Thursday, December 31, 2015

Safe Windsurf Travels

This is not really a post about windsurfing. If you are not a geek, stop reading now.

But some windsurfers travel a lot, and may sometimes worry a bit what's going on at home. Maybe that happened to us a bit last year, when we spent 6 weeks in Texas just as Cape Cod had record snow falls.

We sure won't give up traveling. So how about being able to see what's going on at home while traveling? Easy enough, with IP security cameras. After spending countless hours exploring options on Amazon, we spend about $100 for a nice IP camera - 720p, motion detection, infrared, pan, tilt, zoom, control from anywhere with you smart phone, and about 100 more features that can keep geeks occupied for days (hint: alarm relay out for voice alerts, bright LED lights, and who knows what else...).

We set up the camera before Nina and I left to visit family in Germany over Christmas. Did it work? No, of course not! The wifi-enabled light switches were not accessible, either. The DDNS provider logs showed no contact after the first day. Seems the network was down. I suspected the cable modem/router combo, which had acted up a few weeks earlier.

For almost two weeks, we worried a bit. Just a bit, but more than we would have without the camera. Back home, we discovered that the cable modem was indeed to blame. Or maybe the cable company. It seems that they had upgraded the firmware in the cable modem just after we left. Since we were using the modem in a non-standard way (just as a modem, with the router disabled), that apparently screwed up things. It required a reset to default settings and a few reboots before it worked again.

Obviously, we needed to add more geek toys to our system! The cable modem was replaced with a newer, faster model. The ancient router went back into hibernation, being replaced with a sleek new model. The new router now has a tethered Android phone that serves as a backup internet connection. If the cable modem acts up again, the router automatically switches to cellular data.

That's just part of the story. I won't bore you with security details like what happens when the camera detects motion, but it includes emails with snap shots as well as FTP and cloud uploads of videos and additional snapshots. Chances are that will never happen. The more relevant thing is that we will be able to see our beloved home from afar, and that we definitely will be able to turn up the heat before we get back.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2015 Was Great

Today was probably my last windsurf session for the year - I'll be flying to Germany tomorrow to visit family. A great ending to the year it was - a new spot, flat water, sunshine, and warm - mid-50s (12ºC) even on the water. I was hot the entire time I was sailing, but I'm not complaining!

Dean and I tried a new potential speed spot today - the Provincetown Breakwater. Here are the tracks:
The wind played games - it dropped for an hour, and it was a tad to northerly, making it hard to return to the launch. I sailed two different sails and three different boards, slogging at times on big gear, overpowered at other times on small gear - but it was fun! The spot definitely has potential in a straight west near high tide.

2015 was great:

  • 172 sessions 
  • 6600 km sailed (that's about the diameter of the earth)
  • 3 ABK camps
  • 4 weeks in Hatteras, 16 days in Brazil, and winter in Texas
  • New tricks, new personal bests, new friends
  • A great ECWF Cape Cod - the 3rd in a row, this year with the 2013 PWA Freestyle World Champion and really nice guy Kiri Thode
  • Nina's first Shove Its, first steps towards the Vulcan, and countless Duck Tacks
Since we moved to Cape Cod 3 years ago, it's gotten better every year. So I'm looking forward to 2016! See you on the water :-).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Shell Bank Encounter

It was a beautiful day: temperatures were warm for December (46ºF, 8ºC); the rain was only light and then stopped; the wind started at 19 mph, and then increased to 25. Who would not want to windsurf on such a great day?

NE wind and more rain on the Cape meant a trip to Duxbury Bay. The GPS tracks tell the story:
Lots of sailing - 94 km, more than 2 marathons. Three boards: 117 l slalom, then 110 l freestyle, then 96 l FSW. We needed to improve our distance numbers for the monthly ranking on the GPS Team Challenge. Drew came out to play and strapped on a GPS, so we'd have the required two postings. Distance it was!

On the smallest board, I was having a ball with my brand-new weed fin from CNCFins - the best weed fin I ever sailed. I could not get that baby to spin out, and I am good at spinning out. Loved it. Then I killed it. Or perhaps I should say the "Shell Bank" killed it.

I thought I knew Duxbury Bay - after all, this was my 59th windsurf session there. But I completely forgot that we usually sail at medium to high tide - say, water levels between 4 and 12 feet.
After sailing for 3 hours, though, the water level had dropped to 2 feet. I had sailed here only 4 times when the water was this low. The last couple of times, I had not problems, which I remembered. What I had forgotten was that I had broken a boom when sailing near low tide there the first time.

In NE wind, the water next to the barrier sand bar on the far side can be very flat. I like flat, so I sailed there. I stayed about 250 feet from shore; I'm not as crazy as some of my friends who go really close... but too close I was, it turned out.

I had never sailed this particular region near low tide. Everything seemed just fine, but all the sudden, the fin made loud, scratchy noises. Before I could start worrying about dinging the new fin, I heard a loud "clonk", and the board drifted sideways. I had lost the fin!

I spent the next 30 minutes walking through ankle- to knee-deep water, searching for the fin. After a while, Nina joined me, until I asked her to sail back and bring me a new fin and a screw driver. While she was gone, I found the fin, and almost broke into tears. I had ruined the best weed fin I had ever sailed! In the first session I used it!

When the lovely Nina arrived with a screw driver, I put the damaged fin back in, and sailed back slowly. Yes, I was bumming. But I also realized how lucky I was. Very close to were I had run into the shell bank (imagine a sand bar, but made of stones and covered with shells), several big stones just started to peek out of the water. There were barely visible, but even if I had noticed them when sailing, I would not have had enough time to avoid them. Hitting one of these stones at full speed certainly would have done major damage to whatever hit it - the board, or ever my head.

The next lucky thing in all this was that CNCFins had licensed the fin design to Tectonics Maui. Fortunately for me, Tectonics does not use the usual round brass nuts to hold the fin screw; instead, they just put a thread into the hard plastic that the fin box adapter is made of. That allowed the fin to come off the board cleanly. Much better than ripping the while fin box out! And much better than catapulting me onto my gear, which probably would have resulted in a hole in the sail, a broken boom, or hitting the ground really hard. Amazingly, I was even able to screw the fin back into the board without any problems! Must be Wonderthread.

