Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Weed Antics

The weed this year has been on another level. I'm not talking about the grass-like stuff, I'm talking heavy duty seaweed. Thick carpets of it floating around the Gulf of Mexico en masse.

Wait. Wait. What? Du-ude is talking about seaweed? Wait. What. Oh!
So after seaweed ruined the best spring wave sailing sesh ever I quickly invested in a set of Makani weed fins for my Quad. Some time in June, weed fins packed and ready, we headed out targeting a late Packery session and arrived at the beach with wind and one hour of daylight remaining. First run out, I felt like a trawler, dragging large lumps behind me. Time for the weed fins!

Switching out the side fins first I couldn't get them in the mini-tuttlebox. Oh no! Precious minutes being lost. Digging around in my toolbox I found some sandpaper and got to work, finally getting them in with sunset approaching. I can still get 30 minutes in I thought.

Next the rear fins. And that is where it turned ugly. They didn't fit. The fin base was too long to actually fit inside the mini-US box. I was not a happy bunny.

The next day I trimmed as much excess material off the fin base ends as possible and using a shortened fin box nut managed to squeeze the fins in, just in time for a fun side-on Packery day. The moral of the story? Test your stuff well before you try to use in earnest on the beach and double check that the fin you are buying will fit your box before spending a bunch of money.

So, how do they ride? Really nice actually. Last time I sailed I switched between the 16cm weed fin and the 15cm regular fin and found the difference quite interesting. There are a number differences in the setup, the fins are different sizes obviously, the shape is different (but not that much actually) and due to the rake of the weed fin, I think it is a bit like moving the fin almost an inch further back in the box. Whilst I can comment on the change in feel from all these changes, the engineer in me would like to isolate each variable and figure out which makes the biggest difference. My guess is that the 'effective' fin positioning is the key driver in the differing feel.

One 16cm weed vs. one 15cm regular - note the perspective over-exaggerates the differences
Planing off the beach, I didn't see a big difference in the get up and go. I did however, have to be much more delicate with the 15cm fin. If I hoofed the back foot the nose of the board would head upwind and the tail would crab sideways with the smaller fin. After sailing the bigger weed fin set up for a while I had become used to pushing as hard as I liked. Readjusting to the front foot, I was up and away.

Gybing on outside swell I found it more difficult to maintain my speed with the smaller fins and stay with the wave. To be honest, I didn't expect to feel so much difference.

Onto the wave. The smaller fins felt free and loose, quick changes felt much easier. I'm liking this I thought but there was also a feeling that I was pushing the tail out in the bottom turn. And the real negative for side-on conditions was that I was loosing speed. So, whilst my turns were shorter and skatier, they felt slower with less power. In comparison, the bigger more rearward fins would drive me through the turn, keeping speed for the top turn. It would be really interesting to watch some video to see if there was a visual difference.Which is best and why? I'm honestly on the fence. For onshore conditions, I think the weed fin might have it. That said, I will probably ride the 15s unless the weeds come back but only because it's too much work to change them back and Texas side-off conditions are imminent!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September Waves

Regurgitating this clip from last September as I'm media-less. I love the chilled vibe and yesterday had similar conditions. After virtually nothing since June, this last session made my fifth good September wave sailing session.

As I was packing up a guy walked up to me. "I just wanted to tell you, I really enjoyed watching you. It looks like so much fun out there. You must be really good at it." Stoked!

Full power side-on 5.2 sailing for 3 hours made the day trip well worth it. With rain approaching I decided to get one last session in. As the rain hit, something magical happened. The wind switched from ENE to N, the stinging rain flattened any chop so that I could see the clean swell lines marching in, making it easy to pick off the best ones. I whooped in joy as I rode chest high smooth side off perfection. 5 or 6 waves down and the wind disappeared, necessitating a swim in. The drive home passed quickly in a haze of contentment.

