Thursday, June 27, 2013

Utah mountains

It's been windy on Cape Cod, but I have not sailed for more than a week. We had to go on a business trip to Utah that started as a business trip, and added a couple of days to explore the mountains at Snowbird and Alta, 30 minutes from Salt Lake City. Hiking was great, some pictures are below - but the most fun was when we got an "Activity Pass" and played around on the climbing wall, the bungy trampoline, the summer sleds, and the "Mountain Flyer". Amazing how tired one can get from 5 minutes on the bungy trampoline - a couple of hours sailing in 25 knot winds and voodoo chop is easier!

We also took the "tram" (gondola) up to the mountain top, going from 8,100 ft (2500 m) to 11,000 ft (3300 m). Once up there, we took an "expert only" trail to Mt. Baldy and down into Mineral Basin. Even though more than 50 people were in the gondola, very few strayed far from the top - the only two hikers we met on our trail were from Switzerland. For most of the trail, we wondered why it was labeled as "expert only". The trail was a bit rocky and narrow, and the drop at the side was steep and far, but getting to the top was not difficult. Things got more interesting on the way down into Mineral Basin, when it felt a bit more like climbing than hiking, with frequent use of hands and the occasional sit-down to make big steps. Fun! Here are a few pictures:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wave sailing is not boring

I love watching windsurfing videos , but I have to admit that I often find wave sailing videos boring. Up, down, up, down, and repeat. Probably lots of fun to do, but boring. Enter Philip Köster, the 19-year old PWA world champion in the waves 2011 and 2012:

This is definitely not boring. This is one of the coolest windsurf videos I have seen. Ankle-try double forwards! Sky-high stalled spin loops! Fully planing 720s in the waves! One-handed, one-footed, no-handed you-name-it-tricks (because I don't know the names).

Philip is sponsored by Maui Ultra Fins (MUF). I have bought a total of 5 weed fins from MUF, including 2 Deltas.With my last order, they also sent me two fins to demo: a 23 cm X-Wave, and a 17 cm Style-Taty freestyle fin. I absolutely love my 26 cm MUF Speed Weed and my 30 cm MUF Slalom Weed. They go upwind like pointer fins and take tons of pressure without spinning out. I think they reduced my planing threshold by 2 mph compared to the similar-sized fins I used before. Even Martin was mightily impressed with the 26 cm MUF Speed Weed when he tried it. If you want to try one of the fins, find me at Kalmus beach in Hyannis on a windy day. If you don't know me, look for the white high roof Nissan van.

I tried the X-Wave a few times at Kalmus, and liked it. The fin is a bit more radical than I am, and needs a soft touch unless I am powered on 5.0 or less. But even for my limited skills, it makes wave play a lot more interesting. And it was signed by Philip, so I'll definitely have to keep it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chitter chatter

The rain came and brought the wind. For once, sleeping past sunrise was not an option - not even for the lovely Nina.  We drove 40 minutes through the rain and met Dean.

The rigging was wet, the start slow. I rigged the new Koncept 5.0 for the lovely Nina, but had forgotten the extension for it. Borrowed one from Dean, thanks. First try came out with too little downhaul. Cams back off, extension out, add 2 cms, repeat. At least by then, I had figured out how to pop the cams on and off easily (lots of outhaul, very little downhaul). Enough downhaul now, but the lines slip. Need to fix it before going .. here go the next 15 minutes. Finally, the sail is ready. I change out of my soaking wet clothes and into my 3mm wetsuit. Too chilly. I try to put on a crash vest, but I must have gained too much weight. After some acrobatics, I get out of it and put on a rigging jacket instead. Normally, rigging takes me less than 10 minutes, but it feels I've been here and hour already, and I'm just starting to rig my own sail. By now, Dean has rigged two sails, carried two boards to the water (a 10 minute trip), and is sailing already. He reports that the wind is not as good as expected, and that I should rig big. Too late - the 5.8 is finally ready, and I'm here to sail, not just to rig in the rain.

Finally on the water, I understand what Dean meant with "gusty". Averages are a bit below 25 mph, lulls around 15, gusts in the low 30s. Dean is on a 6.3 and not as powered as he prefers. I make do with the 5.8, which feels good in gusts. The 6.6 would have been a better size.

