “You’re going to rouse attention out in public like this.” She propped me up and helped me into the Metro station, where we went into the women’s room and into one of the stalls, and Betsy set up a quick protection. “Here,” she said. “We’re a couple of American sisters who went out on the town, and you, uh, overindulged.”

Stephane kicked Pierre in the gut – hard. “Oof,” I said, collapsing to my knees. The moisture on the cellar floor was clearly the major source of the stink, and Pierre was definitely feeling nauseated. For the time being I would have no trouble playing the part of the typical stupid American who went out of control and had a little too much French wine.

“Maybe even more than just a little too much,” Betsy said.

“You’re a wizard,” Stephane said. “And you came to our salon. I can’t imagine for a minute that you’re really interested in joining us. And I can’t imagine that you’re working alone. So who are you working for?”

“Nobody,” Pierre groaned. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You came to our salon a few weeks ago,” Stephane said. “But then you were all over town, going to parties and clearly not caring about our cause or the masses. I could sense the magic in you then – oh, you were so smooth, but I could tell. Your protections are good, but no protection could cover you from direct scrutiny.

“Next, along comes your daughter. She’s got magic too.”

“Wait,” Mildred interrupted. “Let’s not forget that this girl isn’t scarred the way Betsy is. She’s an impostor.”

“Okay,” Stephane said. “The girl you claim to be your daughter – we can figure out later whether she really is. Anyway, she has magic, too. And she managed to get young Peter entranced, so he brought her in to spy on us for you.”

“I didn’t … know … about that,” Pierre said.

“Do you really expect me to believe that?” Stephane asked. “Now, maybe I would have thought she came alone, but to find you and your wife had just been dining not two blocks away from our meeting, in an establishment that is far below your usual style – that’s too much coincidence. Such a pity your wife got away, but we will get her soon. So I ask you again: Who are you working for?”

Pierre lay silently, gasping for breath. “He wants me to go for help,” Betsy said. “But I can’t leave you now.”

“I’ll be all right,” I said. “I just need to be sure Pierre doesn’t lose consciousness, so I can continue to keep track of what’s happening to him. You go and get Alois and whoever else is available to help, and meet me back here as soon as you can.”

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Betsy asked. “I don’t like leaving you alone when your attention is focused elsewhere. Someone could sneak up on you.”

“I’ll have to pull back my focus a bit, that’s all,” I said. I wished I could feel as confident as I sounded.

“That’s what I’m worried about,” Betsy said. “You’re putting up a great front, but you know and I know that you’re really in danger.” Betsy left to catch a train back to our flat while I stayed in the rest room for a while longer.

Stephane knelt down and grabbed the front of Pierre’ shirt collar, lifting his upper body off the floor. “If you value your life, you must tell me who you are working for.”

“I’m not working for anybody,” Pierre said. “I just came to the meeting that first time because I was curious. That’s why Betsy went, too.”

Stephane pulled an arm back and slammed a fist into the side of Pierre’s face; his eye erupted in a starburst of pain, and he could feel a hot stream running down from his nose and over his upper lip. He tasted the salty, metallic taste of blood, and he could feel a couple of teeth loose. “We’re going to need to take you somewhere that we can ask questions more effectively,” Stephane said. “Mildred, get the car.”

The door opened, and Peter came down the stairs as Mildred went up and left. “I did what you asked,” he said. “I took Betsy to the Metro station and made sure she caught her train …” He stopped short when he saw Pierre on the floor. “What’s this?”

“We caught a spy,” Stephane said. “Betsy’s father and stepmother were lurking nearby. Clearly, they were waiting for our meeting to end so she could report on it to them. You did make absolutely certain she caught the train?”

“Oh, yes. I took her as far as the turnstile, and I waited there until her train came through, and then I waited a while longer to make sure she didn’t come back out. She got on that train, all right.”

“I sure hope so,” Stephane said. “It wouldn’t do to have her blabbing about our operations to people who don’t share our devotion to the cause.”

Mildred arrived at the door, and Stephane and Peter dragged Pierre up the stairs, bruising his shins on the concrete steps one by one on the way up, and then folded him into the back seat of a small Citroen. Stephane crammed himself in beside him, and Peter sat in the front passenger seat while Mildred drove. “Where are we going now?” Peter asked.

