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Photo credit: Barb Belknap
The O’Day sailboat in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

The boat

—Ty Belknap

In the spring of  2009, during my three-year retirement from the Signpost, I got a job canvassing addresses for the Census Bureau. I was bored and feeling somewhat impoverished. One day on the job, I drove up a long driveway to get GPS coordinates on a friend’s house and drove away with a 16-foot O’Day sailboat that he suspected would be confiscated by the IRS in lieu of unpaid taxes. He said that he didn’t know how to sail anyway, and the boat—bartered for carpentry—had been sitting in his driveway for too long.

The boat was originally purchased in the late seventies by a local contractor, who was killed in the nineties. The boat spent most of her life on a trailer, as do most boats in the desert. The mainsail was still rigged, draped across the cockpit, flimsy and sun-bleached. The jib was in the cuddy cabin providing food and bedding for a nest of pack rats.

The boat sat in my driveway for a couple of months until I was again unemployed, looking for something to do. I cleaned her up and taped up the rips and rat holes in the sails with packing tape. I just wanted to go on a test run to make sure everything would hold together before investing in sails, trailer tires, and all the pricey items that go along with a free boat. One hot summer day, I invited my wife and another couple to join me on Cochiti Lake. The boat sailed pretty well under the circumstances—broad in the beam, nice long bench seats with a built-in cooler, comfortable and stable for swimming and picnicking. It was fun, but by the end of the day, the sails were in tatters.

The boat was deemed worth an investment, so I registered it with the MVD and started shopping online for sails. She sat patiently in my driveway until the registration expired three years later. Last winter, I finally bought a cheap set of Chinese-made sails for $500. The tire salesman who sold me a spare for the trailer insisted that forty-year-old tires were unsafe. Another $250. It costs another $40 for re-registration renewal with late fee. It is said that a boat is a hole in the water to pour money into.

Last month, my wife and I went sailing on what is left of Elephant Butte, launching on a cloudy windless day at Rock Canyon Marina. Several members of the Truth or Consequences Sailing Club heaped praise upon the boat, and encouraged us to join the club. The ranger warned us about dogs off leash and open containers. The sails fit beautifully, but the wind never came, so we rigged down and headed into T or C.

T or C is still the funky end-of-road place we used to love. It has some trendy refurbished hotels and spas downtown, but they had no vacancies because of the monthly arts walk—or else, they did not allow dogs. It wasn’t just for old-times sake that we ended up at the Indian Springs Motel with its mismatched sheets and a shared shower at the end of the portal. We pulled the boat right in front of our efficiency suite, completing a privacy wall that included a pile of cast-off hotel furnishings on one side and crumbling concrete lions on the other. The public spa was just across the parking lot and the Rio Grande, though shut off at the dam, was standing still just down the street.

After an evening of bluegrass pickin’ and hollerin’ at a friend’s mainstreet music gallery, we took the late night walk back to the motel, past the quiet police station, the art galleries, and the colorfully painted buildings with healing arts and spa signage.

When I went out at 4:00 a.m. to check on the dog, I noticed water flowing down the street. But it wasn’t raining. Minutes later, trucks and backhoes roared in to fix a broken water main. To escape the noise, we went back out to the lake early, used the launch ramp at the main entrance to Elephant Butte State Park, sailed out of the harbor, dropped anchor right off the beach, and threw sticks in the lake for the dog while waiting for some wind. When it finally picked up, we had a fine sail in a great little boat.

On the way out of the park, I bought a senior pass for a mere one hundred dollars that allows a year of camping, boat launching, and day use at all New Mexico state parks. The boat changed everything. It’s a sailor’s life for me!

Open rec sites for 2013

Forest recreation specialists are currently busy preparing 54 campgrounds, trail heads, and picnic areas for the summer season across the Santa Fe National Forest.

Hazard tree inspections, drinking water sampling, and general maintenance to facilities brought on by winter snow are being accomplished so that visitors can once again enjoy their national forests.

However, there will be a reduction in services at some sites. Generally at sites where services are reduced there will be no trash collection, no restrooms available, no drinking water, and fewer patrols for maintenance and visitor contacts. In certain areas, no parking will be provided. This will require the public to be even more vigilant in keeping the forest clean this year.

During the process, Forest staff made sure different types of recreation opportunities would be provided and geographically distributed throughout the forest. The Forest Service encourages the public to visit sites with full amenities and consider visiting the forest during the week to help reduce the potential for increased weekend traffic, especially in areas like Jemez and Pecos Districts.

For more information, visit, or contact the Santa Fe National Forest at 438-5300.

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