We sail for almost 3 hours, until wind and water levels drop. Dean hits 34 knots, nothing special for him. I see 32.2 knots on the dial and know I have a new personal best for 2 second speed. Gusts never were long enough to get a good 10 second speed. Nina looks good, but is struggling with gear she has rarely to never used before, including plastic harness lines she learns to hate. Still, she gets 27 knots, which is exactly her personal best that she set at the very same spot a few months earlier. 

After many days in a row in Kalmus chop, I love the chitter-chatter water: the "chop" is about 1 - 2 inches (2-5 cm) high for most of the speed strip. We did not get the 30 mph averages and 40+ mph gusts, and the wind quality was poor, with both longer-term up & downs and short-term gusts. But it was great fun, and in a perfectly safe environment, since the next spot where the water is shallow enough to stand is never far away. I can't wait to sail there with some real wind! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I am greedy. I will probably jinx it. Maybe not.

The low is coming. Ohio does not want it anymore. We like it here because it will bring wind. The computers disagreed when and where exactly it would come, but the models are getting closer to agreeing. Looks like we'll get some rare NE winds in June.

I love NE winds. They make for the best speed sessions. We have three speed strips to choose from. I am getting greedy. I started thinking about two sessions the same day at different spots. All three spots are tide dependent, but differently.

First, the forecast. It changes a lot from run to run, so it will be different in about 6 hours.
  • The GFS model now predicts 30 NNE at 8 am, going down to 25 at 11 am. 
  • The NAM model predicts wind all day in the low 30s, NE turning N.
  • The Sailing Weather Service has the latest start, but winds are predicted to be 25 mph or more from 9 am to 5 pm.
Here's a graph with the NAM model predictions for 11 am:
As usual, the NAM probably overestimates how far away from land the wind drops. Chances are Duxbury and Barnstable Harbor will see stronger winds that the map shows.

The best time to sail might be before 8 am (if the GFS model is right), or noon to early afternoon (according to the SWS model). Here's when the speed spots can be sailed (there also should be plenty of options for excellent wave sailing, for example Chapin):
  • Duxbury: low tide 0.5 ft @ 10:15 am. I like to have at least 1.5 ft of water, which means sailing before 9 am or after 11:30 am. However, there will probably be a storm warning, and the harbor master may close Duxbury bay to sailing.
  • Barnstable Harbor: Parts of Barnstable Harbor can be sailed at any tide, but he speed strips next to the marsh islands are best with tide levels of about 4 ft to 8 ft. That's 5:45 am - 8 am (low tide at 10:20 am), and again from 1 pm to 3 pm. Parking lots require resident stickers, though.
  • Stony Island Slicks: Low tide is about 3 hours later than at the other spots. Best between tide from 7 am to 10 am and after 3:30 pm. The channels should remain sailable even at low tide, but jibing and sailing back upwind when the tide is low might be a bit iffy (although walking upwind may be possible if the muck is not too bad).
If the wind would indeed come exactly as predicted, an all-day session in Duxbury sounds very tempting. But we already have pretty decent long distance numbers for the month on the GPS Team Challenge. This rare NE setup might allow for new top speeds. If Dani can come, he'll certainly break the 30 knot barrier. I need to sail my new (to me) KA Koncept 5.0 - it should be perfect for winds in the mid to upper 30s. Dean does 33-35 knots in chop and 30 mph winds - what will he do on perfectly flat water and 45 mph gusts?

I should go to sleep early. Won't get too much sleep tomorrow night - too much excitement, too much reason to get up before the sun. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

SW12 + sun = 20

Last Sunday's wind forecast did not look great: computer models predicted 12 mph SW winds, the iWindsurf meteorologist a couple of hours of 12-16 mph, less the rest of the day. Here's what we got instead:
That's averages of 18 mph to 22 mph for most of the time from 4 pm to 7:30 pm, with gusts in the low to mid-20s. It was sunny, warm, and windy, but Kalmus was almost deserted - Elena was out early on her 7.5, and a few locals showed up, but most of the time, there where just 2 or 3 windsurfers on the water. What a waste of perfectly good wind! Here's a short GoPro / Clew-View video (available in HD on Vimeo):

I know some of my readers don't like math, but if you are a windsurfer in the Boston area, remember this little formula:
                                             SW 12 + sun = 20
If the forecast calls for SW wind around 12 mph and sun, it's quite likely that we'll see 18-20 mph winds in Kalmus - if the predicted air temperature for Cape Cod is about 10 degrees F warmer than the water temperature. Much larger differences, and we'll get decoupling - meaning very weak wind near shore, at least until the evening when things cool of and we may see 1 or two hours of great wind. If the water is as warm or warmer than the air, we will not get a sea breeze. But in spring and summer, there are plenty of days where the sea breeze makes for great sailing.

