Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zilla Wafer

What the boat lacks in compound curvature it makes up for in hip hop lyricism (and ease of mold construction).

Check it:


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Night Flight

When I was a kid we had a variety of 8-track players, all of which shared the perplexing feature of having continuous loops of tape with multiple tracks, rendering it utterly impossible to navigate from any given song to another with confidence. There was a button you could push to skip between tracks, and that was about it. Kind of like pulling numbers out of a hat.

I think most of those tapes were ultimately lost to the Arabian sun, as we had a player in the car and summer in Saudi Arabia just doesn't bear thinking about in terms of how hot the inside of a car can get. You open the doors for awhile before you get in - to let the seatbelt buckles cool off; otherwise they will burn you. Many, many tapes were tacoed. Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire. ABBA's greatest hits. And yes, Boney M's Nightflight to Venus. In fact, one of my more piquant childhood memories is driving down the escarpment from Taif to Jeddah in a big block 454 Suburban, eating fresh Pomegranet seeds and singing along to Brown Girl in the Ring, along with Johnny Horton's Battle of New Orleans. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. There were no radio stations playing western music in Saudi Arabia, apart from shortwave, and we had very limited access to anything western, which of course meant that we listened to the same tapes for ever, or at least for a year until they melted the following summer. Consequently a very small selection of totally random, utterly banal features of late 70's popular culture have been indelibly inscribed on my psyche, to my great amusement and dismay.

So it was that Nightflight to Venus (not at all a memorable song otherwise) popped into my head this evening when I looked down at the side of my Moth and saw the moon in its reflection. Of course, it didn't hurt that Venus itself is the brightest thing in the western sky at sunset this week (apart from the moon) with Jupiter just below and to the right. In any event, sometimes the breeze holds right through sunset, and a late start meant I was more determined than usual to get the most from the fading light. December in California being not very unlike December in other parts of North America, only the hardest core sailors brave the cool water and breeze, and most of them come off the water around 3 or 4pm, despite the fact that other people would kill for this kind of year 'round sailing weather. So if you are out there at 5 or 5:30 when the sun is sinking below the horizon, you have the place to yourself - if you can get the old 70s tunes out of your head anyway. Flat water, good breeze, completely idyllic conditions. Tra la la la la.

Unfortunately, machining another set of bearings for my little tilt-a-whirl system did not resolve its annoying tendency to scrub lift on one tack slightly less efficiently than the other, which was disappointing. But each time out teaches me something new, and today was no exception. Pinching along the breakwater I realized beyond doubt that I am able to sustain flight in some lighter breeze than I was ever able to before, particularly upwind. Sort of an unintended consequence, but there you have it. Just amazing the way it hangs in there; I am using a different section that is pretty efficient at high angles of attack, so that probably explains the behavior. Always nice when the boat reads the book.

Bazillion coaches and youth sailors at the club, packing up their Lasers and 420s as I went out. Some sort of coaches clinic. As usual, everyone wants a Moth. They all ask a bunch of questions, and it is sort of difficult for them to wrap their minds around the basic concept of the boat and at the same time realize that you can also hack your daggerboard trunk out and try a completely novel version of something should it suit your fancy.

Strange regatta in Sydney at the moment; any time more than half the fleet can't even get a score on the board in multiple races it makes you wonder whether the people running the event are doing things properly, although come to think of it I didn't post a score in the last regatta I entered either, so perhaps I should say that I can do that without flying to Australia, and leave it at that. I'm sure I'll manage to get down there for an event at some point.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Moments of Clarity

Forecast pathetic for a holiday but warmed up nicely to drive some sort of thermal into San Pedro. I expected it to hover around 12 but by the time foils hit water it had piped up to 20mph on the Pier J anemometer - a bit much for testing but nothing ventured nothing gained.

As America slid ever deeper into collective postprandial torpor, I hit the beach to skip the tack out the channel. Low tide on the beach puts you in the deep rather quickly, which is nice, except that with a seaway running onto shore it can be challenging to get the boat up and going before it drifts with wind, waves and current a yard or two toward shore, where it is too shallow to put foils down. Had some fun practice with that maneuver; have been sailing from the ramp at Alamitos Bay for months where the most challenging obstacles are a) legions of Sabots and b) no wind. Not even any Stingrays to shuffle for.

