Saturday, November 27, 2010

Skaket Beach - The west wind spot

At this time of the year, we get a lot of fast-moving front passing through, where the wind turns from SW or WSW to NW within a few hours. This has posed a problem for us - where to windsurf? We like Kalmus and West Dennis for SW and WSW, and Kalmus is also ok for W - but as soon as the wind turns WNW, it tends to get weaker and really gusty in Kalmus.

Unfortunately, computer models and iWindsurf metereologists are bad at predicting the exact timing of the direction shift, so we have gotten skunked by an earlier-than-expected turn several times. Today was one of these days, with computer models in disagreement about the exact wind direction. After seeing good SW readings in Chapin recently, we thought we'd give it a try. But the wind showed up later than forecast, and at 11 am, the Hatch Beach sensor had much better readings than Chapin. We also saw Ron C.'s post on the iWindsurf forum where he predicted a great day for Skaket Beach, so we decided to give it a try.

The first surprise was that the drive took about the same time as the drive to Chapin (and just 15 min more than driving to Kalmus), even though Skaket is further out on the Cape. But most of the drive to Skaket is on Rte. 6, while the drive to Chapin includes a long, slow stretch on Rte. 6a and then through residential areas.

When we arrived, the wind was down a bit, but a few whitecaps could be seen, and we rigged "big" (7.0 for me, 5.0 for Nina). After the first few runs, the wind picked up, and we were planing all of the time. By 2 pm, averages where in the mid-20s, the chop/swell had built up since we were getting close to high tide, and the sails were getting a bit big. Nina sailed for 1 and 1/2 hours without a break, but ended up getting catapulted while in both straps, and landing hard on the mast, but she made it out ok. I took her 5.0 sail out for a run, and was fully planing with it. Since I'm about 50% heavier than Nina, it's obvious that the sail was too big for her.

Air temps were only around 38 F (according to the Hatch Beach sensor). However, we were nice and warm, thanks to dry suits, 7 mm boots, gloves resp. mitts, and hoods. At the beginning, when the sun was out all the time and the sailing easy, I was actually sweating for a while. Nice!

Skaket has quite a few things going for it in addition to the great fetch, and the location further out on the Cape (where the winds are often stronger this time of the year). When we started, the water was shallow for a few hundred yards out, and nicely flat. As the tide came in and the winds picked up, so did the chop/swell, but it's definitely much more orderly than in Kalmus, and easier to sail. Towards the end, there was a bit of shore break and a few semi-breaking waves on the outside, but nothing bad - just enough to practice if you're not an expert wave sailor, and to have some fun. Another thing that I loved was the long runs you can take. I always turned after about a mile or earlier, but you could do 6-mile runs across the bay, and end up behind a sand bank that probably makes a great speed strip. Will have to try some other time.

Below are my GPS tracks for the day, and a couple of pictures we shot before leaving. Thanks, Ron, for helping us discover this great spot!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Windy welcome to Chapin

With a NW forecast in the upper 20s, we decided to finally go windsurfing in Chapin today. Well, the actual wind was a bit higher:

We windsurfed from 10:20 to 11:40, Nina on 76 l/3.7 m and I on 82 l/4.2. High tide was at 12:40, and we had a bit of shore break in the last 30 minutes. The last time I went out, it took me quite to few minutes to make it through. Nina, who had a decent first run, did not get through the shore break on her second try, and decided to cut the session short. We went for a lovely lunch at the Optimist Cafe, checked out a possible alternative launch spot that did not look good, and then went back to Chapin. By then, the temperature had dropped a few degrees and was barely above 40 now, and the condition report from a windsurfer who came in was pretty bad ("very gusty and way too choppy"), so we just took some pictures and called it a day. Here are a few random shots:

After getting back home and checking the wind readings, I noticed that today's wind averages (35 mph) and gusts (44 mph) were the highest that I have recorded for any of my 164 session since 2009 - just by a mile or so, but still. In that perspective, the choppiness really was not so bad at all; nor it is too surprising that the 4.2 sail sometimes felt a bit big. What a windy welcome!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Q: "What do you want for Christmas and your birthday?"
A: "I don't know."