Texas sunset

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mile 37.5

The radio crackled "You are not authorized to provide assistance. Advise them to do everything they can to save their vehicle."
"Roger that, 10-4."
Me - "Julie. We are fucked."(see footnote)

I have this vision in my mind. The forecast is calling for 20-25 knots from the SE, 6-8 ft waves. We jump in the truck and cruise 60 miles down the beach to the Mansfield Jettys for side shore wave sailing perfection. I have had this vision for quite some time now but it never quite worked out. This last weekend however was setting up perfectly.

Check out the set-up. Oh baby, it's gonna be the best day EVERRRR!!!
Last time we drove that way the tide was low and we cruised down on smooth hard packed sand. This time, we banked a quick insurance session at Bird and headed out around 3pm, expecting to be on the water by 5:30ish.

It didn't quite work out like that. The beach was a thick carpet of rotting seaweed and the water was higher than I had ever seen. Most of the time we had to stay up by the dunes bouncing along at 10-15 mph in the deep soft sand. When there was some beach showing, instead of cruising along in comfort, we would hit these soft patches that were really disconcerting. The 4WD pulled us out of a few tight spots. After an hour Julie suggested that we ask someone if the driving conditions improved further south...after a couple of hours Julie suggested that we turn back..."Once we are past this part, I'm sure it will get better" I responded, on a mission.

Finally a section of beach opened up and we started to make good time cruising along close to the waters edge. "This seems better." I said smiling and relaxing a little. The truck slewed to the left. I fought to keep it straight and maintain our momentum but we stopped dead. I put the truck in 4LO but we didn't move. Weird I thought. "Let me see what is going on." but there was something wrong with my door, it wouldn't open. "Can you check it out?" I asked Julie. She jumped out and with a look of horror cried out "Mike, we are sinking!" as she said this a wave washed up against the drivers side door of the truck.

There we were. In the middle of nowhere. No phone service. Not a soul in sight. With the sea washing up against the truck as it sank deeper and deeper into a bog of watery sand. We started to dig. We didn't have any tools so we used our hands. As we cleared the sand from around the truck it was replaced by water, then a wave would wash up, reversing any progress that we had made. The true meaning of being in deep shit starting to become clear.

Then, a ray of hope. Someone was approaching. "It's turtle patrol!"

"I can call you a tow truck" she said. "It's a thousand dollars and they won't come out until tomorrow."
"But, the truck will be submerged at high tide. Isn't there anything you can do?"

She called us in on the radio. "They are at mile 37.5. Is there anything we can do for them?"
The radio crackled "You are not authorized to provide assistance. Advise them to do everything they can to save their vehicle."
"Roger that, 10-4."

Turtle Patrol - aka: Our savior!
After a pause..."There were some people camped out a couple of miles north. I'm really not supposed to but let me go back and see if they can help." she said.
"Thank you!"

It seemed an age. We dug some more, searched for wood to put under the wheels, cleared the water from the exhaust. "She's coming back. Alone." Our hearts sank. As she got closer the ATV turned into a truck, fully decked out for off roading. Is this a mirage I wondered. In the distance a second truck followed, also pimped out for serious 4 wheeling. No, not a mirage. The most glorious of sights.

In minutes we were hooked up to the winches. It took both trucks to get any movement but slowly our truck lifted up and out. No apparent damage and with the engine still running. We were saved!!

The Rescue Crew and Their Toys
Our savior cautioned us on going further south and talked about it being impassable by ATV. We quickly reassured her of our intent to head home and followed her recommendation to stick to the high route. This meant 37.5 miles of soft but neck achingly bouncy sand, the last hour of it in the dark. When we finally reached it, solid road had never felt so good. Rolling into North Padre we called the gang and were just in time to join them for a couple of Peruvian Iced Teas at Costa Sur and a story to tell.

**Sorry for the use of bad language, especially on the blog, but I did use those words and they reflect the gravitas of our situation.