“We need to take him to a place where we can ask him questions with more privacy, more … comfort,” Stephane said. “Depending on what your definition of comfort is.” He chuckled grimly.

Stephane kept pushing Pierre’s head down, but he wasn’t blindfolded, so he could get glimpses of where the car was heading. Unfortunately, those glimpses were not enough for me. Pierre might have been able to recognize where he was, since he was so very familiar with Paris, but there was no way for him to tell me where he was. I wished I could still have Betsy with me, but I realized it was also important to get word to the other wizards in Paris so we could rescue Pierre.

The Citroen pulled up in an alley behind a large warehouse. I guessed it was somewhere close to the river, since Pierre was smelling decaying fish and rotting plant matter as well as feeling cold, damp air. His captors dragged him out of the car and into a back door of the warehouse. At first glance, the building seemed to be furnished as some sort of gym, with many various exercise machines. But a second look revealed that this was no ordinary gymnasium equipment. What first looked like an ordinary massage table had sinister locking clamps at the corners. A sauna was set up to apply not just soothing steam, but superheated blasts, and substances other than water. An exercise bicycle had leg irons on the pedals. A weight machine had pulleys and clamps rigged up to place pressure or to pull on sensitive parts of the body.

Stephane put Pierre onto the massage table and clamped his arms and legs down, wrenching the injured shoulder so hard that Pierre let out a yelp. I was sure the joint was now thoroughly dislocated; Pierre was going to need a whole lot of healing up once he was rescued. Stephane reached into a drawer in the base of the table and pulled out a two-foot-long rod with a grip at one end and two prongs at the other; he tore Pierre’s shirt open and pressed the rod to his side, releasing a stiff electric shock. Pierre’s body convulsed, adding more pain in the shoulder to the jolt from the cattle prod. “Now,” Stephane said, “who are you working for?”

“I’m … working … alone,” Pierre gasped.

Stephane pulled off Pierre’s shoes and socks and gave him another jolt from the cattle prod on the sole of a foot. “Wrong answer. You good wizards always use teamwork. That’s one of your weaknesses – when we catch one of you, we can find the rest. We already know that daughter of yours is a wizard. How about your lovely wife?” He paused to think a moment, then shook his head. “Nah, she isn’t smart enough to be a wizard – if she ever had talent, she wouldn’t be able to use it.” Well, I reflected, at least that part of our ruse was working, if I even had Stephane convinced I was an intellectual lightweight. I wondered how long I could keep that up.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Boat repair update

There’s always one more thing …

Friday night we pulled Black Magic out of the water. Despite the fading light and the occasional gust of crosswind, that operation went wonderfully smoothly. The new trailer has proved its worth, with its keel guide and side ladders that not only allow easy access to the boat when it’s on the trailer but also help to align the boat with the keel guide. The Etchells may never have been designed to be trailerable (or at least ramp-launchable), but Dumbledore’s trailer design is a winner.

Saturday, we began to grind through all of the layers of inept patches at the spot where the hull had cracked. Under the paint was a substance that looked suspiciously like carpenters’ wood filler; below that was a big blob of resin, two to three inches in diameter, the edge of which shows as the vertical component of the crack in the pictures in the earlier post. Below that blob, there was a larger, thinner puddle of resin, about six inches in diameter. Finally, beneath that, was something that looked like a more competent patch job of resin-saturated fiberglass cloth.

By the time we got to that layer, we had drained the batteries for our cordless drill that we were using with a sanding wheel. We worked for a while sanding by hand until we got tired, and then we took a break to put the batteries on the charger and then hung out at the marina pavilion to cook our supper on the grill there and socialize with fellow sailors. There was a good crowd this weekend, more than I’ve seen there in several years. Although there certainly weren’t as many people as in the club’s heyday before the drought, people are beginning to discover that the lake does have a good lot of water in it, and the sailing is still good.

Sunday, we returned to Black Magic and continued to sand out the old patches. The big blob of resin continued to be our biggest problem – I’ll bet the stuff is about 8 on the Mohs scale. Once again we drained our drill’s batteries; then we borrowed the sailing club’s drill from the marina dockhouse to finish the job. While Pat was fetching the drill, we did some more work on the outside of the boat, using epoxy putty (the stuff that comes in tubs, not the stuff you get in a hardware store that looks like modeling clay) to smooth out the big patch and also the front edge of the bow of the boat, which had been scraped about quite a bit.

