Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Jellyfish Time

August is jellyfish time. We had a foil session at Kalmus yesterday that was nice, except that we saw lots of jellyfish. Close to the Hyannis Port Harbor, I saw swarms with hundreds of individuals of the Altlantic Sea Nettle:
Sea nettle, Chrysaora quinquecirrha.
Picture by Jarek TuszyƄski / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL
It's a beautiful little beast, but it gets scary when you see lots of them so close together that they should worry about their tentacles getting all mixed up.

Sure enough, a little while later Nina had a close encounter of the painful kind with one of them. When her foil took a (rare) nose dive and she landed head-first in the water, a sea nettle was there to great her, wrapping itself all around her face and neck. I heard her scream from a few hundred meters away! By the time I got close to her, she was sailing to shore as quickly as she could, and then ran to the snack bar for some vinegar and baking soda treatment (life guards are not on duty during the week anymore, it seems).

When I got to shore, she was nowhere to be seen, but I had an idea what had happened, so I started carrying all our gear up from the beach. Nina was in quite a bit of pain until we got home, and she could take some pain killers and a very long, very hot shower. Hot water helps with the pain, and may denature some of the jellyfish toxin, so she felt a lot better afterwards.

A common "side effect" of sea nettle stings is congestion and sneezing, which was evident even after she took anti-histamines and a decongestant. But she slept through the night, and everything is good again this morning. Fortunately, the local jellyfish are usually more of an annoyance than a real danger - unless you are unlucky enough to have an allergic reaction. I also definitely would not want to fall in the middle of a swarm!

We had northeasterly wind yesterday for the third day in a row. On Saturday, we'd gone foiling in Barnstable Harbor, a very nice session that Nina called "the best foil session ever". She almost foiled through a duck jibe - nice! Sunday had been great, too, with a Duxbury Bay session and wind in the low twenties. I took the slalom gear out for the first time in a while - the Falcon 99 and Racing Blade 7.0 worked quite nicely to get some decent numbers for the monthly ranking in the GPS Team Challenge. I switched to freestyle gear when the tide dropped too low for runs along the entire bay, but got too cold to try anything when the sun went away. Still a great day.

As for jellyfish in Nantucket Sound, we should see a drop in numbers soon. Water temperatures have already dropped from 76 F to 72 F, which should help. However, the full moon at the end of this week may increase the number of jellyfish for another week or two. Also keep in mind that jellyfish are hard to seen on a typical choppy southwest day in Kalmus - when we go foiling on a northerly day where the water is flat and clear, we always see a lot more jellyfish. Right now, there's no way I'd windsurf in board shorts or a shorty!
After posting this to Facebook, someone pointed out that he had very good experience with anti-jellyfish sunscreen. I did not even know there was such a thing! But there are several scientific studies about the effectiveness of the "Safe Sea Sunscreen and Jellyfish Protective Lotion". On one study, the cream reduced jellyfish stings by more than 80%; in a second study,  the protective effect was even higher. We've ordered some!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Foil Box Conversion

With the ABK camp in Hyannis coming up in 4 weeks, it was time to get my board ready. I have been foiling on my old Warp 71 slalom board without footstraps, but that just won't do when we start working on foiling 360s. So out with the powerbox, in with the foil box! 

We had used the Skate 110 a few times with the Powerplate to see if it would work (it did). When I put it up to start on the fin box replacement, I noticed that the Powerplate had damaged the underside of the board:
Where the front end of the Powerplate meets the board, the top carbon layer was broken.  No big deal to repair, but it sure was good I had ordered a foil box!

I studied a couple of videos from Alex Aguera to get an idea on how to do this. I ended up buying a router at Harbor Freight Tools, and used it to get the old powerbox out. Here's an image from the start of this process:
I had never used a router before, but it went well enough. Cool to learn how to play with new tools!

Fitting the new box was not hard. I hit the first surprise when I glued it in with epoxy and fairing filler: when turning my back for a minute, the box started to drop, and was half way through the board before I noticed! Luckily, I turned in time, pushed it back up, and added some support below to keep it from falling again. Here's the setup:
The masking tape on the sides is keeping the fin vertical to the board. After a bit of sanding next day, the box was ready to be glassed in:
I used a layer of carbon and two layers of 4 oz S-glass, topped by a layer of 2-oz glass, on the bottom:
This was the first time I used 2 oz glass on top. This stuff is great! It makes a much smoother surface, and does not distort when you squeegee the epoxy. 

Everything had gone well so far, so I pushed on. A few hours later, I glassed the top side: a layer of 4 oz glass, 5 smaller pieces in the middle, and another layer of 4 oz and 2 oz. I copied Alex' approach, and put all pieces on before putting the epoxy on top and massaging it in. Worked great, and another new thing learned. But then I saw that the glass in the middle was bulging outward .. not good! But a few more minutes with the squeegee, and the extra air was pushed out. I watched it for a while, and then let it sit for a few hours to polymerize.

When I got back, there was an unpleasant surprise: the bubble had reformed, and pulled the glass away from parts of the fin box. Apparently, glassing both sides of the box was a bad idea. A slight increase of the outside temperature made the air expand. Usually, I glass in the late afternoon, when temps are dropping, but today, I had clearly started too early.

Fixing the problem required drilling a few small holes, injecting epoxy, and then pushing the center of the glass down. The setup included some wire, three pieces of wood, and a 12-lb weight, but it did the trick. First, though, I put a few small holes in the bottom where the glass covered the fin box, so the air could escape!

The next step was removing the glass cover at the bottom with the router and a trim bit. That was really quick and easy - cool! All that remains to be done now is finishing work - sanding, drilling a couple of holes for the screws, hot coat, and paint. The board should be ready for foiling in a couple of days, which should mean that we get plenty of wind at the start of the week to keep me on the "slapper". There are worse fates!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Five Days and Counting

Kalmus windsurfers often told stories about how it used to get windy every afternoon. I used to think those stories suffered from the same effect that makes fish you caught get bigger with every retelling of the story - not anymore! It's been blowing in the 20s for 5 days straight, and two more days are in the forecast. Nina used her 4.0 twice, and was overpowered on 4.5 and 4.7 a couple of days.

It got crowded some days, but it was almost empty on the weekend. There seems to be a relation to the "Pro Forecast" on iWindsurf - the crowds come if it's high. But there seems to be very little relation to the actual wind. In all fairness, the same seems to be true when looking at the computer predictions - none of the computer models correctly predicted wind in the high twenties. Today's Pro Forecast is all red: 16-22 knots all afternoon long. My prediction: it will get crowded!