Sunday, December 16, 2007

Moth Moth Baby

All of Long Beach seems to have decided it's Christmas, and that recovering from seasonal parties is the order of the day on Sunday. So not too many people were out enjoying the 8-10 knot breeze that piped up out of the west today. Hell, there may even have been a few twelves in there. Anyway it was enough to have to pull on some cunningham to depower while foiling. Not sure exactly how much water time I logged - something over an hour but probably no more than two. Funny how we put so much effort into the sport for so little time actually doing it. But then most sports are that way I suppose.

Linked up with Bobby K and Alex on the beach, who were in recovery mode but looking very relaxed. Took time getting rigged and fielded the usual assortment of questions. Ran into Chad from North Sails - 49er sailor friend of Zack Maxam's from San Diego. Seems keen to find out more about Mothing so will have to get him out on the Prowler some time soon. Was not able to coordinate sailing with Charlie and Zack as I was on call and did not know what time I would be able to leave work, so impossible to set anything up especially with the iffy forecast of 10-12. But checked forecast when leaving and I'm learning that if any wind is forecast by NWS for Long Beach then it is generally enough to foil in the afternoon, which is pretty nice as there is almost always SOME wind forecast.

Which reinforces my notion yet again that a Moth is a brilliant water toy. These things allow you to play extreme apparent wind games in so little wind that anything less would not be enjoyable in any other boat either, which is pretty obvious when I am the only small boat on the water in all of Long Beach Harbor. Is there any other boat that makes light air sailing this much fun? If so, I haven't seen it yet. I haven't even seen the A-cat guys out practicing much lately, but they are probably enjoying a break from sailing after the runup to their Worlds in November.

Working on fairing some foil tools, then mounting and assembling the materials for a layup. May try infusion as my parts will have a 90 degree bend in the middle and I'd rather not have epoxy running down the ends as the layup progresses...then again I suppose that would lean it out a bit, which is always a good thing. But I rather like being able to tack the layup in place and sort the bag before hitting the goo switch. The down side is figuring out a way to get the resin to the mold surface, but a bit of strategically placed flow media should do the trick nicely. Failure isn't cheap but it may be a necessary part of the learning curve. I'm not underestimating the difficulty of bringing it off as friends have had some puzzling failures recently.

Who knew formica made such a nice sanding batten? Oh and pool noodle foam trimmed with scissors. What commercial was it that ended with the word "SMOOOOOTH"? Or was it a sitcom? Maybe Don Knotts said it. Anyway the facets and grooves are disappearing nicely with a bit of old Spanish Archer.

Alex pointed out today that I receive more questions about my van than I do about the boat - or at least as many. From different groups of people of course. Funny how people gravitate to things they understand but which are just outside the mainstream.

Nice policeman pulled me over to inform me that I was grinding my wand off on the pavement on the way home, which is just as well as I plan to revamp the entire thing soon anyhow. Seems a bit strange that he didn't inquire about the DC and SD license plates on my rig, but I guess the boat was getting all the attention.

Time for a bit of sanding. Looks like Mothing for the Holidays as I will be working sporadically through the remainder of the month.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mothing to the Beat of a Different Drummer

Another boring moth day at Long Beach:

If there is a reason to sail anywhere else, I haven't found it. There's even a good cheap breakfast and coffee shop nearby to help you fuel up before hitting the water: Chuck's Diner. Highly recommended - on Ocean I think.

Nobody out but me and the kiteboarders. I noticed they were all hanging pretty close to shore - I think this is because they cannot go upwind reliably, which I would think is a total drag, literally and figuratively, rather like downhill skiing except there is no chairlift to carry you and your equipment back up the beach. So everyone launches, does a few tricks on the way downhill, then sails to the beach, gathers the equipment, and walks back up the beach with their kites flying directly overhead. It is like some sort of bizarre parade or ultra slow-mo NASCAR event: go fast, jump up jump up and get down, turn left, walk up beach, repeat.

I sail out of the same spot, sheet in, sail about forty degrees higher and just as fast, sail upwind for awhile, turn down, reach and gybe, crash, futz with gantry, futz with flap, sail downwind some more, turn right, repeat.