Once we had ground out all of the old patch material and some of the boat’s original hull, we used resin-soaked fiberglass roving to fill gaps and cloth to make a solid surface. We also used resin-soaked cloth to finish the inside of the big patch at the bow of the boat. We ended the day by using epoxy-based paint to touch up various scratches and scrapes in the boat’s topsides.

Still to be done: finishing and smoothing the inside patches, and sanding and painting the outside patch and the epoxy putty on the front edge of the bow. Ideally we get those things done Monday, and then Tuesday everything’s cured and the boat can go back into the water. This is important, because we then need to use the trailer for our other boat, Syzygy, which normally rides on a very low trailer because of its swing centerboard. Said centerboard needs repairs, and one way to make that easy is to put the boat on a high keelboat trailer so the centerboard can hang down and we can reach it easily. That makes a lot more sense than taking down the mast, using $100 worth of fuel driving the boat to a boatyard with a sling, paying the boatyard $100 an hour to do fiberglass work that we now know how to do ourselves, and then using another $100 worth of fuel to drive the boat back to the lake, and re-rigging.

But the trailer’s work still might not be done. There’s an Etchells in San Diego whose owner is in El Paso and wants to bring it to the Butte, thus assisting Zorro’s dream of building a New Mexico/West Texas Etchells fleet. Zorro’s original plan was to use his trailer and Dino’s truck to retrieve the boat, but Dino’s time has been occupied by business matters lately. If the Etchells’ owner pays our expenses, we can take our truck and the best Etchells trailer in North America to pick up his boat.

Oh, and then we also plan to use the trailer to take Black Magic to the Dillon Open Regatta in Colorado. We’ve heard that the racing itself is crazy, and the parties are also pretty good. We’d still like to get an experienced racer on the crew, and we have extra space in the condo we’ve reserved, so anyone who’s interested should drop us a line.

One thing we’ve noticed while we’ve been in the parking lot above the boat ramp, doing these repairs: Black Magic gets a lot of admirers. Everybody who drove past stopped to ooh and ahh. Some just recognized the gracefulness of the boat’s lines, but a few who knew sailboats stopped a while to chat. There was one couple who had loads of sailing experience out East – the husband recognized the lines of the boat as being those of a 12-Meter because he has a relative who has a 1930s 12-Meter that sails out of Rhode Island. There was another couple that has had considerable experience racing off Southern California, but they’re now more into comfortable sailing, including having sleeping, eating, and sanitary facilities on the boat. That kind of rules out the Etchells.

It’s interesting … even when the boat is just sitting on the trailer getting repairs, it still gets noticed. Everybody, even if they don’t know anything about sailing, comments about how it must be a very fast boat. Come to think of it, it probably is the fastest boat on Heron, where boats using motors must stay at trolling speed, or about 5 miles per hour. Under sail, Black Magic easily exceeds that.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Up to 7000 now

It’s great to be popular

Well, this site is now up to 7000 visitors. The lucky visitor this time was somebody from Pensacola, looking for song-themed polo shirts. Even though the searcher didn’t find the shirts, he or she apparently liked the place enough to stick around for 20 minutes.

Cats and mortality

In memory of Samson, a great cat

I just heard from a friend that his cat has died, as they say in the obits, “following a brief illness.” Losing a pet is always tough, especially when people try to console you by saying something like, “Well, it was only a cat.” There is no such thing as ONLY a cat. Samson probably treated him better than most humans do – I know that’s the way my cats are. There’s a humorous prayer I’ve seen on bumper stickers: “Lord, help me to become the person my dog thinks I am” – cats are the same way, just more subtle than dogs.

I remember when our old cat, Shere Khan, died, we went through something similar to what the friend has just experienced. Shere Khan had cancer, and in the end, all the vet could do was prescribe medication to reduce swelling and ease pain. As he slowed down, he needed more and more care; at the end, he couldn’t groom himself, so we had to brush his coat (he was a longhair) and help him to keep clean. Tadpole was only 7 at the time, but he was a wonderfully compassionate caregiver. Pat’s uncle’s wife was appalled that we would allow a 7-year-old to care for a dying cat -- she thought someone that young shouldn’t know about death, and that we should have had Shere Khan put to sleep as soon as the cancer diagnosis came down. But he had several months yet before his quality of life deteriorated, and I think Tadpole would have been more traumatized if we had had Shere Khan put down and then told Tadpole he had “disappeared” or “run away.”