The fin was not cheap, so I won't be able to just buy a new one right away. The damage is too deep to just sand it out. So I'll try to first add material (marine tex), and then sand it back down to the original profile. We'll have to see how that works. It's something I wanted to learn, anyway - just not with a brand new fin!
On a brighter note: everybody else had a fun, damage-free session. Nina waited until the wind picked up and the tide dropped before going out, and then did her usual freestyle magic. Drew mowed the lawn quite nicely, even beating my 5 x 10 sec average speed, and helped up jump 6 spots in the monthly GPSTC ranking. Nice way to go for the first "real" posting on the GPSTC!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Will It Be?

Check out the wind forecast for Chapin for tomorrow:
The pictures shows two computer model predictions: the NAM model on the left, and the GFS on the right. The interesting time is around 1 pm. NAM predicts 19 mph. GFS predicts 29 mph, which would be fantastic. Which will it be?

The NAM model is intended to be more accurate - it calculates the weather at a higher resolution than the GFS model. Let's check the forecast map for tomorrow at 1 pm. Here is the NAM map from
There's a "low wind bubble" where Cape Cod extends out into the ocean. The GFS model does not have this bubble:
Does it matter which model is right? Sure it does! Many reasons:
  • 19 mph is barely worth rigging; any less, and we'd need huge sails; but 29 mph is prefect
  • We can't wait until 4 pm, when both models predict wind - it gets dark at 3:30.
  • It will be warm (50ºF, 10ºC) and sunny tomorrow after noon.
  • It has not been windy for a while.
So, which model will turn out to be right? Often when we see such discrepancies, the GFS model is closer to the truth, especially in the fall. Sometimes, the wind comes in even stronger than the GFS model predicts. But sometimes, the "light wind bubble" that the NAM model predicts actually happens. For tomorrow, my bet is on the GFS - but windsurfers have to be optimists. So watch the meters!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Nose Job

A few months ago, my favorite windsurf board needed cosmetic surgery:
I had gotten a bit confused while having fun. I forgot that I was not a wave sailor. I also forgot that I do neither loops nor Grubbies. But when a lovely little wave presented itself, I tried to jump of the lip so that I'd land back on the wave. Which must have looked like a bad Grubby or loop attempt. At least so I think - I got thrown around, and the mast landed on the nosed of the board.

That was not the first (or second or third or ...) time the mast hit the nose. Nor was it the hardest crash. But the damage was much worse than ever before, with a big crack that went from the top to the bottom of the board. The main difference to previous crashes? My poor board was not wearing any protection! For three years before that, it had worn plastic protection where it mattered - on the nose. With double-density foam! That had not kept the nose from being hurt. In fact, I had it repaired twice at Fox in Buxton. The repair guy there stated that all the nose protector  did was making the repair more expensive, since he had to remove it and replace it. So the second time, I told him to leave it off.

Well, wrong he was. With the nose protector, the nose needed two repairs over 5 years. Both times, the damage was not nearly as bad as this time around. I was actually able to temporarily fix the board with ding stick, and keep using it until our next trip to Hatteras. But without the nose protector, the nose lasted only a couple of months, and the damage was much more severe than ever before.

I love my Skate 110 dearly, but it was showing signs of age and heavy use. The area under the foot pads was starting to get soft - damage that, according to the experts, was not worth fixing. So I figured - if the board is almost dead, maybe it is the perfect board to practice board repairs on!

I had never done any board repairs, other than using a bit of ding stick for small holes. This one clearly needed much more serious work, including some new fiberglass. Back when the concept of "pin tails" and "fully retractable daggerboards" was new and exciting, I had built a windsurf board. Not quite on my own - the university that I attended actually offered a course "Build your own windsurf board". A long time ago, but I remembered that working with fiberglass and epoxy was not that hard.

I started asking a few questions on the iWindsurf  forum, and got a number of useful tips. So I went ahead and bought a bunch of supplies:
  • West System epoxy resin, slow hardener, metering pumps, and filler from the local West Marine store
  • Fiberglass from
  • Polyurethane pour foam from a couple of different suppliers (since the first one I got did not work)
  • Sandpaper, gloves, dust masks, and masking tape from the local hardware stores
  • Epoxy mixing sticks from
  • Cups for mixing the epoxy from the local grocery store
  • Spray paint from a local car store
The electric tools I used for the project were:
  • A battery-operated Dremel tool (ca. $30 from Amazon)
  • An electric sander
I decided to do the fix in two parts, starting from the top of the board. I used the Dremel tool with a disc wheel blade to cut through the fiberglass and the PVC foam underneath, and removed some of the damaged foam underneath:
My original plan had been to fill the hole with polyurethane pour foam, and then glass it over. However, when I mixed some of the foam to get an idea how to work with it, it did not polymerize. The foam I had gotten said the mix had to be 1:1 by weight. I did not have an accurate scale, but I figured that mixing by volume should also work (many other PU pour foams suggest to mix by volume). Maybe that was the problem? I bought a scale with 0.1 g accuracy, and tried again a few days later, but still nothing happened. Obviously, the pour foam was bad (I later got a refund for it).

The local West Marine store had pour foam, but they wanted almost $200 for something that I could get for less than $50 online. I ordered from a different supplier through Amazon (for easy returns), but since the chemicals have to be shipped via ground, waiting for it to arrive would have added another one-week wait to the repair. Since it was the middle of the best surfing time of the year, I developed another plan.

My idea was to use epoxy to fill the hole. To reduce both the weight and the heat produced during polymerization, I added a lot of filler to the epoxy. I also added a lot of styrofoam bubbles that I made from pieces of packing material. I was concerned about things getting to hot, so I first let everything polymerize in a cup. Everything looked good:
So I made another batch and filled up the hole. Everything looked fine at first:
But a few minutes later, bubbles started forming, and I knew I was in trouble:
When I opened up the other side of the board a while later, this is what I saw:
The heat from the polymerization had melted a lot of the styrofoam, and produced a big hole! I had overlooked one thing in my test: in a cup, the heat from the polymerization can easily escape in all directions. But in the board, the epoxy is surrounded at most sides by styrofoam, which traps the heat! That starts a bit of a chain reaction: with no way for the heat to escape, things keep getting hotter, which makes the polymerization go faster, which makes things even hotter... until it's hot enough for the styrofoam to melt, and air bubbles form.