Anyway conditions were a bit much to cope with for the old girl not to mention the driver but there we were, headed out to oil island #1 and whatever lay beyond. Actually hoping to tack in the lee of the island, but happy to be going anywhere. Tack #1 OK. Slide over cruising boat, stack, bring it up, flail downwind. What an adventure. Serious speed - not much time to think about relative angles of attack or physics or what have you. Behaving reasonably well given chop and breeze. Lots of detritus floating from recent rains. Still haven't quite worked out how to tack in that condition. Think I need a more efficient rudder to level it all out a bit - always convenient to blame boat for one's own inadequacies.

After blowing a few tacks and the sun getting low, switched to preservation mode and headed back to shore. Piled it in to windward in lee of oil island, righted boat, drifted out of lee and - airborne, reaching. Flying was not really what I wanted to be doing at that moment, to be truthful, as I didn't want to any Gilmouresque foredeck demolition maneuvers, and I wasn't at all confident that the boat was going to stay in the water. But there didn't seem to be any way to prevent it while still aiming for my van on the beach. Sheeted in and went for it, figuring if I auger in, at least I'll be that much closer to the beach when I do.

Pretty sure it's going to end ugly, but nope - solid. Little voice says "Don't think you can just drive over that wave, because you're going to stack it." But after a couple of waves I realized that it wasn't going to stack, had no plans that way, like "stack" had been removed from its 20 knot reaching vocabulary. And that was really nice, given how frustrating the rest of the sail had been. Go straight over them, drive up the troughs, whatever you wanna do. It's your thing. Foil sounds a bit like a jackhammer, but the boat goes exactly where you point it and the foil stays on the painless side of airborne.

This was, in fact, something I had dreamed might be true way back in the beginning, but it was really weird to actually experience it. There is a minimum speed it wants to go, and as long as you keep it heated up, it's perfectly happy. Slow down too much and things get funky. Now all I have to figure out is how to gybe going that fast...

Unfortunately, it all proved too much for the sensor line, which I think is 3/32" spectra with no cover from a spool I picked up on sale. I heard a loud bang, looked down at the deck, but only saw water everywhere. Thought maybe I was sinking, but no - the foil just went full negative and took the hull with it. Sort of like driving a submarine while sitting on the periscope. Somehow managed to not pitchpole. Took a bit of rudder flap out after checking things over and sailed back to shore, which was only another 100m or so.

At this stage of the project I can say that it isn't something you do hoping to go faster any time soon. The idea of doing that is an attraction, rather akin to Sirens singing beautiful songs from rocky outcrops. The actual path to the goal, however, is a long one, and like dropping down into a valley to shortcut your way over to the next peak, you can lose sight of the original destination and end up somewhere else just as lofty, but not at all where you set out to go. I, for instance, had no ambitions to become a rodeo bull rider, but here I am. Odysseus never meant to spend a year with Circe, fathering in the process the son who eventually killed him, but some of this stuff is really beyond our control. You just have to roll with it. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two Seasons

Summer and boat construction. Actually it's summer and ROAD construction, up there in the midwest, but periodically it is nice to have a meterological excuse to sit around doing nothing in particular when it comes to sailing. Maybe lay up a Moth. Take the trash out, clean the bathroom, do the laundry. All those things I can't get done on other weekends due to sailing, or during the week due to work commitments. And I don't even have a family. Kind of makes me wonder how people do it. 

Should have some pics of the ChinchillaZilla coming together soon; helped the Boyz pile some carbon and nomex into their tool this past weekend, and it was all looking good in there. Photos when I have them. Bobby K is off to China later this week and I think they are hoping to have a deck on by then.

Have my eye on some sexy instrumentation for Le Moth so I can better analyse what it is doing. That should be a fun project. 

I could sort everything pretty quickly with some active controls, but that, apparently, would be cheating. Cheating whom is an open question, as I am the only Moth at my club. The temptation is strong, as it would only take a servo and a bit bigger battery -- everything else will be in place for monitoring purposes. But in the end it is probably not necessary.

Just like your parents always said: experimenting with powerful mind altering substances will only get you thrown out of school. Perhaps the situation is analogous to the early 18 era in Australia, where boats had to develop someplace outside the traditional confines of a restricted class to make the next big leap. 