Following Shere Khan’s death, the uncle and his wife relocated Pat’s grandmother to a new nursing home and refused to tell us where they’d moved her, so we wouldn’t be able to expose a child to her state of decay – never mind that she took great joy in his visits, even if she did with increasing frequency mistake him for Pat or Pat’s uncle as boys, both of whom he resembles. Tadpole also enjoyed the visits, because even as her memory of recent events faded, she could still tell tales of the past. But because of the uncle and wife’s intervention, we didn’t even learn she had died until three months later.

It’s funny – some people believe that animals shouldn’t be spayed or neutered, in order that children can get to see “the miracle of life” when animals give birth (although usually they aren’t to see the birth itself), but children should be spared from also learning about death. In just the Albuquerque area, 18,000 animals are put to death each year, mostly because of litters of puppies and kittens that exceed the number of homes available to adopt them. Some miracle of life. Shouldn’t the kids also learn about the “miracle of death” that so often follows the miracle of life?

Sorry, I got off on a tangent. Back to the friend who has just lost his cat: The Irish have a good idea with the wake. You gather together and celebrate the life of the deceased. Yes, you’re sad that he’s gone, but you’re also glad that you knew him. You remember all of the good times, and his foibles and endearing charms. Samson was a good cat; may he rest in peace.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

That nasty crack

Cause, perhaps, for worry but not for alarm

Here are a couple of photos of the crack in the starboard side of Black Magic. I should have put a ruler next to the crack for scale; both the horizontal and vertical parts are about three inches long. It's actually a crack in a patch on a patch that might be placed over yet another patch. I suspect previous owners of the boat have just been stopping leaks without looking at whatever the underlying cause of the leak is. I don't think it's hugely serious, but I would like to fix it in a more permanent way than previous owners have.



Since it's below the waterline, I haven't been able to see whether there's some external evidence of the crack; one idea we had was to use a halyard to heel the boat over and see whether we can get this side of the boat raised enough to see whether there's a crack or anything. I'd also like input from other Etchells people -- is this sort of crack common in an Etchells (especially one 33 years old), and if so, what is the usual way of dealing with it (besides piling patch upon patch)?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

AAAAARRRGGHHH!

I am very un-pleased with the world of online software right now

I planned to take this evening to tell all of my loyal readers about the events of the past few days, the repairs on Black Magic, the great for lake levels but lousy for sailing weather, the magical moment involving a cinnamon-colored bobcat, and a whole lot of other stuff. But instead of writing a lyrical blog post, I have been mired in a frustrating gumbo of cybernetic slime.

Dino had told Zorro about my report of the crack in the starboard side of Black Magic, and apparently the way Dino told it, Zorro thought the boat was sinking, and so he had left a frantic message on my voice-mail. I called Zorro back to reassure him that the boat wasn’t sinking, but that I was worried about this crack that had appeared. I had taken pictures of the crack, and I was planning to send them to Zorro so he could see what it looked like, so I told Zorro to watch his email for the pictures.

I copied the pictures from the camera to the computer, and then, as I was preparing to compress the files so I could send them efficiently, I discovered that this computer doesn’t have JPEG-compression software. Without compression, each picture would take about an hour and a quarter to upload. So I went in search of the software that would compress the files – the one that we already have on the laptop and the computer in Albuquerque, and that works wonderfully well, compressing files, typically, to about 6 percent of their original size. My idea was that if downloading the compressor wouldn’t take more time than uploading two photos, it would be a no-brainer to download the compressor.

So I went to the website where the compressor was available for download. I found out that the software was just about exactly the same size as one of the pictures I wanted to upload. In addition, the software is shareware, which means people can test-drive it and don’t have to pay until they decide they like it and want to continue using it. This software had a 30-day free period – so someone could use it for 30 days without paying anything. If the user liked it, the user could pay $25 and keep using it; otherwise, the software would disable itself.

I was given two choices: a prominently placed “Download Now” and a much smaller “download using your own browser (much slower).” I didn’t like the “much slower” thing, so I clicked the bit “Download Now.”