Alas, the pour foam still would not arrive for a few days that I did not want to wait. So I started again with my epoxy-filler-styrofoam ball mix, but with two important modifications: 1. I made it even thicker (to "peanut butter" consistency), and 2. I added only small layers, instead of trying to fill the entire hole in one turn. I carefully watched for any bubbles, but did not see any. After about 4 or 5 layers, I had finally filled in the entire hole.

Sanding things down was pretty easy, since I had used so much filler. I started with the electric sander, but switch to manual sanding pretty quickly, since I had better control that way. On the top, I had to fill in the air bubbles with some epoxy-filler mix, and then sand again. Putting on three layers of glass was pretty easy:
After sanding down the glass, I sealed the region with a layer of epoxy without filler:
At this point, you can actually see a small area from a previous repair. One more careful round of sanding, and the area was ready for painting:
Here's what the bottom looked liked after painting it:
Not bad, I thought! I took the board out for a test session, and it behaved just like it always had. But when I inspected it closely back home, I noticed that there where bubbles coming out! Not in the region that I had fixed, but right next it, in the region that had been repaired before (or close to it). 

So the tools came back out. I cut out another section to make sure that the damage was limited, filled it, and glassed it over again. You can see the second section in this image:
This was a small repair, with much less drama than the first one. Good practice! Here's an image of the top after the final round of painting:
One concern I had about the repair was that the area I had repaired was now harder than the surrounding area. It would probably be more resistant than the original, but a hard hit with the mast could now break out the entire area! But as much fun as the repair was, I had no desire to repeat it any time soon, anyway, so new protection was in order. I bought a Dakine EVA traction pad at the local windsurf store, cut it up, and taped the pieces onto the new nose. The most endangered area is now protected by an inch of EVA. In a hard crash, the EVA will absorb some of the energy by deforming, and distribute the rest of the energy over a much larger area - not too different from an air bag in a car! On the sides of the nose, the EVA is thinner, but both impact angles and leverage are not as bad there. In really bad crashes, the nose may still take damage, but it is now nicely protected from most mast hits and catapults. 

I spent about $250 on all the things I bought for the repair project. I used only a small fraction of most things (like epoxy and fiberglass) for this repair, so I can do many more repairs at no additional cost (I actually did another small repair a couple of months later, when Kiri Thode's board got damaged on his flight from Bonaire). I have used the board more than 30 times since the repair, and it sails just like it did before the damage, so it was definitely worth doing. I thought it was a fun project, too - and I now know that I can easily repair any similar nose damage in the future. With Nina working on Vulcans and Flakas, that might come in handy sooner rather than later!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Truly Amazing

One of the things I love about windsurfing is that you meet amazing people. During our trip to Jericoacoara, there was one guy on the water who was truly amazing: Edvan Souza. I have watched many loop videos, but his loops are way above the norm. So are his other moves. And we only got to see him in the low-wind season.

Now, there's a wonderful short movie out about Edvan. Watch it and be amazed!

EDVAN - his life | his story | his passion from CCfilms on Vimeo.

What's just as amazing as Edvan's sailing is the fact that he currently has no sponsors. I really hope that this will change very soon!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Drew Must Listen

Drew must listen. To me. Very closely. And then do as I say.

You may wonder why, so here's the story:
Last Wednesday, Drew sends me an email, asking about where to sail on Friday. The forecast was WSW or W, so he listed the obvious choices - Kalmus and Hardings Beach. Kalmus can be great in WSW, but if the wind direction is too westerly, it sucks - and Hardings is great. But Drew cc'd Marty, and Marty loves Kalmus.

I suggested Hardings for Friday, and Skaket on Saturday - starting at 10 am, before the high tide. A bit later, I discovered that the dry zip on my Ianovated suit was broken. It is getting a bit chilly here, with air and water temperatures around 50ºF (10ºC). My fallback suit is just a 4/3 mm wetsuit, so playing it conservatively and closer to home made sense, so I said "maybe Kalmus".

Looking on iWindsurf on Friday morning, the first thing I noticed was that the wind was indeed quite westerly, and the readings at Kalmus were very low. The pro forecast predicted winds on the Cape to drop all day. But the meter readings in Rhode Island and Connecticut looked great, with mid-30s near Sandy Point. The water temperature there is about 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit higher than here, and Sandy Point is a fantastic spot. The computer models predicted a slight drop in the wind, but nothing dramatic. So Sandy Point is was!

I live just 15 minutes from Kalmus, and 40 minutes from Hardings. Sandy Point is a 2 hour drive away - that's 4 hours total. I do not like driving much. So there have to be very good reasons to drive there. But there were. I sent an email to Drew and Marty, and another one to Dean, who was with us when we sailed there the first time, and loved it. I also posted on Facebook. But of course, Drew and Marty ignored me, and got skunked - first at Kalmus, and then at Hardings, because the wind dropped shortly past noon.

Sandy Point was, once again, very lovely, but challenging. We got there around 12:30, just as Dean came in to get bigger gear. The wind had dropped, and he reported that he was sinking on his 89 l board with a 6.6 m sail. I usually sail one sail size smaller than Dean, so I rigged my 6.5, and took out the 110 l board. A quick test run showed enough power to switch to my 90 l slalom board, and off to the sandbar we went. Here are the GPS tracks:
In the westerly wind, getting to the sand bar was very easy. The swell on the way was small and orderly. But at the bar, wind and tide levels did not quite play together. Going very close to shore required a mutation in the fear gene, which I do not have (or perhaps just balls several sizes bigger than mine). Where I found it safe to sail, the wind created quite a bit of staccato-chop. That slowed me down, but it did not keep Dean and Bart from going wicked fast - both reached top speeds of about 35 knots. I barely scratched 30. But I got one good pointer from Bart when I asked why he was so much faster. He had noticed that my front arm was bent a lot, even after I had downsized my sail to a 5.8 m speed sail. Here's a picture that illustrates the problem (while I was still on the non-cambered 6.5, which I could barely control after the wind picked up):

Thanks to Dean and Bart's amazing speed, the Fogland Speedsurfers for once are not fighting for the second-to-last place on the GPS Team Challenge - we are right there in the middle of the monthly rankings! This was also the first time our team had 4 windsurfers posting speeds above 30 knots in the same session. Did I mention that is was much warmer than on Cape Cod? Temperatures near shore where around 60ºF (15ºC), and even I was perfectly comfortable without gloves or a hood.

