Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Four funtastic days

We just had four fantastic days of sailing - here are the wind graphs:
We sailed three different spots to catch the best wind each day; the only spot we sailed twice, Skaket, had very different conditions on the two days we sailed. Here are the three spots on a map:
It's easy to see why we chose Skaket for the WNW wind on 11-11, Kalmus for SW on 11-12, and Fogland for SSW on 11-13: they are the spots with the best fetch for the given wind direction. In addition, Kalmus typically has thermals that increase the wind in SW, and Fogland can have thermals and channeling in SSW. Why we picked Skaket on 11-14 is explained below.

Day 1: Skaket, WNW, 30-40 mph
We had good memories of gentle waves at Skaket in NW winds, and when we arrived about 90 minutes after high tide, the waves looked perfectly manageable for us flatwater sailors, despite the strong winds that sandblasted us and made rigging a bit more difficult. We rigged the smallest sails we typically use (3.7 for Nina, 4.5 for me), and used the smallest boards: the Angulo custom 72 for Nina, and the Goya One 77 for me. We were soon joined by Ron, who lives just a few minutes away. By the time we hit the water, the waves had gone down a bit, and were just perfect for wave newbies like us. Despite the wind being almost straight onshore, getting out was easy. I absolutely loved how flat the water was between the waves! After mostly sailing bigger boards in the last couple of months, it took me a few attempts before my jibes were dry - but one of the nice features at Skaket in WNW winds and medium water levels is that you can go for mile-long runs parallel to the shore, and still touch ground when you fall in. The boom cam video below shows how flat the water was between the waves:

We had to stop after 90 minutes because it was getting quite shallow, but it was almost getting dark, anyway. We stayed overnight in Hyannis, where we met up with Jeff, Graham, and Manish. They had sailed in Chapin, and reported gusty conditions with some voodoo chop - it seems we had picked the better spot.

Day 2: Kalmus and Kennedy Slicks, 35-40 mph
The forecast for the day called for SW wind in the low to mid 20s, but sun and swarmer temperatures. Based on recent weather patterns, I expected a significant thermal boost, and was not disappointed. We hit the water at 11:30 am, and I did a few runs with my Skate 110 and a 5.5 m sail, but that combo quickly got to big, and it was time to go down to 4.5 and 95 l. As we were getting close to high tide and wind averages picked up to 35 mph, the famous Kalmus voodoo chop came. Here's a picture of young Master Graham having fun:

In the steep waves with lots of cross chop, jibing and even controlling the Hawk 95 became a challenge, so I decided to cruise upwind a mile to the Kennedy Slicks, where Dean was going for speed runs. By now, it was getting a bit crowded on the water, anyway, and I really wanted to be on the nice, flat water next in the Hyannis Port harbor.

Getting upwind was easy enough, since I had plenty of power. On my last run out towards the jetty, I heard a snapping noise, and my harness lines suddenly seemed a bit longer. When I jibed and tried to hook back in, I noticed that one side of my harness hook had broken off! I hooked in, anyway, but it took only about 10 seconds for the other half to snap, too. Sailing without the harness is something I just don't do - lazy me usually hooks in first thing, and accelerates later. So I chickened a bit and sailed back to shore without even getting into the foot straps - stupid idea, that just resulted in things taking 3 times as long, with a lot more pressure in the sail. When I finally made it to the shore, my lower arms were burning.

Dean did not have a second spreader bar, but he was nice enough to offer me to take turns with his harness. Fortunately, that was not necessary, since a local windsurfer who was just taking pictures offered me a ride to Kalmus to pick up the spreader bar I had bought two days before, but foolishly not used. Thanks so much for the ride and the ride back (and sorry that I forgot your name)!

So I finally made it out onto the "Kennedy Slicks" right next to the jetty in the Hyannis Port harbor - and slick they were! About 100 feet from the jetty, the chop was about 2 inches high - chitter-chatter chop, my favorite kind. What's better than waterstarting in the foot straps, going up to 25 knots in a few seconds, going downwind and accelerating to almost 30 knots, and then entering a jibe at full speed on perfectly flat water? Carving a nice, wide arc at 50 kmh is something to dream about!

Once at the Slicks, I wished that I had the 5.5 non-cambered race sail that was still lying in Kalmus, rather than the 4.5 m wave sail. Dean was on a 6.3 m cambered race sail and slalom board, and hit almost 33 knots (61 kmh). I barely managed to break 30 knots, and that only for one second. Still - this was the first time I hit 30 knots, so it counts! I also managed to make my second-best jibe ever, with a minimum speed of 12 knots - not bad for a mid November day:)

Dean let me use his equipment for one run, and that was just wicked scary. By then, I was getting tired, and I neither wanted to get catapulted at full speed, nor did I want to break his gear, so I sailed as slow as seemed possible. But there's only so much you can slow a slalom board and sail down in 35-40 mph winds, and my speed was still about 28 knots. With a bit more practice on this gear and fresher forearms, 10-second averages above 30 knots should have been no problem. Next time...

