Friday, December 21, 2018

Australia!

We have been in Western Australia for a week now, and I finally got some time to blog. We've been busy getting a phone, getting it to work, shopping for a car, getting it fixed, windsurfing, and getting more windsurfing gear for Nina so she can freestyle and wave sail a bit.

There are lots of fantastic things that deserve their own blog post - the city of Perth; the weather; the highly civilized driving on perhaps the best road system I have ever seen; wonderful bakeries and other great food; Christmas decorations (yes, they definitely deserve their own post!); and, most of all, the wonderful people we have met. But, this being a windsurfing blog, I'll start with the windsurfing.

We had arrived Friday afternoon, and Sunday was Nina's birthday. So she got to pick what we'd do, which ended up being ... checking out a car! It was a station wagon that we ended up buying, but it fortunately was on the way to Mandurah, where Fangy's Weed Farm is located. If you want to find this place on the map, look for Coodanup and Mandurah Bay in Western Australia - but the map won't tell you what makes this place special. Neither does the picture of the launch site:
The main sailing area is about half a mile to the right, hidden behind the trees. It's about knee-deep, sometimes shallower, with thick seaweed growing right to the surface. In some areas, the water surface looks more like a lawn than anything else - and you can sail right through this "magic carpet". You do, however, need a specialized fin - a regular weed fin won't make it through! Fins need to have a rake of at least 50 degrees to shed the weed, and they need to be quite short - 22 cm or less is the norm.

To get us on the water required the help of two local sailors, Mike and Ross, better known as "Decrepit" and "Fangman". Fangman had developed his own fins especially for the local conditions which work a lot better that most other high rake fins, and he had prepared three fins especially for us. Mike, with whom I had had a bunch of email exchanges about GPS prototypes, came of the water when we arrived and drove to Fangy's house to pick the fins up, since Ross was up in Lancelin. When we discovered that the Fangy Fins did not fit quite right, Mike gave Nina one of his fins (also self made, with a stainless steel front edge), and let me use his board. Another local sailor lent us a couple of fin screws that somehow had not made the trip.

The sailing was perhaps the most unusual windsurfing I have ever done. We sailed straight through weed beds which would have meant instant catapults with regular slalom setups, without slowing down, except for an occasional tug when you hit an unusually dense patch. If you managed to hit one of the channels where the weed had been pushed down, you'd accelerate, since the water was mirror-flat in 25 knot wind. A bit behind the thicker weed patches, the surface of the water would clear, and the "chop" would build up to a centimeter or two.

Still slightly jet-lagged due to the 13 hour time difference, we kept the session short, but came off the water with big, fat grins. Nina had set four new personal bests, I had one (plus the second-fastest session ever, in a lot less wind than in the fastest session!). When we returned to the same spot two days later, Nina again improved her top speeds, setting two new PBs.

Our third session was yesterday in Safety Bay. The spot was quite nice, somewhat similar to Bonaire in the setup with a large shallow section next to a deeper section (but the launch is in the deep section). That was a short session - Nina's mast broke in the middle of her third run, and she had to swim back for 20 minutes. But in the evening, she picked up two freeride sails and a mast for free from a local freestyler. It is quite incredible how many nice and helpful people we have encountered in our first week here! It has already restored my faith in people - wonderful in these times where consideration for others seems to be out of fashion in many parts of the world.
Nina in Perth


Christmas kangoroos

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