I think Drew would have liked that. He would certainly have liked the flat water and orderly little swell.

On Saturday, the wind turned to NW, which dropped temperatures into the 40s. I had tried to suggest Barnstable Harbor and the Providence Breakwater as possible flatwater avenues, but nobody showed any interest. So Skaket it was! Nina needed a break, so I went alone. A bunch of windsurfers had said they'd also come, but nobody paid any head to my suggestion to start at 10. Drew showed up about 10:30, just as I was ready to go onto the water (yes, I was late, too).

I hit the water with my 4.7, and had a few good runs - but then the wind dropped. I rigged up to my 5.0 (which is more like a 5.5 with respect to power). The 5.0 was good for about 20 minutes, but then, the wind increased to mid-30s (mph), gusting into the high 40s. Back to shore I went, re-rigging the 4.7. Just as I was ready to go out again, two guys came in, reporting that 4.7 was way to big. One of them was Marty, and he usually holds on to his 4.7 way past the point of sanity. Nevertheless, I tried to go out a little later, but even carrying the gear to the water was  a big challenge. Rigging down to 3.7 would have been the call, but I was getting quite cold in my 4/3 wetsuit. The tide was high, creating nasty shore break and big swell with lots of chop on the waves - that's survival sailing, not fun.

By then, only Ken's son Michael, who had rigged down to a 4.2 (with the help of a few others who held the sail down in the blowing sand), was out. I suggested to Marty and Drew, who had not even made it out onto the water, to join me for a jacuzzi warmup and then a session in Barnstable Harbor, but got no takers. However, I did exactly that. Here's a short video that shows the conditions:
A lovely session it was, indeed. Drew certainly would have had fun...

Today's forecast again called for WSW, but with a rise just before sunset. The iWindsurf pro forecast kept the range to 15-19 knots, so nobody from the Boston area bothered to drive to Kalmus. However, the meter readings for Pt. Judith jumped to high 20s WSW before noon, and the meters in Buzzards Bay soon followed. It was only a question of time until the wind made it to Kalmus! Once the meter here read 20 mph, we were on our way to the beach.

We opted for an Egg Island session to get some nice flat and shallow water despite the high tide. Nina tried a few Vulcans and Duck Tacks, but I stayed away from any freestyle: when getting off near shore early in the session, I had discovered that my baggy drysuit had a few leaks, and let quite a bit of water in. What a great excuse for lawn mowing (aka back-and-forth sailing)!

Over at Egg Island, conditions were perfect. The wind also played along, picking up to low 20s with gusts in the low 30s. Jibing heaven! Once again, we sailed until the sun went down and the wind dropped, but still made it back mostly planing. Here are today's tracks:
Four sessions three days - 3 sessions in the A to A+ range, and one in the "very interesting" category. I just love windsurfing on and around Cape Cod in the fall!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Slick Adventure

Rain, mostly horizontal due to 36 mph wind, 51ºF (11ºC) - who would not want to go windsurfing? Maybe a person who claims to be sane, but I never make this claim. So windsurfing we went. There was hope that the rain would let up in the afternoon, so we took a few hours to decide which of the many great spots to go to. The local abiding wave gurus went to play in waves. Not sure if they survived, the usual reports on Facebook and iWindsurf have not yet surfaced. But they probably did.

We picked flat water instead. Slick, flat water, just like I like it. The spot we picked tends to be gusty, so Nina decided she wanted to do speed,  too - on the 62 liter F2 Missile speed board. Cool!

When we got to the slicks, we saw that the strong wind had pushed several extra feet of water into the bay. The beach was completely flooded - way too much water to go sailing. But that was not all bad - we got to go to our favorite little cafe, and have some hot chocolate and coffee. After all, coffee is known to help your muscles work better. When we got back to the beach and launched (after answering about 50 questions like "Are you really going out in this?"), Nina needed her muscles to work well! I had somehow managed to loose a camber in my favorite 5.8 m speed sail, so I picked a 5.5 m uncambered freeride sail. That would normally put Nina on a 4.2 or 4.5 m sail, but all our small sails are wave sails, which don't go well with the speed board. So she went our on the 5.0 m KA Koncept. What followed was a little adventure.

I went out first, and quickly discovered that my sail was just the right size for speed surfing - in other words, way too big to be comfortable, and definitely not what I would have picked to sail in chop. A 4.0 would have been just fine for me, and a 3.4 for Nina. But we wanted speed! Let me show you the GPS tracks so you can follow the story:
We had to get upwind about 1/2 mile to get to the slicks. Fortunately, there were plenty of little islands where we could stop every time we needed to turn. Nina, who rarely sails the Missile, sailed straight back to the launch after our first stop. It was her first time using this sail (and only the second time in at least a year on any cambered sail), so she had to adjust things a few times. She reported that she was way overpowered, but looked in control. I suggested that she should change down to a smaller sail, but she wanted none of that. So we slowly tacked up to the slicks, and made it there 30 minutes later. By then, the wind had dropped 5 mph, so the sail sizes seemed a bit more reasonable.

Our timing had been perfect - the water level had dropped just enough for the marsh islands to emerge, creating perfectly flat water along the edges. I did a few speed runs, and eventually managed to feel somewhat in control even in the gusts. The reward were repeated speed readings above 30 knots, which is fast for me - even more so on a freeride sail. Nina also started having some fun, and looked pretty fast, despite not being fully dialed in.

After an hour of fun, I finally revealed my evil plans: I made Nina switch boards, so that I could sail the Missile. In full winter gear, my weight is close to 100 kg, and a 62 liter board is just a bit small for me. If the wind drops unexpectedly, which happens quite often on Cape Cod, I'd sink to my belly button on that board! Very nice of Nina to sail it upwind, indeed.

