Saturday, April 26, 2008

Trip Report: 19-20 April 2008

The first challenge of Saturday was securing my damaged board to the top of the car. As you know, my previous system -- a Yakima Strap Thang -- utterly failed at 70 MPH. Instead of hugging my precious board, it threw it to the asphalt of I-37.

To replace the Strap Thang, I had purchased an assortment of inexpensive NRS 1" cam straps (as suggested by Cool Tools) to anchor the board to my roof rack. These straps are rated for 1,500 lbs. I'm fairly certain now that the rack will uproot before the straps fail.

Unfortunately, I underestimated how much strap I would need to secure the board. I had purchased one 4' loop strap for each of the two rack crossbars. Both were about 2 or 3 inches too short to reach over my JP Australia X-cite ride 145. On the bright side, I had purchased an assortment of other 1" NRS straps for odd jobs. Using these extra straps I was able to securely lash the board down.

I safely arrived at the beach, board still firmly attached to roof. When I showed my scarred board to the Worldwinds staff, they had a curious reaction. Instead of expressing horror at my board damage, they laughed. "That's nothing," they said. "No problem." What a relief.

I rented a little blue Tabou Rocket 135 -- part of the Worldwinds test fleet -- and a 7.5 meter Ezzy sail. The Rocket may have been only 10 liters smaller than my JP, but it felt a lot smaller to me.

My biggest difficulty with the board was sinking the nose. Off plane, I had no problem submarining the Rocket. This was probably more my fault than the boards, and I should note that it didn't prevent me from tacking or from water starting. In fact, I'm really starting to get the hang of this water starting thing; I'm often getting up on my first try.

My other difficulty was turning the board off the wind. Those occasional times that I would sink the tail or pull a slower tack, I struggled to turn the board downwind again. Perhaps this is because the board has a pretty smooth underside compared to my JP. The bottom of the Tabou only seems to have a slight smooth bulge along the centerline, unlike the harder chines on the bottom of the JP. User error again, of course. Sinking the tail is bad.

I was able to get the Tabou on plane, but I wasn't able to get into the straps. The board just felt really sensitive to my foot movements. I also had difficulty jamming my foot in even with the straps pretty loose. Mostly though, I simply didn't feel confident enough on that board.

After windsurfing I attempted to check in to the Omni Bayfront Hotel. Things went smoothly until I tried to find room 623. Naturally I went to the 6th floor, but the signs outside the elevator indicated room numbers starting at 625. I asked a housekeeper how to find room 623. "Oh, that's for the other hotel down the street." What?

I went back to the service desk to see if they would have a more accommodating answer. They didn't. This time I was told that the hotel had two "towers". This key was for the other hotel -- the less fancy one without the usable balcony. Oh well.

After cleaning up, I met Matt and Karen at the hotel bar. We decided to try Mamma Mia's for dinner, a restaurant suggested by one of Karen's friends.

There was one thing I immediately noticed about Mamma Mia's. This seemed like the sort of place where students take their dates for the Prom. In fact, the place was full of kids dressed up for the prom. This isn't a negative thing, but it does establish the sort of reputation the place has: fancy date place.

This impression was reinforced by the menu. No credit cards. The cheapest entrée was about $19. Salads cost extra.

That said, the food was good. Maybe not great as the price, but who is counting?

After the meal, the three of us had a Mojito nightcap at Havana.

Sunday morning, I met Matt at Agua Java for breakfast. As Matt and I sat chatting, we were approached by a smiling lady brandishing a $20 bill. She was named Julie, and she is one of those interesting happy people that make you feel like a boring sourpuss by comparison.

Julie was an expert in painting murals and faux finishes. At the moment, she was on a vacation roadtrip with her husband. The twenty was her proposed payment to use Matt's laptop to buy plane tickets. Matt politely refused the money and offered the use of his Macbook for free.

As she ordered tickets back to Tampa -- she and her husband were tired of driving -- she told us funny tales of painting Epcot, eating in Louisiana, Pantone colors, feeling sick in Louisiana, drinking in Corpus, paint, language barriers, the housing collapse, and raising kids. Who says talking to strangers is bad?

After breakfast, I rented a 2008 JP Australia X-Cite Ride 145 and a 6 meter sail. Except for a few minor changes and the lack of holes, this board was nearly identical to my busted 145. Home sweet home.

The 145 felt much more stable than the Tabou Rocket. After a little practice, I was able to summon the courage to try the front foot strap. I was rewarded with victory. Oh yeah: the front footstrap isn't scary. Silly me.

After surfing for a few hours, I started my journey back to Austin while my board stayed at Worldwinds for repairs. The weekend past without major injury or incident.

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