Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Trip Report: 17,18 April 2008

I was excited to pick up my board at Worldwinds Saturday. The repairs look nearly seamless, and the cost came in a bit below estimate.

The wind on Bird Island blew around 8-10 MPH. Since wind was light, Angela kindly gave Jason and I a dry-land demonstration of backwinded sailing and how to perform a helitack to return to normal sailing. In English, backwinded sailing means standing behind the sail -- the lee side -- and pushing rather than pulling on the boom.

For obvious reasons, folks don't try this freestyling feat on windy days -- the sail would simply flip the rider into the water. Even in light wind it doesn't take much to get swept into the drink.

Since the mechanics reverse on the back side of the sail, pushing with the back hand sheets the sail in. Since sheeting in makes the sail try harder to crush you, Angela suggested avoiding the issue by sailing with only the front hand holding the boom.

The helitack (technically I think it's just the bit at the end of a helitack) is a trick for flipping yourself back around to normal sailing from backwinding. To achieve this miracle, one simply tilts the mast forward, pushes on the clew side of the boom, and spins with the sail. Now you're sailing clew-first. Finally, you release the clew hand and let the sail flip back to the normal mast first position. Easier said than done.

On the water, backwinded sailing proved tricky. My first attempts mostly became accidental tacks. The other attempts were downwind sail smashes and board-flippers.

I am an uphauling machine. I uphauled so much that I actually learned new tricks to get the sail up. Instead of pulling straight up, I found that pulling the sail first in the direction of the mast made life significantly easier. If the mast lies to the right of the sail, pull the uphaul to the right, then up. And so on.

I got backwinded sailing working a few times, but I wasn't able to helitack the sail. Not even close. Even my successful backwind reaches only lasted a short time.

After sailing, we ate dinner at Waterstreet Seafood. While waiting for a table, we hung out at the "Tiki" bar in the courtyard and drank margaritas. Sadly, there was nothing Tiki about the bar. They didn't even have umbrellas for the drinks, much less bamboo and carved idols. The poor bartender complained to us about being left out to bake in the afternoon sun and of having the worlds worst bottle opener -- a coin-sized slab of metal roughly in the shape of Texas.

We were starving. Once inside the restaurant, Jason and I gorged ourselves on piles of food. First we ate two loaves of bread. Then we split a plate of dynamite sticks. Then salad followed by the entree. I forgot how uphauling breeds a huge appetite; water starts have made me lazy.

After dinner, we decided to get mojitos at Havana. We were both shocked to discover the windows papered over and Havana closed. We were able to peek inside where the decor was partially disassembled. I was very sad! We walked to Cassidy's Irish Pub to drown our sorrows in a dark glass of Guinness. We later learned from a Hooters waitress that Havana was just renovating.

After leaving Cassidy's we returned to the Hotel where we caught the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Fun film, but the scene where the tank drives off the cliff is just about the worst special effect ever. Whoever was responsible: better luck rotoscoping next time.

After Indiana Jones, Timeline came on. For those who don't know, this was based on a Crichton novel. The one where someone who mostly isn't Bill Gates invents a time machine so that irritating archaeologists and marines can visit Medieval France. I can't believe that anyone watched this in the theaters and didn't ask for a refund. I have to rent it for a future movie night -- it will be funnier than ducks.

The film starts with a pile of cut scenes arranged like it was reviewing the last episode of Lost. Of course, there is no previous episode: it's a dang movie. The film was just performing the jitterbug through major plot points. Warp speed to the time machine! The story became so insulting that we were forced to turn it off.

The wind wasn't much better on Sunday, but at least the sun didn't hide behind the clouds. I cruised around and practiced my backwinded sailing. Backwinding became easier once I convinced my brain to see the similarity to tacking. Instead of pointing the board into the wind, I just hopped around the mast and tried to balance with the sail pushing against me.

Once behind the sail, the biggest trick is maintaining course. Turn too far upwind or downwind and you loose the mojo. Despite some improvements, I still spent a lot of time in the water. Sometimes I think light wind days are more challenging than howling gales.

One mistake I think I made was stiff-arming the sail when backwinding. I didn't really think about it until I reached I-37, but keeping my arm bent probably would have made balancing easier. That way I would have room to shove the sail both back and forward without changing my posture.

I summoned the bravery to attempt a few helitack spins from the backwinded position. Sadly, I always ended up with the sail irretrievably low when I got around to the windward side. Sometimes I fell with the sail, sometimes I was just left standing on board empty-handed. Still, even a failed helitack had excitement to spare.

I look forward to future light wind days.

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