I did have a bit of a hard time to get the board going at first - but once I was planing, it was so much fun! In the very first run on the Missile, I saw a top speed of 31.66 knots on the GPS. Considering that my personal best for 2 seconds is 31.68 knots, that was fast! I did a few more runs, and got better at getting going, but with the wind slowly dropping, I did not get to set a new top speed. But fun it was! Only the approaching sunset (not that we saw any sun!) finally made us sail back. When analyzing the speed data at home, I discovered that I had improved my 5 x 10 second average speed by 0.2 knots over my previous best. Nice! Nina's speed were her 4th-fastest every, within a knot of her personal bests. Not bad for the first speed sailing session in a long time, and on unfamiliar gear!

Normally, I'd stop here, but November is jinx-proof, so I may as well tell you what's coming: two more days with wind of 25-30 knots. WSW wind tomorrow calls for a Kalmus session. With plenty of sunshine, it is quite likely that the wind will come in stronger than predicted; it is quite possible that we'll sail over to Egg Island for some flat water. I'll have to make a difficult decision - another speed session, or freestyle?  Then on Saturday, the wind should shift to WNW, which will send us to Skaket in Orleans - another one of my favorite spots. The forecast continues to look good into Sunday, but we'll probably need some rest by then...

Monday, November 9, 2015

November Rocks

November is the new Rocktober. Or maybe it has always rocked. I love November.

It's November 9th, and I have windsurfed 6 days so far. Here are a few highlights:

Day 1: Sailed the WET Fall Regatta at Dave Kashy's place. Stayed the best Bed & Breakfast I have ever stayed in, just a 2 minute drive from the regatta. My sailing was poor, but I'll blame it on my board, which had 40-80 l less volume than the other longboards in the race. Perhaps I really should blame myself, but Andy Brandt always says the board is too small to be competitive. When the nose went under water every time I tried to pump or ride the small swell on a downwind angle, I thought of Andy.  Let's not talk about the last race where I took the Ultra Cat...

Day 2: Back on Cape Cod. The first of three days where the forecast predicted 12 mph, but we got 20. I missed the best wind, but still got to plane on my 6.0 for almost 2 hours. Got my second-ever clean planing Push Tack.

Day 3: Another 90-minute "bonus" session with no wind in the forecast. First time all of my Carve 360 tries were dry - just 5, but that's good enough for me.

Day 4: Crowds on the beach due to a good forecast made the wind shy - it did not want to come out for a while. But over the next 3 hours, I went from practicing pumping to being overpowered on the 6.5.  Played on 3 boards - the Skate 110, then the XFire 90 for a few runs, finally the 3S 96.
Not much luck with Carve 360s this time - 7 of 8 tries ended wet. But the lawn mowing was fun! So was the beer at the BBC with Jon, Nina, and Bianca afterwards.

Day 5: After a much-needed day of rest, it was time to try something new: Corporation Beach in Dennis. Perhaps not the smartest choice for a flat-water lover like myself. Tried the 3S 96 with a 6.0 at first, but did not like the schlogging and/or pumping in high, choppy swell. Not one little bit. Stopped soon, derigged, and changed into dry closed. Then practiced bitching about the conditions.
But everyone else had fun, including Jerry, Martin, PK, and Nina. So I just had to give it another try, this time with a bigger board (my Skate 110) and a sail that's easier to pump (Idol 5.6). That worked much better, and I actually had some fun. Not quite as much as Skaket would have been, but any fun is good fun. I windsurfed only 80 minutes between 8 am and noon, but was much more tired than after sailing Kalmus for 3 or 4 hours.

Day 6: Another unexpected bonus session at Kalmus this afternoon. Nicely powered on the 6.5/110 l combo for more than an hour, until another windsurfer showed up (Bruce). He's a bit more efficient than I am, so the wind decided it was enough to cater to Bruce's needs, which had me waiting for gusts and pumping. Carve 360s were a tad better than last time - I made one of three tries. The key to success was keeping the body forward... just like the Tricktionary says. This probably was the last day for my 4/3 wetsuit.

There's plenty more wind in the forecast for the next few days:

I'm actually glad that there won't be much wind tomorrow and Thursday - I need the break days!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Upwind 360

Yes, I know. I have not blogged for a while. No, I did not move away from Cape Cod. We just went to Hatteras for a couple of weeks. And windsurfed. A lot. No surprise there. I like windsurfing a lot. I mean, like windsurfing for 6 hours a day. That's a good day.

Since I have not given up completely on learning new freestyle tricks, I need to windsurf a lot. I am a slow learner. Tricks that others get in a day may take me a week. And I need all the help from ABK instructors I can get. Because if I screw up a trick, I usually have absolutely no clue what I did wrong.

Fortunately, we had good wind and plenty of great ABK instructors around - Andy, Brendon, Tom, Derek, and Eric. The fearless Nina started on Vulcans, and progressed nicely - her crashes now look just as violent as we expect Vulcan crashes to be, and her Flaka tries have reached the "any day now" state. I stuck with simpler stuff - mostly the planing Upwind 360. It looks really cool when Andy does it - he seems to loose no speed at all! And I can do the non-planing upwind 360 in my sleep. So this should be easy, right? Well, judge for yourself:

Not easy for me! I worked on it almost exclusively for several days. That makes somewhere between 50 and 100 crashes. According to Andy Brandt, the last one in the video counted as a success - "everyone waterstarts out of their first one". I did not count it, since I also hit bottom; but I had another one without bottom contact a bit later.

I also got my first planing Push Tacks during the ABK camp, thanks to tips from Derek. I had been close to completing one before, but it was still nice to finally get one. During the lighter wind days, I mostly worked on the Jaw Breaker. I made some progress, but it's still a matter of luck if I get one. The same applies to three new light wind moves that I had not done before - the Spin Tack, a Pirouette escape from the Jizz (Kreuzhang), and the Clew-First Duck Tack. But I made a few of each, so I can claim 5 new tricks. I'm pretty sure that's a record for me for a single ABK camp. Cool. Now I just have to repeat them, get the success rate up, and do them on both tacks and in different conditions. That should keep me busy for a few months! But there is hope - during a short session at Kalmus today, my one and only Push Tack try was dry. Of course I could not try again after that - why ruin a 100% success rate?

There's a few more things to write about, like the by far best weed fins I ever tried and the WET Fall Regatta that we stopped for on our way home, but that will have to wait.

