Monday, March 28, 2011

Gotta love these guys...


As if a fully powered slalom session for lunch wasn't enough to put a big smile on my face, I was treated to a spectacular visit by a very playful pod of Harbor Porpoises (see image for what these little guys look like; photo by Erik Christensen via Wikimedia Commons). It's not rare to see porpoises in Puget Sound and Bellingham Bay. Usually, you spot one or two, sometimes a whole pod - but they usually go by in the distance. Today, as I kept going back and forth on the same 1/4 mile reach (trying to maximize my jibes - gotta practice when you get the chance...), however, a pod of six or seven of them were just hanging out playing in the same spot for almost twenty minutes. They'd go upwind, then turn around and surf the swell downwind, and once in a while they'd breach, usually when I got close.

I'm not one to anthropomorphize animals, but you can't tell me that these guys weren't out there having fun. They were playing, clearly enjoying the sheer thrill of velocity - and the similarity between that and what I was doing was pretty striking. I guess we water people all have a bit of marine mammal in us...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rites of spring

The first flowers are poking their heads up; some trees are starting to bloom, and slowly but surely, temperatures are creeping upward here in Bellingham. The skiing on Baker is still great (the base on Pan Dome is 273 inches - which is considered a normal amount up there for this time of year...), and there still are powder days to be had - but it's becoming clear that spring is on its way, and daylight savings time only adds to the manic energy that takes over this place when the light returns with a vengeance and people start shedding layers.

Today, however, marked that very special rite of spring - the first session without a hood (or gloves for that matter). It was an honest 50 degrees out. Yes, feet are still kind of chilly (water temps are around 45-46F all winter long, not much colder than in the summer - unless there's a bunch of melt-water coming down the rivers...) - but all very doable. Makes a difference, too, in how you approach your sailing - when you're not wearing gloves and can get a real grip on the boom, and when you don't feel sort of isolated/muffled under a hood, you tend to sail more aggressively.

This tends to be a good time of year for sailing up here; lots of fronts moving through, not a lot of eel grass to worry about yet. A couple months of this should get me ready for Gorge racing season - can't wait!