Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Trip Report Sunday 23 March 2008: Part One

You may already know about the disaster of Sunday afternoon. For dramatic effect, I'll put that story in another post.

With Sunday morning came gray skies and high winds. While Jason and I visited the beach, Freddy remained behind at Agua Java to hang out and read with Gumbo.

At Worldwinds, the anemometer read winds in the high 30's with gusts pushing as high as 48 MPH. Since I only own a 145 Liter board and a 6.5 Meter sail, I knew I would have to rent today. I decided to wait and see how Jason did in the gale before venturing out.

Jason rented a wetsuit, a 130 Liter board, and a 4.2 square Meter sail. As Angela was wearing Jeans, she asked if I would help Jason rig. As I carried the sail out I couldn't help but notice how cold the water was. How the usual bath water at Bird Island spoils us!

Once Jason made it out to deep water, he attempted a water start. After the wind toyed with him for a bit, he managed to stay aboard. Even completely sheeted out, Jason blasted along. I'm sure he was only barely not planing.

I couldn't let Jason have all the fun. I rented a 123 Liter Fanatic Hawk and a 4.5 meter sail. This is the smallest board I've sailed so far. I donned my thin neoprene top, a harness, and walked the board out to the water.

After a couple of tries, I water started without an immediate launch off the board. Clearly one of the challenges with a board that sinks is getting up without submarining the nose in the chop. At the same time, you have to watch the tail too. Stand too far forward and you plow the nose. Too far back, and the board swings into the wind.

Once I did manage to properly mount the board, the wind immediately slapped me on plane. I don't know if the smaller board caused me problems, or just the abundance of wind. Either way, the board seemed much more sensitive than I'm used to.

The slightest tilt or shift in balance produced dramatic reaction from the board. The sheer speed of the board over the water had me worried that I'd be blown to sea before I could get comfortable with the controls. I didn't have to worry long. As I tried to shift into a more comfortable position, the board spun out. The board turned upwind while the sail and I slammed downwind.

As I stood draining water out of my ears, nose, and mouth, I tried to understand how I messed up. I decided that I needed to get my weight lower so I could pull down on the sail more. Feeling the strength of the gusts, I decided I needed to pay attention to conditions upwind more too.

I water started again, bounced onto plane, and nervously watched for approaching gusts. Again my speed felt rocket-like, especially riding on such a small board. As my heels dragged a bit over the rail, the cold water sprayed me. A little sun would have been nice.

As a gust approached, I braced myself for impact. I lowered myself to pull the boom down. My butt dragged in the water, much to my surprise. I've never been that low before. As I tried to get a little more altitude, the wind chucked me and the sail right over the top. Shoot.

I decided to stand in the water and shiver a bit while my bravery returned. Clearly I had a bit to learn about these smaller boards.

Hopping back on the board, I thought now would be a good time to turn around. I pulled the sail back and started a turn upwind. As I stepped in front of the mast, the nose sank into the waves. I found myself standing once again on the muddy bottom of Laguna Madre. Ah. Perhaps a sinky board means no tacking.

Mentally I raised the Jibe class higher on my to-do list. I felt that I had accumulated enough ice-cold defeat for one day. I much prefer eating dirt on warm sunny days, thank you.

I jumped aboard again and sheeted out enough to keep be just below planing as I slogged back to shore. Jason was getting an impromptu water starting lesson on the beach from Angela when I returned my board. I listened in for some pointers.

After his lecture, Jason hit the water again like a trooper. I shot the breeze with a few Worldwinds loiterers. One of the fellows I talked to claimed that his son had tried all the different stand up paddleboards currently on the market. He claimed that his son measured how far each board went with a single stroke, among other things. He said the Mistral Pacifico won, although I wonder how scientific the test was.

Convinced that the weather wouldn't magically get warm, I packed in, said my goodbyes, and started for downtown to get Freddy and Gumbo.

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