Monday, October 12, 2015

GoPro Replacement Test

I got the original GoPro five years ago as a gift from my lovely wife, and have been using it ever since. I'm still perfectly happy with the video quality. Well, I mean the sharpness, color, and so on; not what I'm doing when I film myself windsurfing - I am still making some of the same mistakes that I made 5 years ago...

I never felt the need to upgrade my GoPro to a newer and fancier model. But with two windsurfers who dabble in freestyle a bit in the family, it sometimes would make sense to have two cameras. Spending another $300-$500 on a second GoPro seems excessive - even more so when you consider mounting the camera to the nose of the board, where it might get smashed by the mast at any moment. So I bought a cheap GoPro lookalike camera on for $55.

It came two days later in a box that does not even have a brand label. No big surprise here - there seem to be about 100 different "brands" available on Amazon that all look the same. The one I got has 1080p recording, a 2 inch LCD screen WiFi, and all the usual attachments, which includes a waterproof housing. It came with a little manual that is minimal, but has all the necessary information.

My inner geek was eager to see how easy it would be to use the WiFi to transfer data from the camera to my Android phone that I got to use with GPSLogit. Piece of cake, as long as you RTFM ("read the fine manual"). Transferring photos and videos to the iPhone or iPad is just as easy. Cool!

But the real test was on the water. With my GoPro, I'd usually shoot in 960p mode. That may be old-fashioned, but it gives me more height, so I can see my head and feet at the same time when I use the Clew-View mount. Some of you might be tempted to say that seeing the head is optional, and surely a sign of vanity - but there are some moves where it is important where you look and where you step. My little "eXuby X1000 Action Camera", however, does not have such a mode - I only can choose between 1080p at 30 frames per second and 720p at 60 fps. So in my first windsurfing test, my head was missing from the picture (no jokes, please!).

But yesterday, I managed to put the camera into the right position, and got some decent videos. Here's one example:
Make sure to watch the movie in the highest quality (1080p). Even then, keep in mind that the quality of what you see on YouTube is significantly lower than the original quality, since YouTube down samples the movies to reduce how much data they have to stream. Nevertheless, I think it gives you at least an idea that the quality is decent. Here's another movie:
To give you a better idea of the quality, here are a couple of screen shots I took from the original movie:
You know you can click on the image to see a larger version, right?
The camera seems to have a bit of a tendency to focus on things that are close, like the water droplets, and leave things farther away a bit less sharp. But I'd say it's pretty good for a $55 camera. It's not quite as vivid as the original GoPro, and the dynamic range seems a bit lower, which is noticeable in scenes taken against a very bright background:
Sure, I am bright, but not that bright.

Overall, though, I have to say that I am impressed by the little camera. It's smaller than the original GoPro (I guess about the same size as the current models), and weight maybe half as much. The housing is a bit thinner, and the lens seems to be rather soft plastic that may scratch easily.

The camera splits the movies into 10-minute segments, which I don't see as a problem; even my GoPro would split movies, albeit into about 40-minute segments.  The one thing that is missing is a remote. None of the cheap cameras I looked at originally had one; some models that are closer to $100 in price have one, but the reviews say it does not work well, and the descriptions don't state that the remote is water proof. But disk storage is cheap - shoot a lot and pick the good scenes later works just fine.
Some of my avid readers may have noticed new colors in the videos and pictures above. Yes, I did get a new sail - a Gaastra Matrix 6.5 from 2015. My current 6.5 (a Gaastra Pilot) is falling apart and needed to be replaced. I have already had the Matrix in 5.5, 6.0, 7.0, and 7.5, so when I saw the 6.5 offered with a Fall discount, I just could not resist. I have sailed it a couple of times now, and I absolutely love the sail. My other Matrix sails are older, maybe 2010-2013, and this one has brighter colors and quite a few design changes. It looks racier, with an inset clew and a bottom batten that pokes downwards quite a bit. But it's still perfectly easy to duck jibe. It also switches quite well between old-school freestyle on my Fanatic Skate 110 and a bit of speed sailing on my RRD XFire 90, feeling perfectly at home on both boards. Nice! But the biggest surprise came in the jibes: somehow, this sail makes it really easy to plane out of jibes. I'm not sure what it is - the sail flip feels easy, and the re-acceleration is fast and smooth. But whatever it is, I like it! I even planed out of a duck jibe in marginal conditions. Another magical sail added to my collection! Let the fall winds come :-).

Monday, October 5, 2015

Windsurfing Nirvana

Windsurfing nirvana. That's what Bart said after sailing in Duxbury Bay for the first time. His words, not mine. He continued to write "I wish I had known/sailed this place before". Alex, who also sailed in Duxbury Bay for the first time yesterday, wrote "Gene and I both had an absolute blast". 

Ok, I liked it too. No big surprise for me, since I have had many great sessions in Duxbury. But before you all get excited, let me put things into perspective. Check my GPS tracks from yesterday:
Did you notice that runs are 3 miles (almost 5 kilometers) long? Most windsurfers I know would die of boredom halfway through the run. So sue me, but my idea of fun is a bit different. Maybe I had a good reason to like the long runs. I was aiming to get a good 1-hour average speed for the GPS Team Challenge. My jibes are currently a bit broken - not wet, but rarely planed through. So I needed long runs with few jibes to get a good average. If came out reasonably well - 20.78 knots, a new personal best. For me, that's fast. 

But Dean also showed up. He has the annoying habit of sailing 3-5 knots faster than I do, even if we are on very similar gear. He set a new personal best for the hour, to, at 23.1 knots. But that's great - at least for a little while, the Fogland Speedsurfers have the #1 ranking in the 1 hour category for the month. Only 23 teams have posted sessions so far, and we will probably slide down a few spots before the end of the month, but for now it's great.

Another thing that can be great in Duxbury Bay is that the outer sandbar minimizes the chop. In the area where we were sailing, the chop ranged from a few inches to a foot or so, and it was quite orderly. Here's a short movie just to show the conditions:
I was on a 6.0 m sail and a 96 l board. I later switched to my 90 l slalom board to go a bit faster.

