Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pain In The Eyes

I usually wear glasses, but I have used contact lenses for windsurfing for almost 10 years. But last week when I put the lenses in, my eyes started to hurt right away. Really hurt. As if I had put a blob of sunscreen on my finger and then put that in my eye. The "Get that thing out very quickly!!" kind of pain in the eye. Or rather, eyes, since it happen on both sides.

That is happened on both sides was good news and bad news. It ruled out scratches on the retina and similar causes. My next suspicion was a allergic reaction to one of the preservatives in the solution that the lenses came in (I always used the contacts directly out of the original packaging, without rinsing them first). So I got some contact lens solution, and soaked a pair for a while before putting them in - problem solved. Or so I thought.

Next time we wanted to go sailing, the pain was back - impossible to keep the lenses in. While waiting for my eyes to get back to normal, I did some internet research. I had not quite believed that the cause was an allergic reaction, since the pain was instantaneous - allergies typically take a little while. I know: I aced my allergy test, with 36 positive reactions against the 40 allergens tested!

I did find a few references about the boric acid and sodium borate that is used in most contact lens solutions being a problem. The borate is used as a buffer, to keep the pH constant. But a second reason that it is used is that is slightly toxic - it is anti-microbial. You can use concentrated borate solutions to kill ants - they think it's sugar water, and die a bit later. A scientific study even showed that borate-based contact lens packaging solutions can kill eye cells (human corneal epithelial cells, if you want to know the specifics).

At the local drugstore, I found that almost all contact lens solutions contain borate. Even the "Sensitive eyes" and "Saline" solutions use borate as the buffer. But fortunately, one of the many solutions was phosphate-based and borate-free. In my initial tests, soaking the lenses in this solution fixed the problem. Let's hope this holds up!

Below are a few pictures that Mike Murphy took during a recent session:

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fancy Lawnmower

I love Texas. No, not the prevalent political views, or the guns, or the big cars. But I love the wind and winter weather. And they even made a beer for windsurfers like me:
Those of you who sail like I do know what I mean:
  • Go in a straight line
  • Turn around when you have to
  • Go back in a straight line, end up right next to where you started
  • Repeat. Repeat. ...
Sound like mowing the lawn, doesn't it? That's what I do. That what most windsurfers I know do. Watching it is about as interesting as watching someone mow the lawn. Are you really surprised that few people who see us windsurfing want to learn to do this?

I'm not sure about the "fancy", though. Maybe it refers to the pretty colors of my sails and boards? Or perhaps to the GPS I wear? I just got the new Locosys GW-52. It's very yellow - fancy yellow? It works just fine, and costs about the same as the old GW-31. It has a few new things I like (e.g. that is shows the distance in Speed Genie mode, and the touch screen instead of rubber buttons), and a few things I don't like (shorter battery life and recording time, no SD card, and you need Windows to get the data off). Overall, I'd call it a draw compared to the old GT-31, or perhaps a small improvement. That is, unless you're a Mac fan who never uses Windows. But even then, there is hope - future versions of GPSBabel will hopefully support the GW-52, and eliminate the need for Windows.

The GW-52 costs about 3x as much as the Canmore GP-102. Is it worth spending that much more? If you're halfway serious about speedsurfing, I'd say yes. For me, the big difference is that the screen is bigger and much easier to read. I'd also trust the Locosys waterproofing a bit more, based on the experience with the GT-31. But keep in mind that you MUST use both units in a waterproof bag - they are splash proof, not waterproof! I'd strongly suggest to double-bag the units in a small zip lock bag, in case the waterproof armband starts to leak (every single one I have ever used leaked sooner or later). If you want to get your own GW-52, contact Craig Bergh at the Midwest Speed Quest in the US, or your local speed gurus in Australia or Europe.

Back to lawn mowing. In the almost 3 weeks we've been in Corpus Christi, I have mowed the lawn 11 times, with a total distance sailed of 500 km. The most often used sail was a 5.0 - quite a bit smaller than the 6.5 I typically use at home! It's been so windy that we have yet to get our first light wind freestyle session in. I love light wind freestyle, and need it as a confidence boost. Light wind freestyle reminds me that I can do a bit of freestyle. If I go without for to long, any attempts to fancy up my lawn mowing by throwing in a few 360s or push tacks fail, and I go back to not-so-fancy lawn mowing, like yesterday. Yesterday was just not my day, but the lawn mowing was still fun. Nina did the tricky stuff, with a few planing switch duck jibes in the straps, good flaka tries, and a nice Shove It that I actually saw. No surprise she's tired today, after trying one thing after the other for more than 4 hours, without a break!

One peculiar thing about northerly wind around here is that it is so dry that the water on the sails dries in no time. Since the water in the Laguna Madre is extremely salty, that leaves a white film on the sails if you don't fall every few minutes. Maybe that's a sign that we all should work on freestyle tricks? 

