We had great forecast for Saturday. Warm 65 degree SE wind starting in the upper teens and building into the mid to upper 20's and shifting southward. Now there aren't very many really good SE launches for an early intermediate windsurfer around here, especially one who is struggling with the waterstart.
I basically had 4 launches to choose from...
1. Buckroe, this place is as close to ocean sailing as I am comfortable with right now. It is deep right off the beach, open water and It's been known to have some pretty intimidating shore break. The positive is that there will be plenty of sailors around.
2. Anderson Park which is shallow, choppy and directly onshore in SE wind. Pretty safe but it may have the remnants of old pier pilings waiting to ruin your day as you parallel the shore. It also might be lonely.
3. York River Seafood which is an awesome SE launch, big water feel from being at the mouth of the river and no shore break for a side on launch. This would have been my choice but I would have ended up sailing alone.
4. Messick Point on the north shore of the Back River directly across from Factory Point. This
place is similar to Factory Pt. but deeper water.
After much deliberation Glenn talked me into giving Buckroe a shot. I Figured I'd learn how to deal with small shore break and work on waterstarting. When I got there Glenn was already out on a 5.2. I rigged up my 5.1, pulled the Cross 102 off the truck and prepared myself for a new experience. During the rigging process a bunch of sailors showed up. I introduced myself to the many John's, Bill, Wayne, another Chris, Derek, aka Dman, aka wind killer, Pete, the owner of Beach Sports, Keith and a few others sailors. I talked to Derek extensively about waterstarting while we were rigging. He offered to give me a hand and give an impromptu lesson in the water.
I donned my wetsuit and carried my gear on down to the beach. Glenn gave me some pointers on how to get out through the shore break, not that there was much but still enough to cause problems for someone who hasn't done it before. Then Derek walked me through the waterstart process again on the beach. He recommended that I stay close, practice the start in one direction sail 50 feet or so drop off, position and restart back to the beach. He recommended I not go to much farther so I wouldn't end up drifting through the pier or wash up on the rock jetty on the other side. After he mentioned that, doubt started to creep into my mind. The last thing I want to do is bust my gear up. I kept thinking back to the post John G put up about his gear crunching Buckroe experience just a few weeks earlier.
I made up my mind, I wasn't going to chicken out now. I worked my rig out through the waves keeping the sail flying and pointing the nose of the board into the wave face, seemed pretty easy. I forgot how chilly 60 degree water was in cheap wetsuit. Once we were deep enough Derek demonstrated the start. He gave me many tips the big one being... in breaking waves get the sail flying as soon as possible then sail steer the board into position to start.
The first attempt for me was nearly successful until a wave knocked me off just as I was getting up. I tried again and success!! I sailed out dropped off the board and went to position for the return. I got the sail flying immediately kicked the board around with my feet. I tried to get the board to point across the wind but I couldn't get it to do what I wanted. I tried using the mastfoot pressure to complete the board positioning but for whatever reason I just couldn't make it work. If tried to reach for the board with my feet or hands the sail would depower and the clew would sink. It was the same results I always get when I've tried waterstarting in rough water. I always end up fighting the gear to get it in position to start. Getting up is usually not the problem although I do have a tendency to round the board up into the wind on occasion. If I try to compensate for it and try to point off the wind that is when I get pulled over the board. While I was struggling to get up I was also drifting toward the beach so the waves were getting more difficult to manage.
The board and rig got away from me so Derek came back out and gave more advice.... When you fall off close in get control of the rig. The board will be fine but the clew of the boom or your mast can hit bottom. If a wave hits when they are on the bottom it can break either one. Even in the small stuff. For what is supposed to be an easy Buckroe day I sure am getting a lot of info about how not to end up with broken gear. I walk/swim the gear a little deeper and try to head out again.
To sum it up I struggled a lot, wore myself out not just from positioning the gear but also swimming in the waves. I finally came in, walked my gear back to where I started and took a breather.
While I was on the beach I took some photos, I also noticed the wind was all over the place in terms of strength one minute the sand was blowing down the beach the next minute there was barely enough wind to keep the flag flying or the windsurfers moving for that matter. Watching the veterans was kind of comical, everyone would be on shore talking about "I'm going to rig bigger, I'm going to put on a bigger fin, I think I might try a larger board." They would make their changes and Blow would come up. The ensuing mad dash to the beach looked like the start of a track meet. They would get out fly around in every state from grossly overpowered to barely schlogging. Then come back in and contemplate more changes to the gear. Poor Pete rigged three different times and tried two different boards the conditions changed so much that he just couldn't hit on the right combination.
I did get back out an try a few more waterstarts but the up and down nature of the wind made it even more difficult than the first attempt so I gave up again after a few tries. I was told I was doing everything right and to keep at it. I guess there is something small in the mechanics of what I'm doing that is preventing success. The wind slacked up, 15 to 18 mph, for an extended period of time so I figured I'd grab the Hifly and make a few runs so I could at least do some sailing. As I headed to the truck to grab the board and fin it, the wind ramped back up and became even gustier than it previously had been. Every one headed out again for what would be the last hurrah. I knew it would be a rough ride on the big board so I chose not to go through with taking it out. When the crew came back in I heard many comments that the gustiness was unusual for Buckroe that Wiloughby might have been better today. I couldn't believe my ears. To some around here that is sacrilege as Wiloughby is known for its gusty conditions. Good thing Keith had already derigged and left. He may have had something to say about that.
I never did actually sail but I'm not going to complain. I got my first taste of Buckroe, learned a little about getting in and out in small waves and met a bunch of new people. The weather wasn't all that bad the rain stayed away except for a couple sprinkles. We were even rewarded with a nice rainbow to end the session. I'm going to get me a better wetsuit and wait for the next wind event.
Glenn and Derek if you read this thanks for the help!
Glenn on his new 5.2
Dman nicely powered setting up a Jibe
Keith spraying Derek. He blew the jibe right after he did this.
Pete & Glenn
The gear was tired, it needed rest.
8 sailors letting it rip
SUP Race Report: Calusa Palooza 2017
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