Day 3: Fogland, SSW, 20-35 mph
Our friend Dani made the call to go to Fogland, and that turned out to be the right call - Fogland was windier than Kalmus (probably because of the more southerly wind direction and channeling in the Sakonnet river). Again, it was sunny, and warmer still than the day before - almost 60 F (15 C). Quite a few windsurfers showed up, including many team members from the Fogland Speed Surfers - Dani and Sabah, Dean, Jeff and Graham, the two Freds, and a few others. Nina and Graham were working on freestyle the entire day. Nina's duck jibes are getting good, she is now making most of them dry, and she also work on Vulcan pops and body drags. I'm not sure about all the things that Graham worked on, but I saw some nice Willy Skipper tries, and here's one that was caught on camera:
I spend an unfortunate amount of time fiddling with my equipment. My first runs were with a 7.9 m North S-Type sail from Dani and my 118 l slalom board, but just then, the wind was picking up, with gusts of 35 mph. So I switched to my trusted old Hawk 95 and my Matrix 7.0 sail, which worked beautifully the rest of the day (after putting the second back foot strap on again that I had taken off for all the recent play in choppier waters). Even though the winds were a bit gusty, everyone was having fun, and the Fogland Speed Surfers set 5 new personal bests - Fred and Sabah for the nautical mile, Dean and I for 1 hour, and Dean also for alpha. Nice to see so many friendly and happy faces on the water!

Day 4: Skaket, SW, 25-35 mph
The wind forecast for the day was calling for SW in the low- to mid twenties again. We had not planned to go sailing, but when I saw perfect meter readings of 24-33 mph in Kalmus, we just had to go. Dean joined us, but just before we got to Kalmus, the meter readings had dropped to mid teens - bummer! By now, the air had gotten too warm - the warm winds did not reach the surface near shore anymore. It was plenty windy inland, and about 10 miles out at sea, but not on the south-facing Cape Cod beaches.

When decoupling like this is an issue, the beaches on the north shore of Cape Cod often do better, since the land warms up more, and the wind gets all the way down to the ground and then does not lift quickly enough when the offshore breezes hit the cold water. Indeed, the Skaket sensors were still showing averages near 30, so we drove half an hour to Orleans.

At the shore there, it did not look very windy - a few white caps on the water, but in Kalmus, this amount of whitecaps would have indicated maybe 20 mph winds. So Dean and I rigged 7 meter sails again and went out, while Nina was still rigging her 4.5. What a nice lesson in not trusting your eyes in unfamiliar conditions! As soon as we left the shore, the wind almost blew us off the water, and we were back in within 5 minutes to rig down. I sailed the next 90 minutes on my 5.5, at first fully powered, and still planing 90% of the time when the wind dropped towards the end of the session.

It was very interesting to see how different the ocean surface was in the side-shore winds near high tide. Instead of the regular waves with flat water in between that we had had a few days before in onshore winds, we now had high chop with some cross-chop. It was enough to make things interesting, and for Nina to have a lot of fun working on her wave riding skills; but it was not nearly as bad as the voodoo chop in Kalmus in similar conditions. I had no problems jibing my Hawk 95, and to my surprise, actually made most out my outside jibes dry. I always thought that my outside jibes were worse because of the chop, but maybe it's more of a "which hand is in front" thing - the chop was coming from the opposite direction compared to almost all other places we sail. The chop also had a slight angle to the wind - going out meant hitting the chop straight-on, while sailing back in allowed for some nice speed runs more parallel to the chop. Dean actually managed to hit 30 knots, and both of us got nautical mile averages that were close to the ones from the day before. Skaket definitely has some speed potential, at least for long distance!
So we sailed 4 days in a row in 20-40 mph winds, in a variety of different spots and different conditions. Even the same spots offered very different conditions: Kalmus a choice of voodoo chop right in front, or flat water at Egg Island or the Kennedy Slicks; Fogland perfectly flat water in the bay, and nice rolling swell in the river; and Skaket very different waves and chop in different wind directions. All this with lots of sun, and temperatures that ranged from fine to "too hot for 5-4 semi dry" on day 4. IMHO as a non-wavesailor, the Cape Cod - Rhode Island areas definitely has a big advantage over Maui when it comes to variety of sailing conditions. Pick your spot right, and mix it up, and the fun will be endless!

Fortunately, the forecast for the next few days shows very little wind - but it looks like it will pick up again on Saturday, for another windy and warm weekend. November rocks!

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