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.

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