Friday, February 8, 2013

Scary Nemo

Winterstorm Nemo is visiting us today and tomorrow, and the cute little guy is a bit scary (thanks to Rick Cronk for the image!). It is forecast to bring up to 30 inches (75 cm) of snow to the Boston area, together with hurricane-strength winds, coastal flooding, and power outages. Just like with Hurricane Sandy last fall, we again have two storms that are coming together to form a "superstorm". Here's the current radar image:
Well, Nor'Easters tend to bring some wind before the rain, and indeed, the forecast for this morning looked lovely:

The light red in the left image means wind in the mid-20s, the darker reds in the right image high 20s to low 30s (in mph). So - perfect wind for some flat water fun in the morning! Temperatures were forecast to be above freezing, tides were lined up right, and the snow was predicted to not start until after noon. Why would you not go windsurfing?

I admit that some windsurfers would not think of winter storm windsurfing as their idea of fun, and my lovely wife falls into this category. But my friend Hardie was in the area, and happy to join me when I proposed to sail a spot 10 minutes from his house. 

When we got to the water this morning, it looked harmless enough. Hardie had measured 24-28 mph winds on shore, and since that matched the forecast, I happily rigged my 5.8 m race sail for my 90 l slalom board. I probably should have known better, because a few things were off a bit: I was running a bit later than originally planned; the spot usually has a wind shadow near shore, so the wind on the water probably already was in the low 30s, going up; and the wind was a bit more southerly than forecast, which was the wrong direction for the speed strip I wanted to use. But windsurfers have to be optimists...

Hardie made it out onto the water before I did, and came back to report that he was "totally overpowered" on a 5.2 and his 90 l FSW board. But he had a big grin on his face, and went right back out. My 5.8 was a bit bigger, but race sails are made for lots of wind, right? That we had lots of wind became clear when I tried to get going, and the wind picked up the board a couple of times to turn it around in the air. Perhaps that was a sign, too, that I ignored. Well, I finally made it out, but before I could get settled in, I had a spinout, followed by a two minute swim to my gear. The water was just above freezing, and swimming with open palm mittens in water that cold is really no fun. After getting back to my gear, a break to warm up the hands some more was in order.

I gave the slalom gear one more try and sailed over to where the flat water was supposed to be. It did indeed get a bit flatter, but I had been hoping for "chitter-chatter" water; with the bit of south in the wind, the angles were wrong, and there were wind-driven small waves everywhere. The water level was getting pretty high, to, and there were lots of bundled of reeds in the water, promising sudden catapult stops. Time to rig down and switch to an easier board!

Hardie was rigging down to a 4.2, so I rigged my trusted Manic 4.5 and took exchanged the slalom board against my Tabou 3S 96. This combo was certainly a lot easier to sail! But while we had rigged down, the wind had picked up, and the gusts were going into "scary" territory. When Hardie called it a day after a couple of runs, so did I.

When I checked the wind meter readings later at home, they only showed averages around 35, and gusts in the low 40s. I have sailed this kind of wind quite a few times without major problems, although not too much recently. My GPS showed that I had sailed very slow today, and that Hardie had beaten me by a couple of knows on his FSW gear. I did not do a single dry jibe, nor did I try anything interesting. Even though I rigged two sails and sailed two boards, the session was very short. Without a doubt, I was a bit intimidated by the strong winds and low temperatures. But still, the session was a lot of fun, and I felt great afterwards. Except for my fingers during and shortly after the little swim, I was perfectly comfortable and warm the entire time. Now if only the Nor'Easters would come in a little less intense...

A little GoPro movie from today's sailing is below. As I am writing this, the movie is still uploading, and at a very slow pace. I guess everyone is on the internet or watching cable TV after the governor had issued a driving ban for Massachusetts (and before we all loose power).

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