So, both Nina and I were facing the problem of what to get for two upcoming occasions. I was starting to fear endless hours of clueless shopping in the near future... but then, we stumbled into a great solution.

In Ninigret 3 days ago, the guys who where having the most fun in gusty conditions were on slalom/freerace equipment (Starboard iSonic & S-Type). Wouldn't it be nice so have something like that? Paying $2K for a new board is not an option right now, though. But during this year's visits to Sailworld Cape Cod, a used, $500 JP Super-X 82 was always smiling at me, begging me to take it home. A few years back in Cabarete, a Super-X board had been my absolute favorite, even more so than the SuperSport boards that replaced them (and which I also like a lot). A bit of research on showed that Super-X boards can go faster than 70 kmh, which would be a rather dramatic improvement of my current PB.

When the wind forecast for today predicted upper SW 20s, we decided to go to the Cape, which tends to have much steadier SW winds this time of the year than other places close by. My Skate 110 tends to be a bit too bouncy for such strong winds and the resulting swell in Kalmus, and my only alternative was my old 96 l JP, dating back to about 2001. The board is ok, but not exactly fast, and too big if the wind picks up into the 30s. Nina is set up better, with a newer JP 76 l wave board that she sails a lot and loves. It so happens that she bought the board earlier this year used at ... Sailworld Cape Cod.

When I started looking at the Super-X at the beginning of the year, the volume of 82 liters seemed a bit low for me. Since then, the wind & waves in Maui and the Gorge pretty much forced me to sail boards in the 85 liter range during our vacations there. That helped to get comfortable on the smaller boards; but what helped even more was learning to sail the F2 Missile. Compare to the 62 liter Missile, an 80 liter board is huge, and really easy to waterstart and sail.

With all signs pointing the same direction, it was only a question of time, and so I finally bought the Super-X yesterday. It helped a bit that I had a fin to return which did not fit properly, so that I did not have to put down the entire $500. What helped even more was that Jim told me I could return the board if, against expectations, I would not be happy with it.

Today, we got up early, and made it to Kalmus at 9:30 am. The wind was a tad lower than forecast at about 22 mph, but I wanted to take the Super-X out, and rigged a 5.5. A few minutes later, I was planing in the typical Kalmus chop, and having fun. My second jibe attempt of the day was dry (which is pretty good for me in Kalmus on a choppy day), and my overall jibe success rate was higher than on any other board I had sailed there in similar conditions. At one point, when I mishandled the sail a bit at the end of the jibe, I looked back with the luffed sail and was amazed that the board just did not stop planing. Cool!

I had rigged smaller than usually, since I wanted to make sure I had a sail that worked well with the board. Nina was out on her 76 l wave board with a 5.0 (typically, I'm on a 7.0 when she's on a 5.0). When the wind died down a bit and neither of us was planing much anymore, she switched to the Super-X, and soon was planing most of the time again. I think the actual volume of the board is closer to 90 liters than to 82, but the fact that it was made for early planing certainly helped, too. When the wind picked up again later, the Super-X got a bit bouncy for Nina in the Kalmus chop, so we switched back, and I got to have some more fun. With my additional 50 lb, the board was well enough behaved, although it was a bit bouncier than a wave board. We can't wait to take the board out in flat water!

So we ended up with a new board in our quiver that we both like. Nina can use it as her "big" speed board, and to work on jibes and carving tricks when her Skate 100 gets too bouncy.
I'll use it when the wind picks up a bit more so that she wants to switch to her wave board (or maybe the Missile :). Since we'll both use it, we decided to give each other one half of the board as a present for our birthdays and Christmas, which solves a number of problems at the same time: the issue that I did not really have the money to spend on another board right now, and what presents to get each other. Another great windsurfing Christmas present! And just like the Tricktionary Trickpack and the GoPro HD from last year, we get to use if before Xmas, since we'll probably take a 2-month break from windsurfing around here just about then.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


We went windsurfing at Ninigret Pond for the first time today, after hearing great things about it. Forecast was for mid-20s, with some gusts - ha! We sailed from 1 to 3 pm, here's the iWindsurf chart:

Lulls of 6, gusts of 25 according to the wind meter - actual gusts were probably closer to 40 (I ended up being overpowered in gusts on a 5.0, which I can hold without problems to 35 mph). So, sailing was mostly fighting today. I tried to use the F2 Missile, but starting it was almost impossible, with winds way to low for a while, and then gusting so strong that a controlled start was impossible.

I had many interesting falls today; here's a short video of one:

After making it back home, I discovered that the wind readings for West Dennis for the same time were close to perfect - averages of 25-30, lulls 22, gusts mid-30s or lower. Next time, we'll be at the Cape again!

On the bright side, all the crashes gave me plenty of opportunity to test my new O'Neill Boost drysuit. It passed with flying colors, definitely a good investment. The weird "shrink-wrapped" feeling when in the water will need some getting used to, but the suit is a lot more convenient than my semi-dry, and with the option to add or remove layers as needed, it will keep me nice and warm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The doc says: windsurf more!

At my physical last year, my doctor "encouraged" me to do more sports. I interpreted that to mean "more windsurfing", and did my best. So far this year, I've had 98 sessions, and sailed > 2700 km. That's on track to be twice as much as last year.

Yesterday, I had another annual physical. My doctor was very happy with me: I lost 12 pounds, blood pressure went from 130/82 to 110/78, and minor health annoyances that I thought were unavoidable as we get older pretty much disappeared. I'm generally much happier, too - and not just when windsurfing. The weight loss was just from windsurfing more; with regular sessions (2-3 per week on average), I ended up being able to windsurf longer in each sessions, and still feel less sore afterwards. If helped that I adjusted my technique to use avoid strain as much as possible, but the primary factor was just training more.

Bottom line: windsurf more to get healthier!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The day after I wrote about a couple of bad days in Duxbury, the bay redeemed itself with some great wind. Today's winds were in the 30s, a bit more easterly and steadier. I was nicely overpowered on a 5.0, Nina with her 3.7. Just love our North Ice sails - they handle very well when overpowered. Even though I felt a bit out of control most of the time, I set new personal bests for 1 and 2 seconds, with 33.4 mph. Just a tad above my previous best, but every little bit counts :)

Temperatures were a few degrees lower than yesterday, and the stronger wind made it feel a lot colder. Nevertheless, I was pretty comfortable the entire time, largely because of two small modifications:
  1. A short-sleeve neoprene shirt under my 5/4 semi-dry suit. Much better blood circulation in the lower arms than with a long-sleeve shirt, and plenty of warmth.
  2. I wore cheap, yellow latex kitchen gloves under my open-palm neoprene mittens, so my hands stayed nice and warm the entire time. The kitchen gloves were thin, but kept the water away from my skin, which made a big difference. Here's a picture:
Another thing that helped a lot today was that we parked and started at the ocean side of Powderpoint Bridge. The harbor master drove by a number of times, but we did not get a ticket, so I guess it's probably ok to park there after labor day, at least when the lot is almost empty. We stayed at the north side of the bay, and got a mix of nice flat water and well-formed small swell, nice!

The forecast for tomorrow is NE 25 mph. Since NE winds in Duxbury get a clearer fetch than N winds, they are typically steadier, and often ~5 miles higher than the forecast. Should be a great day for sailing in the south side of the bay, with some bump & jump in the middle and some nice long speed runs on the ocean side of the bay.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bad Dux!

I've written several times about great sessions in Duxbury, so I guess I should write about two not-so-great sessions, too. One was today, the other one two days ago, on Sunday.

Sunday was cloudy, with air temps around 43F (6 C). By the time we made it out there, the wind and the tide were both going down. As a result, we were underpowered most of the time. The tide was pretty extreme, so tidal currents were unusually strong, and Nina, Fred and I all got swept under the bridge at least once. Scary the first time it happens, but no big deal, the pillars are far enough apart. Worst thing is that we ended up in the wind shadow of the bridge, but we were on large enough boards to uphaul. Very gusty winds, but still being underpowered most of the time with a 5.5, I spend a lot of time in the water, and ended up getting cold in my 5/4 semi dry suit.

Today's session had decent north winds, ranging from 16 to about 35 mph. Pretty gusty, but not really bad. Even though it was warmer than Sunday, with temps near 50, I decided to wear a long sleeve neoprene shirt under my suit. I soon regretted that - blood circulation in my lower arms ended up being so poor that my hands and arms got tired almost immediately.

Wind averages were near 30 when we started, so I tried to sail my F2 Missile with the 5.8 KA Koncept sail. Would have been nice, except that we started from the public parking lot at the land side of bridge. Once again, the wind quality near shore was too bad to get going, so I switched to a larger board. Still not happy, we went from the north side to the south side, were I finally had a few good runs. With barely usable hands, I really did not like having to waterstart a cambered sail, though.

Eventually, after switching to my Skate 110 because the winds went down even more, the water was filled with reeds that the high tide had collected on shore, and the outgoing tide was now pulling towards the bay inlet. Reads in the water were perfectly lined up for efficient collection, so that I had no chance of planing anymore, despite a weed fin that has so far worked very well - with weeds, not reeds that are (a) much longer, and (b) light than water, and hard to push under water. Even Nina, with a shorter weed fin, started having a hard time planing, despite enough wind for her 4.2 sail.

Lessons learned:
  1. Don't sail Duxbury bay this time of the year when the tide is very high, and outgoing. Things were fine 30 minutes after high tide, but basically unsailable about one hour later. Things probably got better again later, but I did not stick around to check.
  2. Get a dry suit. Nina was perfectly comfortable in her O'Neill breathable dry suit, whether on the water, in the water, or on land. I was warm while windsurfing, still got cold on land after a few minutes, and my lower arms were really hurting from the two constricting layers of neoprene.
But tomorrow is another day. Wind forecast looks better than today, we plan to sail before the high tide, and I'll try using a short-sleeved neoprene shirt under the semi dry suit to see if that keeps me warm without killing blood circulation in my arms.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Missile surfing

Last week in Hatteras, I finally had an opportunity to sail my F2 Missile speed board for a few hours. When I bought the Missile a few weeks ago, I had no clue if I could actually sail it - with 62 liters, it's 12 liters smaller than the smallest board I had ever sailed.

I had gotten just a couple of runs on the board in where I was in both footstraps and harness before leaving for Hatteras. We put the board inside my Honda Civic for the trip, together with 4 booms, 2 sails, and our luggage. The other 3 boards we brought were on top of the car, together with 5 masts and 5 more sails.

I finally sailed the Missile in Hatteras when we got a day with 25+ mph winds. I first sailed it with the stock fin, which inevitably led to spinouts from seagrass on the fin after a few hundred yards. The next windy day, I bought a 28 cm weed fin, which however required an hour of sanding to fit into the tuttle box, so I first tried sailing the stock fin again (my Skate was in the shop for repairs). I also let a few others try it, including Meredith and Andy.

After finally switching to the weed fin, things got a lot better - I could finally do nice long runs. The hardest thing about surfing the Missile was starting it, especially in the lulls. With a weight of 90 kg and only 62 l volume, I needed a bit more wind to get going on it. Once it was planing, it was easy enough to sail, albeit rather lively in the (small) Hatteras chop. Both Andy and Meridith used "scary" when describing the ride. I think it gets less scary after a while.

My top speed on the Missile was not great, only about 30 mph. I blamed it on the chop, but it's probably more due to my lack of skills. Here's a short video:

While I thought I was doing ok, Andy easily beat my speed on his first run on the board, without using the harness lines. I started using longer (30 in mono) lines in Maui, and kept using the long lines for my freestyle board. For speed, they are way too long; my form is more like a 'C' instead of the '7' that it should be. Meridith, who did not use the lines because they were so long, has a much better form in the video. As a result, the board bounces around a lot less.