I read a great article about Ry Cooder in the New York Times over the weekend, talking about the hot-rodder culture in California in the 1950s, all these people out on the dry lakebeds on weekends, making their cars go faster and faster. It's kind of crazy to think that lots of people would find this sort of thing appealing, given the complete dearth of development-minded sailors here, but I suppose people tend to focus on developing the technologies at hand. There are certainly oodles of seriously souped-up cars driving around town, though one suspects the only racing they see is between stoplights. 

Aerospace, another formerly dominant local employer that brought a lot of geeky experimenter-types to this area, is only a shadow of what it once was- though we do have a huge UAV company nearby - started semi-paradoxically by the same guy who made those human-powered airplanes in the late 1970s. It's all well and good that the F35 is driving composite tooling development, but who would have thought that a dude who built the Gossamer Albatross would start a company that would in turn go on to build Skynet-type drones? 

Gotta hand it to those sci-fi writers. Asimov wrote I, Robot in the 1950s, for heaven's sake. All that James Cameron Terminator stuff just seems to get closer to reality all the time - life imitating art and all that. But I'm sure Cameron never saw the T1 running for Governor of California, even in his wildest dreams.

Enough annoying links. Have a good week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

No Place In Particular

So the regatta debut of the New Stuff was greeted with near universal yawns and some derision, but proved extremely worthwhile nonetheless. I knew going in that it would be a tall order to make it around the course, period, but hey: it was the California State Championships, and I was the fifth boat. Gotta support the fleet, and in the words of the omnipresent Nige "If I made something like that I wouldn't give a damn if it was done or not - I'd want to see how it went against some other Moths!"

As things turned out it was all hopelessly anticlimactic. I rolled into Coronado in plenty of time to make the start but there was basically no wind until 1pm, when a breath of air lured us out to the course, dying progressively on the way there. It flirted with us for a few runs on foils, only to wheeze out in the lulls to something requiring a power boat to start.  

Speaking of which, I believe the San Diego yachties may be able to lay claim to something called a RIB start, where in pathetically sad conditions the wing of a moth is put on the RIB, which accelerates to foiling speed, at which point the helm jumps on the now-foiling Moth and bears away. In something like 5 knots of breeze it is possible to get some impressively good rides this way - or have fun trying. 

In any event, I foiled around a bit - not terribly well, but well enough given the fact that I had never been able to get up in those conditions previously in any reliable way. I did foil by Charlie at close quarters, and had the presence of mind to tell him he saw it Here first, but then I did also spend my fair share of time living up to his expectations of utter and complete failure, head down over the daggerboard trunk, fiddling with lines. In fairness to myself I should say that the 30 knots of breeze last Sunday put paid to my shake-down cruise, and that the boat was not in proper sailing configuration prior to Saturday's festivities. But that would sound like an excuse, which we all know would be lame and entirely uncalled for. Long story short the wind died and we lowrided/were towed back in.

Sunday dawned hot with a forecast high of 93 degrees, which if you subtract 32, multiply by five, and divide by nine will give you a number in something called "C" which apparently means something to someone somewhere other than the US. Here we don't go in for all that hype - our system works just fine for us and we all know what each other mean, even if arcane formulae are somehow required to keep it all feng shui with Lord Kelvin.

I rigged a little thingy to give me less drag and more lift at lowish pre-foiling speeds. Saturday it was just a pitiful bit of line rigged to the old bungy cleat on my tramp, which as you may recall from your own boat is a one-trick pony: if you're not on starboard, forget about it. A double-ended solution was in order, and after pinging Charlie about it on the tow back in, a plan was hatched involving some Spinlock cleats and a fair amount of cash. Call it my fair share of economic stimulus. It wasn't that dear and is definitely sexy - just wish they would make those cleats from something lighter than whatever they are made of.

Thus equipped I missed the 1pm launch by 30 minutes or so and had a good drift/capsize/adjust repeat session out to the bridge, where the wind was eminently foilable. By this point Charlie, Hans and Jack were far down the bay sailing races. My effort to arrive on the scene was hampered by some setup issues which resulted in my warping around and stacking for another hour or so, after which I was rewarded with a sailable boat in a manner not entirely unlike a Genie materializing from a lamp:

"Three wishes? OK, well first, please make the 2:1 on the negative anti-bungee thingy behave itself, and put it in phase with something, preferably the wand there on the bow - yes the thing hanging down." ALAKAZAM! Done. 