In an interesting twist, I left the rear bung out, so my moth was getting progressively heavier throughout the afternoon. The interesting bit is that I think it actually helped me going upwind. Getting a few gallons of water to windward of the foils does wonders for your righting moment in a good breeze - boom right on centerline, pointing like mad, going like a banshee. I don't think I've ever gone upwind that easily or that fast before in breeze - perhaps the added ballast had nothing to do with it and it was just me figuring a few sail controls out, but it was certainly different from what I had experienced earlier in the afternoon. I do have to say that the wind was really up toward 20mph during that run - strongest of the afternoon, so perhaps that had something to do with it. I had the pleasure of sailing across the bow of a big leadmine on that tack; they were coming downwind along the beach and I was going up again. I don't know what it was but I was going uphill like a freight train.

Finally the remaining freeboard seemed quite small and I realized the bung issue and sailed in. Capsizing in the surf is not a good thing to do when your boat is too heavy to lift, but actually it wasn't too hard to lift the bow and get the tramps lined up with the waves to keep it from crashing around on the rack bar while the water drained out.

I keep stepping on fish in the surf. Not intentionally - I just walk around launching my boat and occasionally the ground wiggles frantically under my shoe as if to say "HEY - you're crushing my pelvis!" Greg tells me they are probably stingrays and that I should shuffle my feet to build up static electricity and shock them away before I end up with a spike in my leg. I think I have been fortunate in that most of the ones I have stepped on have been small, so they probably can't sting effectively yet. Either that or they are flounder or regular skates without stingers.

I regretted not having my camera in my life vest, as the sea lions had taken up station on the 500 gallon floating steel diesel tank which serves as a mooring ball for the tanker loading line. Sailing out toward it the sun was low in the sky behind, reflecting off the waves like a thousand mirrors, and where the water meets the sky a family of huge sea lions perched on a steel fuel tank, sunning themselves, with the bow of a huge tanker poking in from the left side of the frame. Maybe they'll be back again next week. They didn't seem to mind me much though when I came back down to windward of them the mother seemed to be smelling me, like a dog will sniff the air to pick up whatever it can. Who knew sea lions could smell anything? Anyway I have come close to running over seals but I think their reaction times are generally are too fast to get hit. I would really hate to run into one of these mammoth sea lion suckers in the water because I'm pretty sure that once off foils I'd be lunchmeat. They must weigh 5-600 lbs.

Offwind going better; played with gantry a lot and felt much more stable. Technique is probably improving also but having the proper setup makes the whole thing a ton easier.

I suspect there are many combinations of setup and technique which are all sailable. It is surprising how very small changes in flap or gantry angle change the downwind experience though.

One day I'll get the Velocitek out and find out how fast I am moving through the water. Frankly I am more interested in the tacking angles etc. though.

Alex Adams is still lurking about somewhere in the vicinity so perhaps I'll be able to get him out again before he disappears back to Weymoth.

When I got back to the beach and drained the many gallons of water from my boat, I walked her up on the beach where, despite the sun glaring in beneath some dark clouds, it began to rain lightly. The clouds then moved off slightly to the east, creating full double rainbows silhouetted against a dark gray background with the beach and palm trees bathed in bright golden light in super high-contrast from the low sun angle. If it hadn't been for the sirens and police helicopter circling overhead, I would have felt like I was an extra in the Wizard of Oz or some other dream-style Hollywood vehicle. But it was only my Moth and the natural beauty of southern California in December.

It was cold on the beach as I de-rigged - something like 55 degrees with the wind diminishing. May need a thicker wetsuit. Water temp lower than last week by a noticeable amount so probably mid to high 50s; possibly an effect of the rain we've been having and the surface runoff.

Picked up a clear plastic bag on the mainfoil out by the sea lions which sounded like an angry growling dog swimming along very quickly beneath the boat for a few hundred feet. Quite funny. Had to capsize to see the thing - completely transparent.

