Friday, April 27, 2007

Birds of Prey...

Snuck out of the office for a couple hours of slalom sailing on Padilla Bay, launching off March's Pt. Had a good session, got changed, packed up my stuff - and saw a bald eagle fighting off some other raptor (looked like a big hawk) about 30 feet away from me. He succeeded, then sat down on a piece of rock even closer for a minute. As I was gaping in disbelief, he stretched his wings for a sec, then took off. I was too stunned to even grab my cell phone out of my pocket to take a picture.

We're kind of spoiled up here with eagle sightings. There's a few that hunt over the lake just a few hundred yards from our house. You almost forget how special they are. Almost. But today's sighting was something else - I've never seen one that close up, and he just hung out for a while, completely undisturbed by me presence. Sweet.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


That's how Bruce described the feeling to be expected from my new 9.9 when going upwind overpowered. Thanks to 20+ knots of gusty breeze on the Bay today, I had a chance to try that out - and it's about as apt a description as I could think of. It just settles down and drives with no jerking even in the biggest gusts - allowing you to keep the foils lit up and the hammer down.

Downwind is also really sweet - even with the outhaul all the way dumped off, the draft doesn't move around and the sail stays nice and stable - breathes nicely with changes in apparent wind (from gusts, or as you're hitting the back of swells), doesn't stall (as slippery sails usually do off the breeze), and just keeps driving. With the rig behaving so nicely, you can stay way longer in the outside strap even when the water gets pretty gnarly.

The southern part of Bellingham Bay dished up great practice for Nationals in San Francisco today - lots of breeze (baseline around 20+ knots), with some big puffs coming out of nowhere, confused water, and the occasional VW Bug-sized rollers coming through. Good stuff. Could have easily slalom sailed out there, but that would have been long slog/swim out to the windline and back to shore, as it was early pre-frontal and thus too offshore. Gotta love Formula gear - you just go where you want to and cover whatever ground necessary to get to the breeze.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Toy

Got my first session on the new 9.9 Sailworks NXfw yesterday. Since the promised NW wasn't filling in and Everett was still blowing SE, I went to Kayak Point instead of Jetty Island (I end up making the trip to Everett once a week for work, so grabbing a session while I'm down there is my little reward for the extra driving).

No pictures yet - I didn't want to take the time before sailing, since I figured it was just a matter of time until the dreaded Puget Sound Convergence would shut things off. So I got about 15 minutes of pretty stout SE (around 20 knots or so), followed by a few minutes of complete calm, followed by 20 minutes or so of W, followed by rain and only the slightest breeze from the SW - classic convergence (and then, of course, I didn't really feel like taking pics in the rain...)

The sail felt good - leaner entry than last year, but tons of shape down low and lots of progressive twist. Definitely slippery, and still nice and stable even if you dump the outhaul all the way. The sail looks good, too - very clean foil, nicely finished construction. I usually spend a lot of time on this size - it's the staple for Gorge racing - so I'm stoked.

Kayak Point was a pleasant surprise, despite the $5 parking fee. Gravel beach, lots of parking, grassy rigging. On a SE, if sailing small gear, you'd have to walk up to the point along the beach a bit (since the parking/rigging area is to the lee of the point and pier), and if it's real Easterly, the windline would probably be out a bit (albeit not as far as Post Point), but the launch is definitely nice. Glenn R. warned me about driftwood, and from what you can see on shore, that's apparently a bit of an issue. Didn't see anything in the water yesterday, though.

In depth discussion of the sail, as well as some pics, once I get a chance to really put it through its paces. I've been sailing all winter, but somehow getting new gear and the more springlike temps sure make it seem more real that racing season starts next month.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Of car crashes and such...


Four weeks ago today, my trusty Subaru bit the dust - driving my daughter to soccer, I was t-boned by an SUV going 45, hitting us in the left rear quarter panel. Both my kids were in the car with me, so needless to say I was scared s*#&-less. Luckily, everyone walked away from the crash, and the only injuries sustained were slight bonks on the left sides of both my daughter's and my foreheads where we had crashed into the side of the car when we got hit from the left.

That was a pretty big impact. Luckily, he hit us far enough back that we spun out - that absorbed a good bit of energy. And then there's the marvel of modern automotive engineering - if you look at this picture, it's hard to believe we had that kind of collision. What you can't see in the picture, though, is that while the rear door opened just fine, the wheel is at about a 30 degree angle, and the trunk section is completely offset (the tailgate was actually forced open by that) at about a 15 degree angle. And underneath the car, the energy from the crash was then absorbed by suspension and drive train parts. This all made for no intrusion whatsoever into the passenger space, but it did create enough damage to where the insurance company decided to total it out.

This was a bit of a bummer, as we hadn't really been planning for the financial impact (the Subie was slated for replacement two or three years down the road). But as of a couple weeks ago, I now have a new windsurfing (and commuting and family) vehicle. Looking for something a bit more spacious inside than the Subie, but with reasonable mileage, and placing really high importance on excellent crash test scores (go figure...), I landed on a Honda Element:
What I like about the Element:
  • Insanely nice power-train (that has to be the nicest 4 cylinder on the planet...)
  • Lots of interior space in a very compact package.
  • Very practical and versatile interior - you can wash the surfaces, configure the seats to allow camping, hauling of gear, etc. - it will even fit my Formula gear!
  • It's plain fun (my kids are beside themselves)
  • It drives very nicely - pretty nimble, smooth, and great handling considering how tall it is.
  • Reasonably good mileage (mid-20's).
  • Low maintenance and really nice build quality, along with all kinds of very thoughtful little features (it is a Honda, after all) - it just works.
  • Tows my trailer very well (it's got roughly the same wheelbase as my old Subie, but a lot less rear overhang, so there's less leverage for the trailer to be jerking it around - you can really feel the difference)
  • Top marks in crash testing and a whole plethora of airbags all around, along with all kinds of other safety goodies (like stability control)
  • 4wd just like the Subie - so no need to put on chains when going skiing at Baker in a snowstorm.