Next: "Please make the boat stop imitating a submarine." AS YOU WISH BLAMMO - done. 

"Now speed this whole program up!" Done. 

"Ridiculously excellent! Now, make my wand stop throwing showers of spray every which way like a firehose! What? I'm out of wishes? Well, I suppose I can live with that for today."

I ran around enough to figure out that starboard tack seems extremely quick and port is misbehaving - I've no idea why but it must be something with the asymmetricity of my wand paddle and its unique Coriolis-like ability to slingshot streams of piss ten feet in any given direction +/- 90 degrees of the main velocity vector in non-Newtonian fashion. Last night I watched the stupid video on SA of the little prop-driven wind cart pushing itself up a treadmill, and started wondering whether my wand was violating any laws of thermodynamics by throwing spray so far out in front of the boat at 14 knots. Who knows? It seems more efficient at making waterworks than actuating my wand, but the visual effect is really spectacular, and it will be a sad day when I cut that thing off. You really can't take your eyes off it. I think Charlie's comment was "an incredible amount of spray". Pyrrhic victory.

Never did make the race course. By the time I was sorted they were coming back in. I felt bad and good at the same time - bad because I had missed the races (Charlie won, 2 races to one each for Jack (GO JACK) and Hans (who will no doubt be out for revenge in Australia in a few weeks' time). 

I could not help feeling really good also though, because this little project just seems to pay back in spades every little bit of effort I put into it. It may never be fully competitive, but it is just so satisfying to see a problem, conceive a solution, implement it, trial it and actually have it WORK that after a few rounds, one is irretrievably hooked on the process. 

Of course, having cut up your only Moth is a pretty good incentive to continue down the road less traveled. I could buy another boat, and would love to race more, but I am simply having too much fun with this to quit. 

Twenty years from now, odds are I will be just another guy who tried something kooky that didn't work. But my inner Yoda keeps whispering: "What if WORKS it does? What THEN will you be? Mmmmm?" Delusional. Yes, I know, like Luke in the cave in Empire Strikes Back, conversing with his father, not liking what he sees, and jetting off to the Degaba System without completing his training. Only cost him a hand in the end.

An old girlfriend once said that she always thought it better to regret things she had done rather than things she had not. I suppose I am far enough from the beaten track to not be satisfied with simply sailing a foiler, and even though it is costing me some racing experience, the amount of personal growth my own project provides just seems to dwarf whatever I might otherwise accomplish in regatta terms. Hans, having seen the boat working to weather from astern for a minute or so, made the comment closest to my own thoughts: THAT THING FOILED! THAT'S AWESOME!

Not perfect, not refined, not competitive, not reliable and completely unproven, but awesome nonetheless.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

When Moths Dream...

they probably dream that they're TriFoilers:

If you're thinking "My moth goes that fast" well, you're wrong. But you can take comfort in the fact that your moth foils in conditions where TriFoilers simply wallow - say anything under 12 knots of breeze. And as much as I may envy these guys the ability to look around and take photos with both hands while sailing , it looks a bit, well, sedate. 

In terms of outright speed though, there is simply no comparison. The boat is so powerful with its biplane rig and wide effective beam that it can really make the most of whatever power is available in a way that just dwarfs the righting moment of a Moth. When pushed very hard, the windward foil will even pull down a bit - but mind you this is when the boat is pushed VERY hard. And chop? Pretty incredible abilities there also, while we are steering all over in search of the next wave crest, trying to stay out of the sky. 

All that speed and smoothness comes at a price - complexity, weight and ease of maneuvering on shore. But perhaps there are some lessons to be learned here, if one pays enough attention.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pretty good (if short) video

Looks like Rod Mincher is at it again with his video editing skills. Possibly the best moth vid soundtrack since Nige and "I Am a Passenger" from 2000 or so, which is saying a lot as the number of videos has ballooned considerably since then. On the whole, I still think my favorite song that was ever used as a soundtrack on a Moth vid is the Wise Guys Remix of "The Kids Aren't All Right" - again from the 2001 timeframe. But the lyrics from the first two vids above fit so perfectly it's uncanny.

