Friday, April 21, 2017

Back

We're back. For good this time.

First two months in Texas. Typical temperatures: 60s. Typical wetsuit: 3 mm short sleeve. Nice.

Then two weeks in Dahab. Typical temperatures: 70s. Typical wetsuit: 2 mm short sleeve. Nice!

Today on Cape Cod: 45ºF (7ºC). Water a couple of degrees warmer. Except for the water coming from above, but that was just a light drizzle. It did not even hurt when 30 mph gusts made it go sideways. Yes, of course - I just had to go windsurfing in such inviting conditions! I will not let a slight drop in temperatures keep me off the water!

East wind and nobody else out means East Bay. Perfectly safe, quite flat, but a bit gusty. So I rigged a bit bigger - 7.8. The shoes were a bit fatter - 5 mm. So was the suit - I'd rather be too warm than to cold, so the Ianovated suit with tubes was called for. The mittens took some getting used to, but at least they were palmless.

Fun it was. And work. Or rather, a workout. A good workout. The Kalmus wind meter showed only 23 mph averages gusting to 28, but some other nearby meters showed a few miles more. The 7.8 felt big, so I'll believe the other meters. But maybe it was just the gloves. And the low tide: some sections in East Bay can get to shallow for 33 cm fins at low tide. Thanks to the drizzle and my glasses, seeing where it was getting to flat was impossible. That kept the session short. But the cold was beaten! I was warm or hot the entire time. Nice.

Back to Dahab:
Reef and mountain view at Speedy in Dahab

The two weeks there were fantastic. Meeting lots friendly, laid-back people restored my faith in humanity. It did not matter one bit that their faith differed from the faith I was brought up with. Windsurfing was also great: 9 of 13 days planing, mostly on 5.x (4.x for Nina), plus a couple of days with nice light wind sessions, and a couple of days of snorkeling. Nina liked it even more than I did, since she had plenty of company from other freestylers working on everything from Vulcans to Flakas and Kabikuchis. Travel warnings for Egypt almost killed tourism for the last few years, but southern Sinai is Beduin country, far removed from the trouble areas. I have never felt safer than in Dahab. Really nice.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

No Wind Fun

After 4 windy days in a row, we actually welcomed a no-wind day today. How windy? Nina was on 3.7, 4.0, and 4.2. Thanks to all the good food here and in Texas, I was on 5.x sails most of the time, although a 4.7 would have been plenty for at least one session. And this is still not the windy season - from Mai to September or October, windless days are rare, and 4.x sails are the norm for guys.

But for now, Dahab is just as serious about the no-wind days as it is about the windy days: no wind means 0.0 mph, gusting to 0.0, for much of the day. Fortunately, this is also a great diving and snorkeling spot, so snorkeling we went. Nina is hogging the drive with the GoPro footage, but here's one screen shot I managed to grab before I had to hand the drive over to her:
I don't snorkel often, but I have snorkeled in Belize, Puerto Rico, Bonaire, and the US Virgin Islands. Today was certainly up there with the best spots I had seen before - lots of variety in both corals and fish. But the entire experience was rather unique - here is how it went down:
We walked 5 minutes from our lovely condo to the windsurf rental place to pick up our wet suits and snorkeling gear, and then walked back a minute to the street, where one of the local Beduins asked us right away if we needed a taxi - yes, we did. After a short drive that cost us 20 Egyptian pounds (LE; about $1), we arrived at the Eel Garden View restaurant right at the beach. We dropped our stuff at a table, ordered a large water (8 LE), and walked out into the water. The picture above was taken about 200 or 300 feet from the beach. We snorkeled for about an hour, and then had a great light lunch at the restaurant (Beduin tea for Nina to warm up, a hummus platter and falafel sandwich, and fresh pressed orange juice - all for less than $5). We hung out there for about 3 hours in total, before walking down the beach promenade for desert at the German bakery. Another taxi ride back (virtually all cars in Dahab are taxis!), and then we almost had to hurry - only a few more hours before we go back into town for dinner with our hosts, Toby and Fiona.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Yum Yum

