Thursday, December 20, 2012

Barnstable Harbor

The fall winds have finally arrived. Yesterday, we had NW winds with readings in the mid-30s, gusting  to upper 40s, in Skaket. We love sailing there, but that seemed a bit too much a somewhat chilly (low 40s) day, especially since the Skaket Beach cam showed rain. Here in Barnstable, it was mostly dry, and the forecast had predicted slightly lighter winds. The closest wind meters in Chapin seemed to confirm this, with averages in the mid-20s and gusts "only" in the upper 40s. But a wave sessions for us wave rookies in these conditions did not seem like the best choice, so we decided to try sailing in Barnstable Harbor.

We had checked out Barnstable Harbor on SUPs a few weeks ago during low tide. Lots of small marsh islands and sand banks made the place look interesting, although sailing at low tide would be limited to the deep water that extends from the Millway Beach northeast towards Sandy Neck. But since we had originally planned on a Skaket session in the afternoon, we did not get onto the water until mid-tide, with water levels about 5 feet above low tide levels, and rising rapidly towards a 10-foot high tide. Seeing plenty of wind and chop, we went out on small sails and wave boards - my 3S 95 with a 4.5 Manic, Nina on the Goya One 77 and a 4.0.

The first run out felt ok. The chop was bigger than expected, but doable; the wind was gusty, but that's expected for NW winds. Not really thinking much, I crossed over to the other side, about a one mile run, and Nina followed me. The run back was a bit more challenging - I had pinched upwind, so now it was time to go downwind. Most of the time, I was overpowered, and the sail was pretty wide open. A few minor spinouts were no problem, since my 21 cm weed fin was easy enough to pull back in. An involuntary  jump that I landed flat could have been more of an issue, but it was not high; a catapult or two (something I had not done for quite a while) also were no problem. Back where I started, I looked for Nina, and did not see her at first. Eventually, I saw her coming, looking good as usual - but she was several hundred meters upwind. I sailed out again a few times, not going as far anymore, and noticed that Nina spent more time in the water than on the board. She clearly was way overpowered now, with a 4.0 to my 4.5, even though I outweigh her by about 1/3. I later learned that she had a hard time going downwind. Her little 15 cm fin spun out a lot going downwind, and that typically let to plowing straight into chop and catapults over the front. When she finally made it to the shore, her first words were rather negative. We called it a day, even though we had spent only 30 minutes sailing - it had seemed longer, though. Kind of a bummer, especially for Nina, who has had several bad sessions in a row now. I had a few of these, too, but I also had some fun sessions in between, so my bottom line was pretty positive. Well, we know that windsurfers have to be stubborn and frustration-tolerant...

Tomorrow, we have a big storm coming through. Computer models predict averages going into the 40s, and gusts into 60s and 70s. Winds are expected to increase until 1 pm, and then drop as the wind turns to the south. I hope to get a session in either in the morning before things get too crazy, or in the afternoon after the front pulled through. The air temperature should be fine, around 50º F (10 C), but it will be raining a lot. Rain driving by 35 mph winds is pretty horizontal, tends to hurt, and makes seeing things a bit difficult - if I go out in the morning, I'll be sailing with swim goggles for the first time. That may look funny, but there won't be anyone around to see me, and looking funny sure beats not seeing where you're going because you have to close at least one eye! The timing of the storm will require an early start, which is one reason why Nina probably won't be sailing. I briefly thought about also wimping, but then two things happened that really make me want to sail: I got my new Ianovated wet suit that I want to try, and Nikita sent me an email that he is planning to sail tomorrow. Nikita is one of the two fastest guys on our speed surfing team; so if I get some decent runs in tomorrow, we'll improve out standing in the GPS Team Challenge. As if I really needed excuses to go sailing in balmy 50 degree weather with horizontal rain!

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