Two other local spots that also get nice sea breezes are West Dennis and Fogland. If the wind is more southerly (SSW or S), both West Dennis and Fogland are often better than Kalmus. West Dennis also seems just a little less prone to decoupling - if the temperature difference is 15 F, the wind in WD may be steadier. In rare SSE winds, Fogland is hard to beat on sunny days. But in SW winds and just the right temperature gradients, Kalmus will usually be windiest. If the wind is WSW, that almost certain, and the sea breeze boost may be substantially higher. I have seen plenty of days where the forecast was for 15 or 20 mph WSW, but the actual wind was 30 or 35.

To check the current water temperatures, you can look at the Nantucket Sound buoy readings; the observations for Woods Hole; and the sea surface temperature graphs at Rutgers University.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thanks, Andrea!

The remnants of tropical storm Andrea brought two periods of great wind today. The early-birders who where not afraid of the rain and a predicted drop got two hours around 30 mph winds, gusting to low 40s. Then, the wind briefly turned NW and dropped for a few hours. But when the sun came out and the wind switched back to WSW, Kalmus got  4 hours WSW winds with averages in the upper 20s - significantly more than the computer models had predicted. The wind was very localized - other decent SW spots like West Dennis and West Falmouth showed substantially lower readings.

My forecast for the day turned out to be partly wrong - I had expected the strongest winds in the early afternoon. The turn and drop in the morning was a bit of a surprise, although some of the computer model runs from this morning showed it. I guess Andrea chose a slightly different path than predicted yesterday.

Well, whatever it was, we got some lovely winds today. The afternoon crowd at Kalmus included perhaps 20 sailors, with about 10 on the water at the same time. Martin was fully powered on 4.7; I was on our 5.3 Manic, and sailed it quite open at times (one thing I love about the Manics it that they let you choose anywhere between 0 and 100% power, without any antics). Lots of jumps were seen today, and Martin did a few nice front loop tries. Not getting around yet, but there is hope!

I had forgotten my surf bag with my GPS and my booties at home, so I sailed barefoot for the first time in years. The feeling was a bit weird at first, and I sailed very conservatively. But I noticed a few things that I never noticed wearing booties - for example that my front foot often does not point far enough forward. After watching Martin a while, I ended up trying a little bit of freestyle, mostly duck jibes and jump jibes, with a planing upwind 360 try thrown in for variety. The coolest-feeling move of the day was an involuntary back loop attempt, though. After taking of with decent speed from a sizable wave, I was hanging too far back on the board, which took off vertically. As I was hanging under the sail, mast tip pointing down into the water (or so it felt, at least), the board started turning back towards the water, just like I had seen in many back loop videos! I had nowhere near enough height and crashed, but the feeling was pretty cool. Maybe the back loop will make it onto the list of things I'd like to learn sometime.

Most days when I windsurf, I go for speed and sail fully powered and pretty hard. Today was rather different - my main goal was to take it easy and sail with minimum effort and maximum fun. So what if the sail was wide open and I was going slow! Easy can be a lot of fun, too. Together with sailing barefoot for the first time in years, this session felt very different from many recent sessions. You just have to love windsurfing, where little changes in gear and attitude can lead to such different experiences!

Blame yourself!

When I bought a sailable SUP last summer, one of the main reasons why I picked the Exocet WindSUP 10 were many enthusiastic posts about the Exocet WindSUP on the iWindsurf forum by John Ingebritsen (jingebritsen).

When the WindSUP broke the second time I took it out into the waves, I went back to the dealer, and he contacted Exocet about the warranty. He reported back that Exocet had declined to take this as a warranty claim, and we went ahead and had the board repaired locally. The US distributor for Exocet, Steve Gottlieb, later sent me a check for half of the repair cost, after I had contacted him directly in response to a forum post he had made. I thought this was a fair solution, although I was not happy about having a board that had gotten even heavier than before, and lost a lot of its value due to the repair.