We finally got some of the wind Dahab is famous for today. I was fully powered to overpowered on 5.3, Nina switched from 4.2 down to 3.7. We sailed for a bit more than 3 hours; the wind stuck around for most of the afternoon, but dropped from high 20s (mph) to around 20. I'll use my GPS tracks to explain the three windsurfing areas here:
The area on the top left is the lagoon. The wind towards the launch at the left is partly blocked by windsurf centers and hotels, and gusty. The main advantages of the lagoon are that it's close the the biggest windsurf center, Harry Nass, and that you can stand at the right end.

The area in the middle is "Speedy", with a big reef on the right, a small reef on the left side, and about 800 m of relatively flat water in the middle. It gets flatter the closer you get to the shore, but there is a small reef behind the sandbar, so windsurfers tend to stay about 50 meters from shore. As you might guess from the tracks, I like this area a lot.

The third area is on the right side, past the reef. There's big swell there, about head to logo high today. The waves sometimes ramp up and topple over a bit, but don't really break. That spot was quite popular today. But if you have gear issues there, you drift downwind quickly, and you'll be virtually invisible between the swell. That why most centers suggest to go there with at least 3 windsurfers - one to stay with the windsurfer in trouble to "mark" him, and one to sail back to the center to get help. The Harry Nass centers actually hand out walkie-talkies so you can call for help if in trouble.

Windsurfing was a lot of fun today, but the highlight of the day was once again the evening. We first stopped at the funky Every Day Cafe for some excellent cake, and then had a beer at Churchill's bar. But the last stop topped it all: Yum Yum Falafel for the best falafel sandwiches I ever had. The cost of 4 sandwiches and two bottles of water? 28 LE, about $1.50. Ridiculously cheap, ridiculously good.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dahab!

We've made it to Dahab. No, that's not Dahab in the picture above. That's just a pretty picture from the flight. Of course, you know where Dahab is, but for those few who do not, here's a map:
Dahab is on the Sinai peninsula in Egypt, at the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia is just 15 miles away across the water. The area around Dahab is quite picturesque, and very different from anything I had seen before:
We are staying in a lovely little house about 3 minutes from the beach that we share with the owners, Fiona and Toby, and one other apartment for vacationers. Fiona greeted us when we arrived after the 4-hour flight from Germany and a one hour drive. A couple of hours later, Toby drove us around town, showing us where the best restaurants and "super markets" are. They had stocked the fridge before we came, and Toby took the fresh fruit and groceries we bought back to the apartments after dropping us of at a restaurant - fantastic service! We started to understand why the apartment had gotten only 5-star ratings on TripAdvisor - and many of those!
The restaurants here are very good, and there are dozens of them right on the water. We had pizza the first night which was better than 99% of all pizzas I've ever had. The cost? About $5 for a pizza and beer. Yes, it's dirt cheap here. Nina had a big meat dinner the next day, which was served with a little portable grill placed on the table, and included fresh bread and dips before and Beduin tea afterwards, all for $9. My vegetarian meal cost about half as much and was very good. This is a great place to be a vegetarian: all restaurants have plenty of vegetarian selections. Here are a few pictures:
The seafront promenade
Top level view
Rooftop dining under palm trees
"But what about the windsurfing?", you ask? Well, we knew that this is not the prime wind season (although there are plenty of expert and pro level windsurfers who are here for months). We did windsurf the last two days, but the wind was a tad on the lighter side. Nina was on 4.7 and 5.0, and had to pump quite a bit, but did get to work on Flakas both days; I was on 7.5 and a Fanatic Ray 115 (a bit overpowered when the wind picked up), and on 6.5 and a 107 l freestyle board yesterday. Today is a no-wind day (averages right now: 0 knots), but I'm hoping to get a light wind freestyle session in in the afternoon. The weekend forecast looks promising, though, with 3 windy days in a row. That should be more typical Dahab wind: our host Toby, who is about the same size I am, has a 4.8 m sail as his largest sail.