I have been playing around with a few different mounts for the GoPro. We did get a Flymount for Xmas, but I don't like that it is pointed to one side of the sail - on the other tack, all you see is the sail. I then got a Masthero-like mount from Shapeways that allow the camera to be centered, and used it yesterday. But the lens also got covered by a thin salt layer in no time, so the image got blurry very quickly again after each fall. I'll have to try this again, but for now, I'll leave you with a screen shot from one of the "clearer" periods yesterday:

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sore and Tired

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining. But I am sore and tired. We have windsurfed 7 of the 14 days since we came to Corpus Christi. After sailing very little in the 6 weeks before, we are both tired. And sore. Almost every day. But I'm not complaining.

Those who know me will understand the severity of the situation if I point out that we did not windsurf on two days with planing conditions. That includes today, where the meters showed 16 mph or more for most of the late morning and afternoon, and a short period of 20 mph wind. But yesterday was a long day. I mowed the lawn. Nina tried Vulcans, Shove-Its, Flakas, and Duck Tacks. She had a blast:
Although she did yell at the sail occasionally when it decided to hit the water instead of coming back up to her:
Her Vulcan tries look promising .. she's definitely on the way, getting the board around 90 degrees or more almost every try:
She reported that she had a couple of decent Shove-Its. Here's one where the shadow of the board on the water looks cool:
The water was almost crowded, with perhaps 20 local sailors out. That included a few good freestylers showing Donkey Jibes, Spocks, Duck Tacks, Switch Konos, and more. Even WorldWind's Randy came out to play and showed Grubbies (regular and clew first), Vulcans, Spocks, and a spectacular loop crash. Maybe he tried to show me that there's nothing to be afraid of.

More warm southerly wind is in the forecast for tomorrow afternoon - probably 5.6 and then 5.0 for me, 4.7 and 4.2 for Nina. Then a few days of "chilly" northerlies in the morning - temperatures in the 50s, but plenty of sun. Water temperatures in the Laguna Madre rise steadily on warm days, and are now in the mid-60s. I'm all out of excuses for not doing more freestyle...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beetle Juice in the Beer

We drove for 24 hours straight. The next day, we drove for 10 hours. On the third day, we drove another six hours, and finally arrived in Corpus Christi, Texas. After all that driving, we'll stay for a while. We brought 9 windsurf boards and about 15 sails that all want to be sailed in Texas. Everything from 220 liters down to 62 liters. That will take a while.

On the second day of driving, we had to choose: drive another 6 hours and arrive in the middle of the night, or take it easy? We took it easy, and were darn glad we did. The hotel was nice, with a bar just a 3 minute walk away. The bar was pretty cool, with a huge fish tank behind it, and UFC on the TV. But we barely got to watch it, since the fellow sitting next to us had plenty of interesting things to tell and suggest. The first thing was to drink Ziegenbock beer, a Texas Amber. Not a bock bier - it tasted more like a blonde. Perfect.

Except for what they put into the beer! Our new Texan friend Ben told us the secret behind it's great taste: they put beetle juice into the beer! It seemed a tad suspicious that he mentioned this only after I had told him that I am a vegetarian. But he said it with a very straight face, so it must be true. Now, you can even read about it on the internet, so it absolutely positively must be true.

Ben gave us a couple more good tips. The first one was to try the nachos. I must have eaten nachos hundreds of times before, but this was the first time we could finish the whole plate without getting our fingers dirty (using forks and knives with nachos is really not an option). They had arranged the nachos in a circle on the outside of the plate, and covered them with just the right amount of beens, cheese, and so on. What an idea!

His next suggestion was that we absolutely had to stop at a Buc-ees. Ever heard that everything is bigger in Texas? It's true:
Our Nissan hi-roof van does not usually look small. But in this gas station, it did. There were about 100 gas pumps there! It was not very busy, but there must have been at least 20 cars pumping gas at the same time.

Like most other gas stations, there was a convenience store attached to this one - here's a look at one half of it:
Yes, it is huge. Texas sized. It also has style - here's the entrance to the bathrooms:
Definitely not your average gas station bathrooms!  The inside had art work, too. Of course, it was super-clean and spacious. I would have taken pictures, but I did not think that would have been welcomed by the other guys in there... so you'll have to take my word for it, or come look yourself: the bathrooms at Buc-ees are nicer that the bathrooms in 99 percent of all hotels. At least!

We spent close to an hour in the store, checking out all the cool stuff they had. Here are a few examples:
Texans like cows. A lot. They usually eat them, but sometimes, they paint them.
There's a gun hanging off the "We Don't Dial 911" sign.
Somehow, we managed to make it out of the store without spending much money. Maybe we were just tired from all the driving. We did get some sugar-roasted Pecans, which where fantastic.

We've been on North Padre Island for 2 days now, and love it. Temperatures are around 65-70 F (17-21 C), with plenty of sun. We even got some windsurfing in - nice to be in a short-sleeved wetsuit again! In case you're wondering why things are so great here, the Buc-ees store had a sign that explains it: