Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lost in the fog

It's been 15 days since the last decent windsurf session, so the withdrawal symptoms were getting bad when we finally had a good wind forecast for today. As the day got nearer, the numbers dropped, but Windguru still promised some gusts of 28-30 knots. When we got up early to check the meter readings, some sites posted averages in the low 20s - good enough for me!

By the time we made it out to Cape Cod, the wind in West Dennis had dropped down to 18 mph - but since I had planned to use my Warp SL 71 slalom board, no problem. I rigged my newly repaired 8.5 V8, and sailed away. The fog was pretty dense, with visibility limited to maybe 250 yards, but the wind was onshore, and the beach in West Dennis goes on forever, so I did not expect any problems. Hah! Here are the GPS tracks from the start of this session:
I started on the left side in the image above. The wind was marginal, so I had to go downwind and get away from the shore a bit to get planing. At the end of the first leg, I did not see the shore anymore; after jibing and sailing back towards shore, I was pretty far from where I had started. I could not see the spot where I had started anymore, which surprised me a bit. I assumed (correctly) that I was downwind of it, and went back out, with the plan to go upwind. Unfortunately, for most of the next two legs, I had no visual indicators where I was going, and ended up going downwind instead of upwind. As I approached the shore, I saw a few people standing in the water, and assumed that they were kite surfers. I came to the conclusion that I had gone to far upwind. The regular kite place is upwind, and the West Dennis police apparently had started to ticket kiters who sailed to far downwind a few days ago, so this seemed reasonable. I did not actually see any kites, but as I said, the fog was rather dense (and some of it might have entered my brain at this time :). So I decided to go "back" downwind. But when I got close to the shore after the next 2 runs, I did not see the expected scenery, but instead some unfamiliar looking houses. By now, the wind had dropped, and I was schlogging the entire time. Some half-hearted attempts to go upwind did not get me into more familiar territory, and I decided to go ashore and ask someone where in hell they had hidden the mile-long West Dennis beach. To stay clear of the sea walls there, this required going a bit further downwind...

Most of the houses on the beach down there appeared to be empty summer houses. Fortunately, one of the houses was being renovated, and a rather amused-looking carpenter pointed me in the right direction. It was the direction that I would have guessed, but after guessing wrong about where exactly I was a few times, asking someone else just seemed safer.

So I had a long track back. Fortunately, the wind had picked up again, and I could plane most of the time. I started to worry that my lovely wife, who was also out sailing, would worry about me - but it turned out that she also had gotten a bit disoriented in the fog, finding herself unexpectedly far downwind of the launch site. So she correctly assumed that the same thing had happened to me. As I was tacking back up, the fog finally lifted a bit, and I could see her sailing.

When I finally made it back, I decided to swap fins and to try my new Clew-View mount for the GoPro camera - but that's a story for another time. I got one more good run in before the wind dropped again, and we decided to call it a day. Of course, the wind teased us and picked up again just as we were about to leave. Fortunately, family duties prevented us from rigging again: once again, the wind dropped off after a few minutes, and then stayed down for the rest of the day.

So, that was a rather long story for relatively little action - there was never any element of real danger. Water and air temperatures today were comfortable; the tide was low, so that I could touch ground most of the time when I  fell in; and the wind was onshore and moderate. However, I certainly will think twice before venturing out in dense fog in the future if there is any potential element of danger, like strong or offshore winds, or cold temperatures. In fog this dense, finding someone who is in trouble would have been a real challenge for any rescuers.


  1. Hey there!

    I don't know how this blog has been off my radar... great stuff in here, I'm going to link to it...

    I'm going to be on Cape Cod in July. Would be awesome to get a session! Do they have rentals out there?

  2. Hi Aaron,

    Thanks! You can rent gear from Sailword Cape Cod, www.sailworld.com. You could also try posting on the ABK and the "Cape Cod Windsurfers" Facebook page - plenty of nice local surfers here, maybe someone is interested in a freestyle session with you and has extra gear.