Linked up with Greg at Randy Reynolds' Christmas party, which was fun. Christmas boat parade was on, so had to leave the rig on the main drag and walk in a half mile, in the drizzle. The plan was to pick up the molds for the new lifting foil that Greg finished machining last week, duck out, and go to my work holiday party in Hollywood after stopping home to change clothes. Then I had one glass of wine, visited a bit, tried a jello shot, had some food. Combined with mothing all afternoon, a couple of drinks rendered me completely unable and unwilling to walk a half mile in the rain with hydrofoil molds, not to mention unable to drive my car in any sort of wakeful state up 405 and navigate into Hollywood. I did manage to make it home later after a few cups of coffee, but that was all the night had in store for me. Though I regret missing the work party, on the whole I have to say that I think I have my priorities pretty straight.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Control is Overrated

Well when I finally awoke from my stupor this morning and checked the weather, the forecast was for 22-29 from the West with gusts over 30, but when I looked at the buoy, it said 10 with gusts to 15 at about 10AM, so I figured I'd chance it as the Sunday forecast was light and variable. So off I went. In the end, this is what the wind graph at Seal Beach/River's End showed:

Not bad mothing. Lots of smoking around upwind but serious control issues offwind. Some of these are due to my funky rudder twist repair, but some are just sheer stupidity and inexperience.

Lots of Lasers and Club 420s out, and I mean LOTS. US Sailing has a center at Long Beach, and I'd estimate something on the order of 30-40 youth sailors on the water racing in these conditions. Water temp from a nearby buoy was just a touch under 60 degrees; air temp when I started was 57F. Pretty hard to complain about this place from a weather standpoint.

Rains on Friday washed many, many plastic bags into the water. These sound distinctly like solid objects hitting the foil when you hit them at speed, and if they are big you basically crash. I thought one of them must have been a large fish, but no. I did hit other submerged things but apparently they were softer than my foils as I couldn't see any damage.

Smoked by the 420s upwind only to thoroughly embarrass myself heating it up on a reach, going too high, and stacking it - on camera. I'm sure there will be some YouTube clips but I didn't talk to them except to ask what my score for the stack was; they rated it a 7.5. Too bad I couldn't keep the wheels on for a minute or so as the RIB was wound-up and following me and the breeze was fantastic.

Replayed various types of offwind altitude debacles for most of the remainder of the afternoon; I have had a much easier time in the past maintaining stable flight offwind so clearly something is amiss with the wand setup. It doesn't help to have a sticky twistgrip either but I think I am not getting the proper wand response. I play the weight shifting game and adjust the rudder flap slightly as well as using the rig very dynamically to push the nose down when needed, but I need more help from the flap. May have to switch to straight wand but I think lubricating the cable and eliminating play will be the first order of business. The boat has been well used and some maintenance is to be expected.

Flying gybes require stable altitude control, which I didn't have today, so not much progress there, except a few which were pretty close to sticking but poor steering meant I dropped off foils before the end. Heading up aggressively is pretty important I'm finding, which is obvious from all the videos but it's always different doing it yourself.

Met Ed Hencken on the beach purely by chance as his son Hans was out Lasering. Apparently Hans, who has his own Bladerider that he shares with his two siblings, let the sailing program rope him into signing up for a team or something(!). I'm sure it's good practice, but I'm sure Hans was itching to be on his Moth today rather than the Laser, especially with me zooming by in various states of combobulation.

Clearly some momentum is developing in the San Diego fleet. Charlie McKee is trying to convince James Spithill to ship his Moth to SD to sail with Charlie, so that's another potential addition to the fleet. Ed knew of at least two more new boats coming to the area beyond Zack and the BR distributor in Newport, who each already have boats apparently. Looks like I'll be driving south to their regattas if the wind is good; otherwise launching from the beach at Long Beach is actually a pretty sweet setup even though the amenities are very basic, i.e. sand, water, wind, and a bathroom that is so basic the cinder block stall walls are only waist high. No footsie sting operations going on in these babies, I tell ya.

Anyway it will really be interesting to see what happens to the pecking order in the fleet with all these good sailors getting involved. Boathandling is such a large part of the game that bona fides may not count for much until people get enough sea miles under their foils to foil around the course. I expect I'm taking a bit longer than most to get the hang of offwind sailing, but truth be told I haven't worked on it very much until now, so I probably just have to pay my dues and figure out what the boat is trying to tell me once I get my flapper flapping. Can't wait to get together with some other Mothies and compare notes again as I haven't really sailed with any other Moths since BR days in the other Newport, an entire country and a summer away from sunny CA.

Foil development project is coming along; just about the time I get my current boat working properly again I'm sure it will be time to switch to the new one. It's a hard life, but much better than the alternative as the saying goes...