So when some WindSUP sailors posted enthusiastic reviews with titles like "Exocet Wind SUP Saves the Day", I thought I should warn others about the problems that I and others have encountered. That, in turn, provoked several responses by jingebritsen. On the forum, he stated:
"there's another side to this story. too complicated and unfortunate to share online, publicly."
"suffice it to say the circumstances with that case had not allowed the normal warranty procedures to unfold."
The second statement is plainly false. Here's what happened:
  • September 2012: I buy the WindSUP 10 at full price from the local dealer, Sailworld Cape Cod.
  • Dec 2, 2012: WindSUP breaks while light wind sailing it in waves. I describe it in a brief blog post.
  • Dec 3, 2012: I bring the board to the dealer, who says he will contact Exocet about the warranty.
  • Dec 7, 2012: Sailword Cape Cod sends me a message that starts:
    "Hi Peter, Exocet says that there is no warranty when the board is damaged in the surf." After getting this response, I post pictures of the broken board and additional information about the day on my blog.
  • Jan 11, 2013: When another WindSUP owner reports structural problems with his board, and that the Exocet owner had sent him a ridiculous response, I add a link to my blog entry about my board breaking.
  • Jan 14, 2013: The US importer for Exocet, Steve Gottlieb, suggests to contact him directly about any Exocet warranty issues. I do, and he agrees to pay 50% of the repair cost.
I think most windsurfers would consider going through the dealer to be the "normal warranty procedure", and all that got me was a denial of the warranty claim, which seemed to be perfectly in line with Exocet's warranty ideas, at least according to the words of the company owner. I ended up with some warranty coverage only after board problems seemed to develop into a public relation night mare for Exocet.

John Ingebritsen seems to take his role in promoting Exocet very seriously. He send me a private message on iWindsurf with the subject "please stop it with your hard on about the exocet".  Here's a screen shot of the message:
I do admit that I find the title offensive, but maybe he is just projecting. But some of the statements he makes deserve a closer look. Perhaps the most telling is hidden in the middle:

"if you blithely ride into mauling waves and don't have the experience or foreknowledge of what to look out for, how can you blame anything/one but yourself?"
Not only does he know that the waves were "mauling",  but he also knows that "rode blithely into them", without any "foreknowledge of what to look out for". Quite amazing for someone who was not there, and heard about what happened third-hand! No surprise he knows that I am the one to blame!

But once again jingebritsen is plainly wrong. It is true that I have little wave sailing experience, but I have some experience in getting out through shore break at least as big as it was that day (which was not very big). I have sailed in Cabarete many times, including during the fall when the shore break was so high that equipment breaks trying to get out was the norm; I have sailed from Old Silver Beach in onshore 20-25 mph winds several times, when getting out was a lot harder; I have watched Peter Hart's wave sailing videos, which deal extensively with getting through shore break; and I had just recently heard the ABK SUP sailing lessons, and gone to practice SUP sailing with Andy Brandt in Hatteras. I certainly do have a basis to state that the damage was way out of proportion to the conditions.

Ingebritsen goes on, reporting that "your story and performance on the water did not ring true". In one sentence, he accuses me of lying as well of "poor performance". Maybe part of my problem was that I was not lying about this. The first board repair guy I contacted advised me to say this happened in flat water, to have a better chance of warranty coverage. Instead, I was truthful, and ended up hearing "not covered by warranty". His ideas about "performance" are also quite wrong. At the last East Coast Windsurfing Festival, which also happened in light winds, I placed 3rd in the freestyle contest, riding a very similar board. The contest level was quite high, with about 15-20 participants. Duck tacks and back-to-back was not good enough for more than 3rd place, the top two did some rather amazing combos.

jingebritsen apparently thinks he knows more about this entire incident than I do:

"i've gotten the dealer perspective about what happened. he never thought your case was worth taking beyond his level."
He seems to know this from talking to the US distributor for Exocet:

"when discussed by your dealer with the distributor (after your public posts)"

I did contact Jim Ballantyne, the dealer in question again about this, and he responded:
"I absolutley contacted exocet, spoke to their manager Curt, and explained what happened to the board and how the damage happened, he told me under those conditions the warranty did not hold, and the answer is what I expected" 
The dealer did not speak to the US distributor when the original warranty claim was made in December; he spoke to him more than a month later, after I had contacted the distributor myself, who stated that paying for half of the repair costs was what they commonly did if no obvious manufacturing defect was found during the repair.