A lot of windsurfers I know probably fell asleep trying to watch the video - no waves, not even decent chop. What can I say - Duxbury Bay is for flat water lovers! Well, at least the part closer to the outer sandbar is, when the wind is NE-ENE. The one time that I ventured closer to the main land, about a mile away from the sandbar, I found some sizable chop that could compare to Kalmus on a typical SW day. There's even a launch there, close to the harbor, for those who love chop. But I like my water flat.

If you also like flat water and consider checking out Duxbury, let me give you a few warnings. The "nirvana" conditions that we had yesterday happen only if the wind direction is just right, between NE and ENE (it was 50-55º yesterday). In NNE wind, the bay on the south side of Powder Point Bridge can be much less pleasant. Then, the bridge throws a surprisingly long wind shadow, so you'd have to sail away from it. And while the chop lines up nicely parallel to a beam reaches in NE-ENE, you will head straight into it in N-NE wind directions. We're talking about short, steep chop here - no fun at all!

So in more northerly wind directions, the smaller part of the bay on the north side of the bridge is better for sailing. But for the north side, you really need to watch the tide levels. At water levels below 4 feet, many parts of the northern bay are too shallow for windsurfing. I proved that repeatedly by running aground at full speed a few years ago; fortunately, the only thing that broke was a boom. Even at intermediate tides, the marsh islands stick out of the water and disturb the wind, making it quite gusty. Later, near high tide, the same islands are fully covered by water, which can make normal fins dangerous. But freestylers with mini-fins and kiters love it.  Finally, when the high tide goes down, the current can get strong - I and others have been swept under the bridge when falling close to it, and the wind near the bridge was not strong enough to waterstart. Not a big problem with a windsurfer, but kites can get stuck. Also, as we get later into the fall, the outgoing tide will flush out a lot of dead reads, which can stop you dead in your tracks even with a weed fin. That gets better towards low tide, but keep in mind that most of Duxbury Bay can become unsailable if the tide drops to very low levels. The nominal water depth even on the south side is often just 1-2 feet, and spring tides (near full or new moon) can drop the water level to -2 feet.

But when the conditions are just right, the northern part of the bay can be a lot of fun in N-NNE wind. Here are some GPS tracks from last Thursday:
The little grass island in the middle create some perfectly flat water just behind it that is good for some short speed runs when the water level is just right. It let me finally reach 31 knots again, for the first time in almost 2 years! Fun! A short trip to the southern part of the bay, however, was misguided - very gusty winds and nasty chop drove me back to the northern part right away. Nina was smarter and stayed on the north side, playing with freestyle and having a blast.

The windiest day of the 4-day nor'easter was last Friday, but we decided to stay inside - too much rain! Our bodies also wanted a little break before two more days of sailing. On Saturday, we went to Orleans for a speed session with Dean, Alex, and Gene. The wind was a bit lighter and gustier than expected, but still fun on 4.2-6.2 m sails. The 6.2 was Dean's sail, who set a new personal best for the spot with 35.94 knots. In most months, we count our rankings by how far away from the bottom we are - 5th from the bottom counts as a good result. But together with yesterday's numbers, the Saturday session put us into the top half of the monthly ranking (9th of 23 teams). Four different team members contributed - Dean, Al, Bart, and Peter. Great to see three of the fast guys on the team sailing at the same time! For the rest of the month, I plan ignore the GPS TC rankings, since we'll only get pushed down as the other teams get good conditions. Unless, of course, we get another nor'easter - I bet that Dean and Bart can improve their nautical mile numbers for the month by a few knots!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Super Moon, Super Tides

 I hope you all got to see the lunar eclipse yesterday. I thought it was quite fantastic. I finally had a reason to learn about using my camera in "manual" mode. I like the pictures, so I take the liberty to post them, even though they have nothing to do with windsurfing.

Well, almost nothing. We do have a nice little storm coming through in a few days. The National Weather Service predicts gusts up to 35 knots. Fun! Might be a good time to wear a helmet with a visor, though - there will also be some rain.

 The wind will be out of the north and northeast, so the places to sail will be on the Cape Cod Bay site. Normally, we have about a 10 foot (3 meter) tide difference there; you have to watch tide levels before going out on many spots, or you may have a long walk back.
But the moon being very close to Earth right now, and it is still almost full. So the tides the next few days will be exceptionally high (and low). For Duxbury Bay and Barnstable Harbor, the predicted low tide levels are - 2 feet, and high tides exceed 12 feet several times - that's a 14 foot (4 m 20) tide!
If the wind indeed blows hard out of the northeast for a couple of days, it will push a lot of water into the bays, and the actual tide levels may be even higher. A couple of extra feet at some of the more exposed beaches would be no surprise. That could create a few problems.
 If you are planning to go windsurfing near Cape Cod the next few days, make sure to check the tide tables, and use caution. I am listing a few things that come to my mind for my favorite N-NE launches below.
 Duxbury Bay will probably be mostly unsailable near low tide. Last Monday, we sailed there at a +1.6 foot low tide, and had about 4 feet of water under our boards at many spots. With a -2 foot tide, there'll be less than 1 foot of water at many spots. Unless the wind pushes a lot of water into the bay, most of the north side will be dry, and a lot of the south side will be too shallow near low tide.
 Fortunately, low tide is early in the morning and again after dark. But at and after high tide, there may be a lot of reeds on the water, which can stop you dead. It's still early in the fall, so the problem may not be really bad, but bring your weed fin! Assuming, of course, the Duxbury Harbor Master does not close the bay because of a storm warning.
 Chapin should be sailable for much of the day, but keep in mind that there will be a lot of water flowing in the outgoing tide. The currents near the Barnstable Harbor entrance will be significantly stronger than during a normal tide. The rip currents may also be quite strong. So exercise caution if you go! And post some pictures :-)

Pleasant Bay may be a great spot once the wind turns NNE-NE. No worries about rip currents or harbor masters! But keep in mind that the Jackknife Cove can flood at high tide. The tide is delayed by about 2 1/2 hours relative to outside beaches - it will close to 5 pm for Thursday.
 The predicted high tide level for Pleasant Bay of 4.0 feet is 0.4 feet higher than last Saturday, when a small part of the road near the lot entrance got wet. I sailed there only the second time last Saturday, so I don't know how much the wind pushes the water into the cove, but I'd definitely watch the water levels closely in the afternoon!
This could be a reason to explore the other nearby landings, for example the one at the end of Strong Island Road. But there are shallow areas near Strong Island which might be too shallow to sail near low tide.
Back to the moon: the pictures on the left span quite a variety of exposure times, from 1/250 at ISO 100 to 2 seconds at ISO 800 (all at f/5.7). That's a difference of 2000-fold! Quite amazing how the eye adapts to such differences.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

GPS Racing at the ECWF Cape Cod

We tried a couple of new things at this year's ECWF Cape Cod. One was adding a "Shortboard/SUP" division for everyone who does not own a longboard, and does not want to use a sail larger than 6.5 square meters. That class was a big success, with 8 racers on a variety of SUPs (with a length limit of 11 ft) and shortboards.