For the next hour and a half, the only reassurance I had that a download was occurring was the little two-computers icon in the lower right of my screen that showed my computer was communicating with a remote computer by showing a light-blue screen when either of the two was sending data. I was really regretting not using my browser’s downloader, even if it was theoretically “much slower,” because I didn’t have any sort of indication of download progress. I considered aborting the download and restarting with my browser, but as time progressed, I would have lost more of whatever had been downloaded.

Finally, an hour and a half later, I got the “download complete” signal. At last, I could start up the JPEG compressor and get those photos online.

Nope. All that had been downloaded in the past hour and a half was the software site’s proprietary download manager. After 10 minutes of installing that, then I could actually begin to download the software I really wanted.

Now, to give the download manager credit, when I did download the JPEG compressor, a file that would ordinarily have taken about an hour and a quarter to download ended up taking only about 20 minutes. But that download manager is good only for downloading files from its own system, so it’s not really all that useful.

So I started up the JPEG compressor software. It made me do an online registration – I gave it a soon-to-become-extinct email address so as to cut down on spam.

Then I started up the program and compressed the picture files so I could send them to Zorro. When I tried to save the compressed files, I got hit by a nasty whammy – the free trial version of the program won’t allow one to save files. If one wishes to save files, one must purchase the program.

OK, no problem, it’s only $25. I’ll do that. So I go online to the secure payment site, and I enter my credit card information. I get the message “Thank you for your payment.”

When I got back to the screen where I was trying to save files, I tried again, and I got the message “your payment hasn’t yet cleared.”

Looks like it’s going to be a long night. Zorro needs those pictures, and they take an hour and a half each at the speed I can get over the noisy rural dialup connection I have. If I hadn’t wasted so much time trying to save time, I could be going to bed about now.

I still have a lot I want to tell you all about, now that I finally have a night without a thunderstorm and related power outage. I especially want to tell about the bobcat. But I need to get those pictures to Zorro.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Captain’s responsibilities

Yeah, life ain’t fair

I need to issue an apology for some of what I’ve said in some recent posts. I haven’t really meant to come across as so negative about my crew’s actions recently. Partly, it’s been a whole lot of anger on my part, and while Pat may have earned a bit of it, he certainly didn’t earn all of it. Much of that anger should really have been directed more at myself and my own shortcomings. The failures of communication have happened on both sides, when, for instance, I thought I was being perfectly clear but apparently I was not.

And Pat has emailed me a compendium of excerpts and anecdotes that show, no matter what, the captain is ultimately to be held responsible for whatever happens on a boat. One example, reported by Mark Twain when he was in San Francisco, was when the crew of a boat needed to get some varnish from a cask that was stored below. The captain ordered the crew to bring the cask up to the deck so vapors would dissipate, but the crew disobeyed, drawing the varnish while the cask was below, and their lantern ignited the fumes, and the resulting fire destroyed the ship. Even though the crew disobeyed the captain’s orders, the captain was held responsible.

Yikes. OK, so the hole that got punched in Black Magic is really my fault, since I was in command at the time. Still, it’s awfully scary that even if I do everything right, if somebody else screws up, it’s officially my fault. I’m beginning to rethink this whole captain-in-charge thing – maybe I’m not cut out for it.

Meanwhile, on a lighter note, I was watching the Water Channel on satellite – the Thursday prime-time lineup is generally sailing-oriented. Early in the evening, there was a short bit on “Sailing Center” about fiberglass repairs. Later, there was a really exciting show called “Extreme Sailing: Hawaii” about the finish of the Transpac and the ensuing Maui Offshore Races. It was just getting exciting when the power went out, so I don’t know how it ended. Ah, the hardships of living in a rural place where the electric power isn’t so reliable – although the local electric co-op just installed a new substation that was supposed to make service more reliable in this area. But then … we’ve been getting a huge lot of rain, and if going without power for an hour or three a day is the penalty for the rain, it’s a price we’re willing to pay, as precious as moisture is around here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A race (sort of) and then a day of “learning experiences”

There’s a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

The New Mexico Sailing Club has traditionally held its Fourth of July Long Race every year. But the race hasn’t happened for the past few years because of the drought that has left the lake without enough water to float the marina, and last year, when there was enough water, there were bureaucratic hassles that kept the marina from opening until August. So this year we tried to revive the Long Race after a long interval.