Most of the responses to this incident have fallen into one of two categories:

  1. "You did something wrong, so the board broke. Get over it and don't even think about warranty claims."
  2. "Exocet markets the board for wave sailing, so it should not break this easily. They should honor the warranty."
The first categorie is somewhat self-confirming: if I had not done anything wrong, how could the board be broken? As soon as I mentioned the word "waves", it got the impression that the dealer also was in this category. Nevertheless, I do believe his statements that he had contacted Exocet.

Ingebritsen ended his message with:
"please refrain from blaming your gear, from any brand, on any inexperience you may have in the future."
Seems he is mixing what he so expertly diagnosed as the cause of the problem ("inexperience") into his sentence, but he clearly wants me to stop blaming gear. That's not going to happen - if I think the gear is faulty, I will say so. I have damaged lots of windsurf gear - broken masts, torn sails, bent booms, dinged fins and boards, broken board noses, broken harness hooks, and more. I usually knew what the problem was, be it gear getting old, running aground at full speed, or practicing loop catapults onto the nose, and would never blame the gear. But if I do encounter gear that does not live up to it's marketing hype, I will certainly say so. And if I see completely one-sided forum messages hyping specific gear that I have had a bad experience with, I will continue to point out the bad things that might happen if you just believe the hype posted by jingebritsen and others.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Don't believe the weather man!

I am a windsurfing addict with a job that allows me to go sailing anytime I want to, so I check the wind forecast and meter readings many times a day. Over time, patterns emerge from all this information; on occasion, that enables a better forecast than what the computer models and meteorologists provide.

Last weekend was a case-in-point. Computer models predicted similar SW winds from Friday to Sunday. The iWindsurf experts promised great wind on Saturday, but warned about decoupling on Sunday. But Saturday saw very little wind, except close to dusk, while Sunday had decent winds all day. No real surprise - Friday and Saturday were very hot, with inland temps in the 80s and air temps over the water in the low 60s. Perfect setup for decoupling, which is what we got. Only when the sun went down and temperatures started to fall did we get a bit of wind. Sunday was perhaps 5-10 degrees cooler, and the water had warmed up a few degrees, so the wind managed to stick to the surface. In Kalmus, it was still a bit up and down, but planeable all day. Dean managed to get a top speed of 33 knots, racking up almost 100 miles over the course of the day. He was still flying over the chop, with just the fin touching the water, when the tide came in and built up the famous Kalmus voodoo chop.

With the remnant of tropical storm Andrea passing over us tonight, the question is what tomorrow will bring. Maybe something like what Cape Hatteras is seeing today, with winds in the 30s all day? Or maybe almost nothing in the afternoon, as some computer models predict?
The screen shot above shows the prediction for tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm - low teens for Kalmus and most of the Cape. However, the shape looks a bit suspicious. Here's a similar graph from
The colors are a bit different, but again, it looks like the wind will desperately try to avoid Cape Cod.

I'm sorry, but I think the stupid government computers have it wrong. Perhaps they think that wind hates land as much as government employees hate working on Friday afternoons? Fortunately, we also have a local wind prediction from a private company, Sailing Weather Service, that we can look at:
This looks more like it - WSW 20-22 knots (23-25 mph) very close to shore. Instead of the symetrical "land avoidance" in the first picture, the strong winds get very close to shore on the windward side, and are significantly stronger than on the leeward side. For tomorrow afternoon, my bet is on this model, and strong winds in the early afternoon. In WSW setups, we often see even stronger winds if Kalmus, probably due to some channeling and Lewis Bay right behind.

The winds will get weaker during the afternoon, but the timing of the drop is notoriously hard to predict. We might get wind all day, or it might drop rapidly at noon. The early bird will see the strongest winds, but may have to tolerate heavy rain. I plan check the radar maps and iWindsurf meter readings south of us to get an idea what's coming, and be at the water as soon as the rain stops. If you do the same, keep in mind that most meters in Rhode Island and Connecticut will show much less wind than we'll get on Cape Cod, with the possible exception of island and open water meters.