Still, riding the Missile was a lot of fun, and easier than I thought. When powered, going upwind was no problem at all. I did not try any deep downwind runs because of the chop. I can't wait until I can try riding the Missile in really flat water with shorter lines and a better stance!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2 weeks in Hatteras

We just returned from 2 great weeks in Hatteras. Coming back to the cold weather in Boston is a bit depressing, so I'll just list some more or less random thoughts and observations.
  1. Small board light wind freestyle: boards grow 5 liters per hour! We had a couple of light wind days during ABK camp, so I finally spent a few hours doing light wind freestyle on my Fanatic Skate 110. Within two days, I went from feeling like a total beginner to making most of the tricks I could do on a bigger board, including tacks, heli tacks, various jibes, boomerangs, and switch stance sailing. Some of these tricks improved a lot, since the smaller board enforces more precision. Just like Andy Brandt said, the board seemed to grow 5 liters for every hour of practice. And yes, practicing light wind freestyle on a small board will improve your feeling for the board and your sailing in stronger winds.
  2. How to make 80 l boards seem big: sail a 62 l board for a while. I took our my F2 Missile speed board on a couple of days where the wind was good. Day 1 was a bit frustrating since weeds inevitably caused spinouts after a few hundred yards, but day 2 with a weed fin was great. I also got the opportunity to try an 80 l RRD Slalom board, which felt amazingly big and easy to sail after the 62 l board.
  3. Fanatic Free Wave boards are fast fun. I love my Skate for freeriding and carving, but when I got a chance to try a Fanatic Free Wave 95, I loved the board even more. It felt comfortable from the first moment, and it was turny enough for some wave riding in the small Hatteras swell. I also got my top GPS speeds for the day on this board, without ever getting the feeling that I was close to the board's top speed. I later also got to try a Fanatic New Wave Twin wave board, which was fine, but to twitchy for my taste. The Free Wave 85 is on my wish list for next year.
  4. Going fast requires skill, too. On several marginal days, I did well freeriding my Skate with a 7.0 Gaastra Matrix, staying on a plane longer than I though possible, passing most other windsurfers, and getting reasonable GPS speeds. When on the F2 Missile, it took a few hours to get comfortable on the board. The board handled the chop at 25-30 mph winds quite well, but my speeds were limited. Andy took it out for just one run and easily passed my best speed for the entire day, despite not using the harness lines and being on this board for the first time. He later explained a few things that I need to change, both on the equipment setup and in my stance, to get better speed. I'm dying to try it, and hope we get some more nice days here.
  5. 360s are fun. I finally got my first carving 360, after working on it for about 5 or 6 days. I almost drove the ABK guys crazy by getting really close for a few days in a row. On the upside, nobody doubted that I finally got one when nobody was looking. I'll have to practice it some more, this seems like a fun trick.
  6. Learn to loop in Hatteras. Some very good windsurfers get the speed loop in the first few tries, but for less talented and more hesitant folk like me, learning it involves a large number of crashes, including some catapults where you are ripped out of the straps, and the rig may be ripped out of your hands. There's a decent chance that you damage the nose of the board in the process, which I did early on. I think I had some hidden damage that was revealed when running aground while sailing fin first to shore - I had a 5 inch break line on the underside of the nose afterwards. But the best board repair on the East coast is in Buxton, at Fox Watersports. I got my board repaired within 2 days, for $80, and it looks like new again. The loop, however, will need a few more tries.
  7. October in Hatteras may shorten your sailing season. We had many days with air temperatures in the 80s, and water temps in the upper 60s/low 70s. Back in Boston, air temps are now in the 40s, and water temps in the low 50s. That's a bit depressing, and makes it hard to go sailing here again. If we had remained here, we would have gradually gotten used to the colder weather, and kept going until early December. Now, going back out the first time will be hard. But then, I sailed about 300 miles in the 2 weeks in Hatteras, despite a few off days and several light wind days. And if you typically stop sailing in October, then a week or two in Hatteras is a great way to end the season.
  8. Long board racing is fun. We used one of the light-to-marginal wind days for long board racing. Lots of fun, quite a different skill set, great addition to the camp.
  9. We love you guys! Lots of thanks to Andy, Meredith, Brendon, and Tom for inviting us stay another week. It was also great to meet Coach Ned, Jake, and all the other guys in the house and at camp. Can't wait to see you all again in January, and we'll certainly miss those of you who won't be in Bonaire.