Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Harbor Cruise

Temperatures in the low 40s (6ºC). Light drizzle. Wind meter readings with lulls near 10 mph, and gusts of 35. Just a short time until we'll be in Hatteras, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. So perhaps, some of you might question why I went windsurfing today.

The answer is simple: I wanted to sail on really flat water. One of my favorite spots for that is Barnstable Harbor. When the wind direction and tides line up just right, you can sail right next to the little gras islands, on "chop" that's maybe 1 or 2 inches tall. Today was one of the rare days where things looked like they's line up.  It helped that we had a neap tide, with barely 8 feet difference between low and high tide (compared to 12 feet during spring tides). The wind was predicted to drop, but it looked like there would be an hour with almost perfect conditions.

I was on the water at 10 am. The conditions did not look too exiting - not much wind at the launch; not many whitecaps on the water; and the water level was at least a foot higher than the tide charts predicted, because the strong wind in the early morning hours had pushed a lot of wind into the harbor. I had planned for some speed on small slalom gear, but conditions called for "comfort" gear - my Skate 110 and Matrix 6.0.

After a few minutes on the water, I realized that I had underestimated the wind. I was very nicely powered,  which means averages around 25 mph for the gear combo I was using.  I went to search for flat water, but most of the little islands in the harbor were still covered with water. So I cruised around a bit - here are the GPS tracks:
The distance from the left to the right is almost 4 km; the upwind distance close to 1 km. I stayed to the left at first, hoping that the islands would rise out of the water, but that did not happen as quickly as I wished. So I explored the other direction, and found an area where the water structure was a lot of fun: orderly chop that almost looked like waves, with very little cross chop, perfect to for little speed runs (the area on the right where the GPS tracks are yellow-greenish). Fun! I was quite surprised to find this area; at many other places in the harbor, the chop is more chaotic, sometimes even "voodoo chop".

Shortly thereafter, three things happened: the clouds finally started to move away; the wind picked up a notch, leaving me a bit overpowered; and the water level finally dropped low enough to let the grass islands emerged. So I went back to the van to get the 90 l slalom board, and sailed back over to the natural speed channels between the islands. Here is a short video that shows how flat the water is there:

By the time I made it to the slicks, the wind had dropped again. I had enough power to plane comfortably, but not enough for deep speed runs. So I am still waiting for the day where everything comes together for some real speed at Barnstable Harbor.  But what had started like a cold and dreary day had turned into a warm and sunny windsurf day with near-ideal conditions, so I'm not complaining!

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