Sunday, June 20, 2010

Strong currents

Our second day in the Gorge started with a lot of rain in Hood River. The wind forecast for the afternoon was good, though - for the eastern part of the Gorge. So we loaded the car and drove east - about 40 miles to Maryhill. No more rain, and the air was warm.

The Maryhill State Park is nice, with plenty of grass and shade for rigging. The wind did not quite follow the forecast, though. The first surfer out did not plane; it was amazing to watch him go downwind at a 45 degree angle, while actually staying in place because the current was very strong (maybe 6 knots). Eventually he fell, and was quickly carried hundreds of feet downstream. When he made it back to shore, he had to walk downwind - a somewhat unusual thing at most other places, but a sing of things to come.

After seeing the first guys planing half an hour later, I did go out on a 6.0 sail and a 94 l board. With all the new equipment and conditions, I managed to fall three times on the run out and back, which meant a downwind walk for me, too. A couple more followed when the wind died down a bit, and I did not manage to plane on the next couple of runs.

Eventually, the wind did pick up, and so did the swell. I rigged down to a 5.3, and Nina finally decided to go out on a 4.2 and a 78 l JP FSW. I was fully powered on the 5.3. Sailing there was like nothing I ever had done before - the swell and chop was similar to Maui on one of the windier days, but I was pointing downwind at a 30-45 degree angle the entire time to compensate for the current and the inevitable waterstarts. It took me until the last run, when the wind had gone down a bit, before I got comfortable with the conditions, and managed to turn around with a half way decent jibe. Still, I was happy enough to adapt to rather different conditions reasonably well within a day, even though my GPS told me that I was going slow the entire time.

Nina's experience was somewhat less positive. She waited a while before windsurfing because she was worried about the barges and the current. When she finally did go out, she just made a single run out and back, with a quick waterstart in between. While things did not look too bad from the shore, she was rather unhappy about here experience, and decided to not go out for a second run. That helped me discover a benefit of tracking your speed with a GPS, and trying to go fast: you will often go for deep downwind runs, an experience that comes in handy when you need to go deep downwind to compensate for strong currents and occasional falls. Of course, GPS speeds today were terribly slow. I dropped the boom cam when I took it out of the car, and broke off a small piece of plastic from the mount, so there won't be any movies, unfortunately.

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