It couldn’t exactly be considered a smashing success. There were only two boats entered, Black Magic and one of the loyal marina-maintenance work-party guys who decided to enter when he saw that we had bottles of wine as prizes for the first three finishers – if there were only two boats in the race, he’d get some wine.

We started the race about even, but on the first leg of the race, we gradually pulled out a lead. Winds were very light and extremely dodgy – not steady enough to consider raising a spinnaker. The other boat had a whisker pole and did run well wing-on-wing. Then, for some reason I can’t figure out, we were moving and he wasn’t. We sailed through some patches where there was actual wind, but then, so did he. And we sailed through some patches where there wasn’t any wind to speak of.

The race course was going out from the Narrows, around the Point, passing north of the Island, to a channel marker northwest of the Island, rounding the Island to port, to another channel marker north-northwest of the Island, then round the Island, round a channel marker on the south side of the lake, then back through the Narrows to finish. We made our second rounding of the Island shortly after the other guy made his first. After we rounded the southern channel marker, we were becalmed for 20 minutes, while the lake to the west of us still had wind, so we feared the other guy would catch up to us. But then we got wind again, and we headed into the Narrows – at this point the other guy was probably about two miles behind us. Winds in the Narrows were bizarre – we went in on a broad reach, and then we were close-hauled, and then the wind switched again, and we were on a reach again, and then on a run. The winds that had been light and fluky strengthened, and just after we crossed the finish line, they got fierce and gusty as a thunderstorm approached. We got in to the dock just in time, as the wind really began to howl.

We waited around the marina for a long time for the other guy to finish the race, but then we needed to go in to Chama to get groceries before the supermarket closed. It turns out he eventually showed up about 9 p.m. – when the weather got fierce, he gave up on the racing and decided to anchor until the weather let up.

Tuesday, the Fourth of July, we had more excitement. At least our “learning experience” isn’t nearly as scary as that of some other sailors.

Early in the day, there was no wind. So we brought our picnic lunch to the marina and socialized with the dockmaster and others who were around (surprisingly few for the Fourth of July, when one would think there would be more people with vacation time – apparently there are a lot of cruel employers out there who made people work Monday even though Tuesday was a holiday, and it wasn’t worth the trip to the lake for just one day of time on the water. We need to enlighten these employers that time on the water makes for happier, and therefore more productive, employees).

The wind finally came up enough to sail, but there were also looming thunderclouds to the northeast. I didn’t like those clouds. But the winds at that moment were nearly dead calm, and Pat wanted to sail. So we set sail.

We were about a quarter of the way up the Narrows when the wind started to do really weird things – shifting direction almost totally at random, and getting intense but only in bursts. Pat wanted to keep sailing, but with those winds, there was no way we could have had any control of where we were going. So we headed back to the marina. The wind continued to stiffen, and it also continued to shift direction. One moment, we were on a run, and the next, we were in irons. Pat and Tadpole were frantically hauling on the sheets, only to let them out again when the wind changed. I had Tadpole drop the jib, which helped a bit to keep the boat controllable, but not by much since the Etchells jib is very small compared to the mainsail. In retrospect, I realize I should have dropped the main and kept the jib up.

The wind continued to build. I did not realize it at the time, but some serious communication problems were developing between the captain and crew. I was feathering the boat into the wind to slow it down and keep control. My crew didn’t know that that’s what I was doing. They worried about whether I was putting the boat into irons and losing control of it. Pat at this point said “What are you doing?”, and he used the same tone of voice and exact words that for the 23 years we’ve been married mean “Carol Anne, you’re screwing up.” I didn’t know what I might have been doing wrong, so I couldn’t answer him. It turns out what he really wanted to know was my plan for coming into the marina and docking. But I didn’t know that was what he was asking. I didn’t even know he was asking me a question. I just thought he was criticizing my handling of the boat.

The winds were getting even fiercer. Pat suggested that we might wish to try to tie up at the end of a pier instead of going into our dock. I said that might be a good idea, but I’d look at getting into the slip first. We went into the channel toward the slip, and I very quickly agreed with Pat – “We’re going in a circle and then to the end pier,” I said.

