Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Shell Bank Encounter

It was a beautiful day: temperatures were warm for December (46ºF, 8ºC); the rain was only light and then stopped; the wind started at 19 mph, and then increased to 25. Who would not want to windsurf on such a great day?

NE wind and more rain on the Cape meant a trip to Duxbury Bay. The GPS tracks tell the story:
Lots of sailing - 94 km, more than 2 marathons. Three boards: 117 l slalom, then 110 l freestyle, then 96 l FSW. We needed to improve our distance numbers for the monthly ranking on the GPS Team Challenge. Drew came out to play and strapped on a GPS, so we'd have the required two postings. Distance it was!

On the smallest board, I was having a ball with my brand-new weed fin from CNCFins - the best weed fin I ever sailed. I could not get that baby to spin out, and I am good at spinning out. Loved it. Then I killed it. Or perhaps I should say the "Shell Bank" killed it.

I thought I knew Duxbury Bay - after all, this was my 59th windsurf session there. But I completely forgot that we usually sail at medium to high tide - say, water levels between 4 and 12 feet.
After sailing for 3 hours, though, the water level had dropped to 2 feet. I had sailed here only 4 times when the water was this low. The last couple of times, I had not problems, which I remembered. What I had forgotten was that I had broken a boom when sailing near low tide there the first time.

In NE wind, the water next to the barrier sand bar on the far side can be very flat. I like flat, so I sailed there. I stayed about 250 feet from shore; I'm not as crazy as some of my friends who go really close... but too close I was, it turned out.

I had never sailed this particular region near low tide. Everything seemed just fine, but all the sudden, the fin made loud, scratchy noises. Before I could start worrying about dinging the new fin, I heard a loud "clonk", and the board drifted sideways. I had lost the fin!

I spent the next 30 minutes walking through ankle- to knee-deep water, searching for the fin. After a while, Nina joined me, until I asked her to sail back and bring me a new fin and a screw driver. While she was gone, I found the fin, and almost broke into tears. I had ruined the best weed fin I had ever sailed! In the first session I used it!

When the lovely Nina arrived with a screw driver, I put the damaged fin back in, and sailed back slowly. Yes, I was bumming. But I also realized how lucky I was. Very close to were I had run into the shell bank (imagine a sand bar, but made of stones and covered with shells), several big stones just started to peek out of the water. There were barely visible, but even if I had noticed them when sailing, I would not have had enough time to avoid them. Hitting one of these stones at full speed certainly would have done major damage to whatever hit it - the board, or ever my head.

The next lucky thing in all this was that CNCFins had licensed the fin design to Tectonics Maui. Fortunately for me, Tectonics does not use the usual round brass nuts to hold the fin screw; instead, they just put a thread into the hard plastic that the fin box adapter is made of. That allowed the fin to come off the board cleanly. Much better than ripping the while fin box out! And much better than catapulting me onto my gear, which probably would have resulted in a hole in the sail, a broken boom, or hitting the ground really hard. Amazingly, I was even able to screw the fin back into the board without any problems! Must be Wonderthread.

The fin was not cheap, so I won't be able to just buy a new one right away. The damage is too deep to just sand it out. So I'll try to first add material (marine tex), and then sand it back down to the original profile. We'll have to see how that works. It's something I wanted to learn, anyway - just not with a brand new fin!
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On a brighter note: everybody else had a fun, damage-free session. Nina waited until the wind picked up and the tide dropped before going out, and then did her usual freestyle magic. Drew mowed the lawn quite nicely, even beating my 5 x 10 sec average speed, and helped up jump 6 spots in the monthly GPSTC ranking. Nice way to go for the first "real" posting on the GPSTC!

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