The other new thing was GPS racing: strap on a GPS, and go as fast as you can in a pre-defined time frame. Unfortunately, we did not have enough wind for GPS racing on day 1. When the wind picked up in the afternoon of the second day, many racers were exhausted after 9 races, and/or wanted to see the pros demo their freestyle skills at the Lewis Bay side.
Kiri Thode freestyling in Lewis Bay
But 4 brave souls persisted, and we got the one 15-minute GPS race going. The gear they used was quite mixed: one longboard, one freestyle board, and two slalom boards. Due to the offshore wind and lack of spectators, we had canceled the original plan to give bonus points for freestyle tricks, but that did not keep Martin from throwing in at least one 360. Here are the competitor's GPS tracks:
Interestingly, the top speed was set by the only freestyler, Martin, with 25.8 knots; the slalom boards clocked in at 22.84 knots and 23.3 knots, while the longboard maxed out at 16.96 knots. From the tracks, it seems Martin was the only one to make a few downwind speed runs, while everyone else sailed back and force on a beam reach.

But top speed was not the goal - distance was the name of the game. Here are the results:

  1. John Brown, 5.958 km
  2. Jeff Spillane, 5.756 km
  3. Martin Schauer, 4.880 km
  4. Jerry Evans, 4.506 km
Those attending the winner announcement at the festival may notice a discrepancy: I had announced that Jerry took 3rd place, instead of Martin. I must have read a number wrong ... I admit to being somewhat exhausted after 2 days of organizing the races and freestyle heats. My apologies to Martin and Jerry! Jerry will have to demo a bunch of loops for Martin to make up for it :-).

For all my GPS geek friends, here is a GPS movie of the race at 10 x speed, created with GPS Action Replay Pro:

We had purchased 10 GPS loaner units for the races (made possible through a generous donation by Hyline Ferries). One of the racers purchased his unit after the race, but we still have 9 units left. Since we don't need any buoys or boats for GPS freeracing, we can just do some impromptu races at Kalmus or Duxbury next time it's windy! Just send me a message or talk to me on the beach if you are interested. Also, if someone else wants to organize GPS races as part of a windsurfing event, we can talk about sending the loaner GPS units to you. Just contact me on Facebook or by email.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ECWF Cape Cod Results and Kiri Video

We had a great East Coast Windsurfing Festival on Cape Cod the last weekend. 32 racers and 23 freestylers competed over two days - sunny and warm with light winds on day 1, and stronger offshore winds on day 2 with clouds and a few sprinkles of rain.
On Sunday afternoon, a new King and Queen of the Cape were crowned: Rich Simons and Pam Levy. Hail to the royal pair!
In racing, Mike Burns dominated the SUP/6.5 m division with 9 bullets (full results here). Jerry Evans won the 7.5 division with six 1st place finishes, two second places, and one third place - despite a broken outhaul in one heat. The open division saw several changes in leadership. John Brown started with 2 bullets, but when Myles Borash returned from the emergency room after minor toe surgery, he won 3 of the next four races. Gonzalo Giribet, the winner of the 1st ECWF Cape Cod racing in the open division, started slowly with a 7.5 m sail - he was testing his knees after knee surgery just 3 weeks ago. But when he discovered that the knee held up just fine, he returned with his 9.5 m race sail for day 2, and proceeded to leave Myles and everyone else on the race course far, far behind. In one race, he was so far ahead that we send him around the course again. He rounded most racers, coming on on 8th place for his second rounding of the course!

In freestyle, the level  in all three divisions (Men, Women, and Pros) was amazingly high. In the Pro division, Mike Burns was held back somewhat by recent injuries, but the Australian "Railride King" Pierre Coupal forced Kiri to show all his tricks to win the light wind heats.
Pierre on the original Windsurfer upside-down, fin first, clew first, next to Kiri 
On Sunday, the wind started light for a third heat in the Men's and Women's freestyle competition. In the subsequent Men's final, the heat was so close that it required a re-sail between Rich Simons and Niko Kley; Niko took the title with a flowing display of difficult tricks that included Duck Tacks, Back-2-Back, Ankle Biters, and Jawbreakers.

When the wind started to turn to the north, getting very light, we held the raffle for all event participants (who had to be present to win). Everyone when home with at least one item from our sponsors; top prices each worth $500 or more included an Ianovated winter wetsuit, a new Point-7 sail, and ABK camp voucher. Then it was off to three more races.

At this point, the offshore wind had increased to levels that allowed GPS Freeracing - but they also made our Pro level freestylers itch to get onto the water on the Lewis Bay side of Kalmus Beach, where the wind was more side-shore and thus more constant. Most windsurfers were too worn out to go back onto the water, but 4 windsurfers went out for a short 15 minute heat. Freestyler Martin Schauer posted the highest speed, but John Brown won the race by covering the highest distance.

Everyone left at the beach rushed over to the Lewis bay side to see the Pro level freestylers in action. The 2013 PWA Freestyle World Champion Kiri Thode was joined by Mike Burns, who was held back by an injury; local freestyler Nikita Piankov; and Chris Eldridge, who "officially" switched to wave sailing, but still has many cool moves up his sleeves. Nikita, Chris, and Mike put on a good show, but the only actual pro quickly demonstrated the difference between good amateur freestyle and top-level pro freestyle, showing many of the moves that allow him to win most of his PWA freestyle heats. A short video from this session is below; unfortunately, some of the biggest moves (e.g. a double Culo) are missing because Nina's camera batteries chose the worst possible moment to die. Enjoy!