This weekend's Gorge Cup is the Da Kine Derby (thanks to Da Kine for the support) - and to maximize our chances of running slalom, the schedule called for Blowout-like flexibility with the decision to race either Saturday or Sunday to be made based on the forecast. And that forecast looked pretty stellar by mid-week. After all the up and down and back and forth of the early Gorge season the North Pacific High seemed to finally settle into place, and iWindsurf was calling for solid Westerlies through Monday. My scheme was to get to Hood River by Friday afternoon, tune up a bit, and then be ready for what at this time looked like a Saturday morning skippers' meeting.
And then, just to drive home the point that Mother Nature doesn't work on a schedule, the forecast changed. A massive thermal low was settling in - resulting in a classic heat wave for the Gorge.
So the plan changed a bit -I got some more work done on Friday (conveniently, the little fires that erupted and needed to be taken care of didn't get in the way of time on the water...), then headed south to go sailing at Des Moines Beach Park (see map).
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Rick Martin was already there and rigging his 10.4. Rick keeps telling me that the place on most summer afternoons is just made for Formula, with steady breezes in the low teens, pretty friendly waterstate (no voodoo chop anywhere), and miles of water to explore. I'd have to agree - just peeling around on the 10.8 for a couple hours was a lot of fun. There was more pressure along the shorelines (both west and east), so I headed west towards the Pt. Robinson light, made may way upwind a few miles, headed back over to the east, and rode the pressure downwind along the shore making quick jibe after quick jibe. I had to stop myself from going back for more (the breeze was holding, and the views of Mt. Rainier and the surrounding coastlines sparkling in the sunshine were delightful), but with a big weekend of racing coming on, two hours seemed like enough exercise for the day.
BTW, the one thing to watch out for at Des Moines is the little shoal right off the launch north of the pier - you can sail around it, or walk out to and over it, but at high tide it would make for a great fin cruncher if you aren't aware of it. This is the venue for the Seattle City League races that are run Wednesday nights in late spring/early summer; too bad that those are usually later in the day when the breeze dies. I could see this being a fun place to race Formula.
This morning, after a good night's sleep, I got a really nice slalom session at Stevenson. I hit the water at about 7:30, among the first few people on the water. The iWindsurf sensor sits on the pier just east of Bob's Beach, and while it was well filled in out in the channel, the windline was about 100 yards off the head of the pier.
The low numbers the sensor showed until way later probably accounted for the rather low turnout; it wasn't until about 10 that there really was a bit of a crowd out there; by 11, the wind started getting a little flukey - nothing to slow you down on slalom gear, but there was a bit more slogging going on among the sailors on small freestyle gear. Excellent session, nicely powered on the 7.2 and my Warp Slalom 67 (about 105 liters).
So far, the sailing/driving ratio is already way more beneficial than for my last trip to the Gorge - time to stretch, do some work on my gear, and get ready for tomorrow; at this point, the forecast is for slalom conditions - I'm keeping my fingers crossed.