Monday, November 25, 2013

Failure to stay straight

My life used to be easy. When I windsurfed, I mowed the lawn: back and forth, back and forth, in nice straight lines. Turns were added only out of necessity - the beer is waiting where I started, so we must turn to get back. Many year later, Andy Brandt showed me that turns can be a lot of fun, but that really did not change much. My favorite thing to do is still to go in straight lines for miles. Adding a GPS and calling myself a "speedsurfer" is merely obfuscation, and anyone who looked at my top speeds will discover.

Here's what I am talking about:

Somewhere in the movie, you may notice Nina. She fully supports my lawn mowing habit. ABK's Brendon has explained to me why we make a great team: lawns need to be mowed and watered. Nina likes to try new freestyle tricks, which takes care of the watering, so that I can concentrate on the mowing.

But recently, I have often been confused on the water. I expect water to either be perfectly flat, so that I can mow faster, or full of irregular spaced bumps (often called "chop" or "voodoo chop"). Chop slows you down, but it sailing in chop for 2 hours is a great cure for constipation, so chop is good. When I can't sail a straight line through it anymore, I simply jump a bit. But I am German, and there have to be rules. Rule number 1 in jumping is that I only jump starboard, when my right had is closer to the mast. I really tried to stick to this rule when we went sailing in Cape Cod Bay last Saturday, but I failed:

That was just the beginning. At my home spot, Kalmus Beach in Hyannis, I have to turn around after sailing 500 meters, or face the dreaded ferry line. Even when crossing the ferry line, runs are rarely longer than a kilometer (or half a mile for my metrically challenged readers), mostly because the water ends and my boards are not suited for sailing on the beach. But where we launched in Brewster, you can sail for miles and miles without having to turn around. It's perfectly safe, too, since you're always within half a mile or so from shore. So I went in nice straight lines for a mile or two, until I remembered that I should turn around and check on Nina.

Well, that was the plan, at least. But when I sailed past the end of the long shallow region, the chop suddenly started to organize, slowly turning into swell and then into something that looked like waves to my untrained eye. This upset me - I am a lawn mower sailor, not a wave sailor! Turning around early would have cut the runs short, but simply sailing in straight lines might have led to more against-the-rules port jumps. Since speed is your friend (or at least mine), I tried to accelerate by going down the bigger waves - but after a couple of seconds, I'd end up going up the back of the wave in front of me, slowing down again. So I turned back - only to see the next wave forming behind me! I went down again, and repeated this game a few times until I finally reached sections where order disintegrated into unruly chop. Familiar territory again! But very quickly, weird thoughts crept into my mind, like "that was fun not going straight all the time!". Here is a short movie from this period:

Having been raised as a proper lawn-mowing catholic boy, I had my doubts about not going straight all the time, but it was kind off fun - especially when I went up one wave and turned just a bit too late at the top, getting a little bit of air while turning:

If you stop the movie just after I landed, you will notice a look of great confusion on my face - what just happened? A second or two later, you can hear what I thought about it if you have the sound turned on..

This was almost too much fun. Sure, we had gotten up before 7 am on a Saturday to be at the beach early, so that we would get the strongest winds and the best water levels. Sure it was sunny, and the water was nice and clear. But air temperatures were in the low 40s, and water temperatures not much higher - sure we were not supposed to have this much fun? I went to check with Nina. She had stayed out of the deep water the entire time, being perfectly happy that she was able to stand every single time when she fell. She had initially been overpowered on her 4.5 m sail, but the wind dropped just a little to make the sail a perfect choice, so she was having a blast. We had been on the water for almost 2 hours by then. But the wind seemed to be dropping a bit, and I really wanted to get home to see my daughter, who was coming for a rare visit, so we decided to stop soon.

I have to apologize to my regular readers, who are probably very disappointed by all these not-so-straight videos without any of the expected freestyle or speed action - but I just have to show one more video. As I was sailing in, I was able to sail much closer to shore than before, since the water level had risen 2 or 3 feet while we were sailing. Check out the GPS tracks:
The last two runs were the runs towards the lower right. This was in the shallow area after a deeper shipping lane. With the wind coming from NW (top right), this created a water surface that was just about perfect: lots of knee-to hip-high waves to play with that ramped up nicely, but did not really break; and perfectly flat water in between. See for yourself:

As much fun as this was, I ended up worrying: have I been infected with the wave virus? Will I follow the path of so many windsurfers before me who decided that flat water is boring, and only sail in waves? Maybe I should not worry too much, because a full-speed jibe on perfectly flat water is still something I dream about all the time. Maybe we will know more in a couple of days, if we indeed get winds in the high 30s, and our plans to explore a new speed venue pan out...

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! Thanks for sharing!
    I live in B&J-ville, but a sort-a-local spot about 1hr away has introduced a lot of us to down-the-line wavesailing. Windsurfing is a whole new ball game now. Sounds like you are into speed as I was into freestyle. I've been bitten by the wave bug now - it's all I want! Freestyle? meh... Don't get me wrong, its ALL a lot of fun, but good waves are now the pinnacle of my sailing days.