Unfortunately, Pat and Gerald didn’t understand what I meant by “a circle.” To port was the shore, so I couldn’t turn that direction. So I needed to turn to starboard. And as the boat turned, at one moment the bow of boat was pointed into the slip. I wanted to keep turning and go back out into the open water beyond the marina, but Pat didn’t understand that, so when the bow was pointed at the slip, he pulled in the mainsheet to point the boat into the slip. Never mind that we had way too much way on the get into the slip without a major mishap. I still had the helm hard over to steer clear of the dock completely, so we could circle around and try again, or just dock at the end or the pier until the wind went down.

But Pat kept the mainsail on and didn’t jibe it, and instead of jibing and coming around again, we crashed into the dock. Actually, it wouldn’t have been so bad if there wasn’t a cleat just in the wrong place. The boat rode over the edge of the dock, and it scraped some of the paint off, and it would have just rocked back into the water, except there was a cleat at that spot on the dock. So now Black Magic has a hole in the bow – it’s above the waterline, so it’s not all that serious, about the size and shape of a standard dock cleat. We’ve patched it with duct tape for the time being, but we’re going to need Dumbledore and/or Zorro to help us fix up that hole. We know some about fiberglass, but not enough.

Based on our learning experiences, we’re working on communication. For one thing, Pat has promised he will only use the code for “Carol Anne, you’re screwing up” when I actually am screwing up, and he will find some other way to communicate when he needs more information about what I’m doing or planning. We all now know that when I say we’re doing “a circle,” it means a tack and a gybe in rapid succession I may also call “penalty turn starboard” (or port) to indicate to my crew that we’re doing a short-order tack and gybe – even if we aren’t being penalized, the idea is that we do this maneuver quickly.

Another thing that I didn’t realize was that Pat and Tadpole didn’t really have a good feel for how nimble Black Magic is. They were worried about such things as my slowing the boat down by putting it into irons. For them, having the boat go backwards is a bad thing. For me, that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes, being able to bring the boat to a dead stop is a good thing, and even going backwards can be useful. Yeah, I have to keep track of what’s to leeward, so I don’t run into something that wouldn’t be good to run into. But still, I’ve had practice in racing boats, and I know how to take a boat that’s standing still and get it up to speed. (I’ve also had practice in making the boat stand still at a specific point in the water.) I’m still learning the specific characteristics of Black Magic, but I know generally how it works.

One piece of advice that I can give – do NOT use the same words for sailing that you use for your personal relationships and conflicts. If “What are you doing?” (especially if expressed in a condescending tone) is a code for “you’re doing it wrong, you idiot,” you don’t want to use it on the water if you actually want communication.

But even if I got a hole punched in my boat, I got off easy. Shortly after we got into the marina, we got a distress call on the radio – a boat had been out on the water, and when the fierce winds struck, the boat had been knocked horizontal. Two non-sailor passengers on the boat had been washed overboard. During the knockdown, the boat’s motor had become non-functional, so the boat’s owners couldn’t get back to the persons overboard, although they had at least been able to throw a couple of PFD cushions for them to hang onto—a good thing, since the folks in the water weren’t wearing PFDs to start with.

To make matters worse, the boat that had lost the passengers subsequently had an engine problem – either the knockdown flooded the engine with water so it wouldn’t work, or the main halyard that came loose during the knockdown fouled the prop. However you put it, these people were in trouble.

As it turns out, there were other people out on the lake to rescue the overboards. There’s a couple who have just bought and brought to the lake a very large cruising-type boat. They haven’t got the sails working yet, but they wanted to get out on the water, even if only under motor power. They came across the naufragés and rescued them.

The State Parks people have a patrol boat, but it’s not even in the water, so it takes them a while to respond to anything. When we got the report of people overboard in the water, it was at least 20 minutes before the State Parks boat got launched. Before the drought that dried up the marina, the NMSC had provided a slip, free of charge, for the State Parks to keep a patrol boat docked at all times. If I remember correctly, that slip was a part of the club’s concession agreement with the State Parks – we were to provide a slip for a State Parks boat.

Certainly, recent events have proved the value of having a public-safety boat in the water at all times. We, as a sailing club, should definitely look into having the State Parks people keep their boat on hand so it can be available at a moment’s notice. I believe we should make a formal policy (assuming such a policy hasn’t already been made) that we will provide a slip in which the State Parks powers-that-be may keep a public-safety boat.