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.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Texas Summary

We're back from Texas. This year was quite different from the previous two years. The temperature seemed to be almost the same the entire 2 months, with some days in the 70s in January, and days in the low 60s in March. Most of the rain came towards the end of the trip; in previous years, we saw more rain earlier on.

This year was windy! We sailed 29 days, just about every other day. That includes only one day of light wind sailing, and we love light wind freestyle. There were a few more sailable days that we did not go for various reasons - including that we were tired from sailing 3 or 4 days in a row before, with better wind. We'll go back next year, but probably without the light wind boards.

Driving back was easy this time, once the van was packed. That, however, was not so easy, since we bought a new board, two new sails, and a new mast in Corpus. All the new gear and great wind made it easy to set new personal bests in 4 of the 6 GPS Team Challenge disciplines. Corpus Christi is great for speedsurfing!

Back home, it became apparent that our house had missed us badly. Major pout attack: electricity was out in about half of the house, and neither heat nor hot water worked. But a friendly electrician stopped by within 15 minutes and got most of the electricity back up (with a second outside repair scheduled for tomorrow), and we had backup heat from a gas stove, a wood burning stove, and several electric heaters. So we waited until today to get the heat fixed; all that was needed was a new "thermal fuse" for $25. It did cost us $120 to learn that, but the repair guy was very friendly and professional, and showed up within a couple of hours after we called. He did not have the part that was needed in the van, and would have had to come back a day later to put it in; but instead, he asked me if I was "somewhat handy", and then explained where I could get the part, and how to put it in (which was trivial). 40 minutes later, we had heat and hot water again. These little outages sure make you appreciate things you usually take for granted!

We knew about the heat and electric problems before we even started to drive back, thanks to wifi thermostats and switches. The thermostat alerted us that the heat was not working when it showed that the heater was running all the time, but the temperature never reached 50 degrees. Not a problem, since we had backup electric heaters hooked up to wifi switches ... until two of the switches went offline a couple of days later. At that point, we got a bit nervous. In previous years, our neighbor would have checked on the house, but he just moved to Arizona. Fortunately, Bruce and Gerda live less than a mile away, and were kind enough to check for us. Since the electricity was out, they could not get in through the garage as planned, but they were able to peek into the basement windows and assure us that we'd not be faced with the worst-case scenario: broken pipes and a flooded basement. Big thanks to Gerda and Bruce! Also many thanks to Jerry for recommending Alex, who went above and beyond to help us get the electricity back up.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Big Foot Problems

Have you ever had a windsurf session where your feet got bigger and bigger as time went on? That's what happened to me today! Let me show you.

It all started well enough. We did not get the usual Texas sunshine, but at least the rain that had been with us for almost a week stopped today. I had hoped to do some freestyle, but when the averages picked up to almost 30 mph, and my 5.0 m sail suddenly seemed huge, I settled for trying to jibe without falling instead. At first, things went ok:


But then, my feet started to get bigger, and I had problems getting into the straps:


As the size of my feet kept increasing, my increasingly desperate attempts to get into the straps after the jibe had me bouncing around:


When I finally got my feet back into the straps, I put them in really good. Too good, as I discovered when I tried to get them out again in the next jibe:


That hurt a bit. Clearly, my big feet required some changes. The first thing that came to mind was a duck jibe, so I tried that:


So far, so good. But I don't really do Duck Jibes. That's too much like freestyle. So how about we just copy the delayed foot work, but otherwise do a normal jibe? Let's see:

That worked! But then, I remembered what my windsurf teach guru Andy Brandt says about this jibe (called "Sail First Jibe" in Alan Cadiz' jibe video): "Don't do it!". I learned the hard way to always do what Andy Brandt says. One time in Bonaire, he told me to go in because I was tired. I went for "one more run", ruined a sail, and almost broke my nose. So something needed to change!

Fortunately, I remembered that doing a sail-first jibe with both feet in the straps is allowed - it's an "easy" way to learn sailing switch stance in the straps. So let's try that:

That has some promise! For some reason, though, planing out seems more difficult. One might argue that this is because the weight further back sinks the tail and reduces speed, but who wants to be that technical? I have a better idea: I'll blame the chop instead! Chop can be blamed for all kinds of jibe problems. Sure, Bird Island Basin does not have a lot of chop, but there is some! All I need is a place that's even flatter! So our next stop (after a brief return to Cape Cod to shovel the drive way): Dahab in Egypt! Stay tuned...

Monday, February 20, 2017

Eye Protection

I blogged about the importance of protecting your eyes from UV light while windsurfing last year, and it's time for an update. My reason to look into this was that I had been diagnosed with cataracts. "No big deal, everyone gets them", you might say. Largely true - but my grandmother died during cataract surgery, so there are darn good reasons to delay and avoid it as long as possible.
Cataracts and other eye problems are directly linked to UV exposure. Wearing sunglasses can help a lot, but has a few shortcomings - some UV rays can still enter the eyes from the sides and from reflection on the back side of the lenses; water drops can impair vision; and on partly sunny days, sunglasses can simply be annoying. I did wear either prescription sunglasses or (on cloudy days) non-tinted polycarbonate glasses almost every single day I windsurfed since last year; but my lovely wife often finds sunglasses too bothersome, and sometimes sails unprotected on cloudy and partly sunny days.
Nina speeding on a cloudy day

I have always found contact lenses much more convenient for windsurfing, and used daily disposables for years, so I'm happy to report that I am back to using contacts. But this time around, I went for UV absorbing contact lenses - specifically, Acuvue Oasys 1-Day lenses. They absorb more than 90% of UVA and 99% of UVB, making them the best UV absorbing lenses I could find. Some other contact lenses also have good to very good UV absorption, but most lenses do not - including the ones I had used until last year. I plan to also wear sunglasses on sunny days, and polycarbonate safety glasses on cloudy days; on partially cloudy days, UV exposure can actually be even higher than on sunny days. So far, the protection seems to be working - at this year's eye doctor follow-up, the cataracts seems unchanged relative to last year (after appearing suddenly within the 2 years before that).

So, if you are wearing contacts while windsurfing, double-check that they offer UV protection. If not, talk to your eye doctor about getting a different kind for windsurfing. If you prefer to use glasses, I can recommend the sports frames from Zenni.com. They are not pretty, but have worked well for me for more than 100 sessions so far, and you can get a pair of polarized prescription sunglasses for about $110.