Nige where is that Hungry Tiger these days, anyway? Cool boat. Lowriders will be super trendy again in about ten years, just like fixie bikes are at the moment. Every once in awhile, the speed advantage of non-foilers in displacement mode is caught on video, as in this video from what I think are the Japan nationals 2008. Of course, the foilers get their revenge soon after, but it might be worth losing a lot of races to school a bunch of foilers to the windward mark in a penultimate Moth. Anyway the soundtrack editor could take a few hints from the Brits, but no matter - it's good to see the moth fleet in Japan doing well, and we'll take whatever video we can get to avoid having to read google translations of Japanese regatta reports from their website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What Now?

Chatting to Greg the other day about how things are going and he said "Great. So what's next?" I had to admit I hadn't thought it through - sudden success is like that - you end up on the far side looking a bit dazed.

I have some plans for a new rudder and need to vet the current system in some more challenging conditions before getting too cocky. New rudder may be fixed - no twist grip - I have a bunch of acme threaded delrin rod if anybody needs some, which is ironic as I may now have rendered it superfluous. The wand paddle certainly needs some massaging and there is quite a bit left to do in the marginal air department.

But really what needs to be done most is go mothing with some other guys and see where we are performance-wise. That has been impossible until now, well, because the boat has been sort of unsailable until now - in any serious way at least. But when you can throw in four or five gybes in a row without going completely pear shaped and even manage a couple of foiling tacks it's time to set one's sights a bit higher.

Need to buy some Awlgrip - I'm thinking flat black for the foil because I baked it at 170 but perhaps a shade of something lighter would be more interesting from a spectator standpoint. Assuming it holds together of course; I had some chances to wind it up on Sunday so it's seeing some forces it hasn't seen to date and may decide to fold up, but so far so good. It is a bit wobbly in the gybes but no matter - I hear wobbly is fast. At least my foil has a core, which should count for something.

New gantry fitting - the lower one is egged-out. Fundamentally I don't think a 3/16" pin will go the distance in that location without being replaced about once a year.

Boys down south plan to cut a hull tool sometime soon; it will be fun to see that take shape.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shaping Up

The ol' girl is finally starting to act like a proper moth again, after rather a lot of clowning around. For some reason the wind in the little bay by the club was decent for foiling if a bit up and down, with some good puffs rolling through. After reconsidering my set point issues on my bungee (rather a different bungee than you have most likely) I installed a 2:1 in about 15 minutes and eliminated quite a bit of rubber from the deck. Apart from looking a lot more manageable and less like a bird's nest, this allowed me to set the engagement point a lot more precisely and vary the rate quite easily as well. In the first 30 minutes of sailing I capsized perhaps six times to adjust set point, rate, and wand line length, and in the end I had something which behaved very much like a normal moth, with a couple of exceptions: my wand is hollow and kept injecting air onto my rudder during takeoff before the wand started planing, resulting in some slow takeoffs. The second issue is my trunk which lacks any sort of fairing around the foil at all - I'm sure this would help my lowriding speed and takeoff quite a bit.

Next task is to prime, sand and paint the mainfoil, and design a rudder tool. If things keep going this well I might actually be halfway competitive next month in San Diego or wherever we are racing next. There is a regatta later this month at ABYC also but not sure I am ready for that quite yet, esp. against Graham Biehl in his newish Velociraptor (I think). Those 470 dudes are some good sailors.

Managed to foil for over two hours inside the bay where the speed limit is 5mph so either the Patrol was on a rather long coffee break or they have decided I am not worth the trouble. I try to only foil circles around the boats that cheer first; some guy in an electric picnic boat just couldn't get enough gawking and decided to bear off onto my course just to leeward of me at the very moment my rudder ventilated. So now I am careening directly at him at a high rate of speed from about 20 feet away. I had to completely bail to avoid T-boning him. Not his fault but people seem to assume I am in a lot better control a lot more of the time than I actually am. I suppose that's why they put the speed limit at 5. 

I have the wackiest paddle right now; it is pretty big and a bit concave going forward - this makes for a nice little geyser effect on one tack and something akin to a soda fountain on the other, with lots of splashiness. Probably not fast but today it was holding height really well so I can't complain - paddles are easy to change - just a few minutes with the belt sander or cut it off and glom something else on.

All this effort only to have a Moth that sails like a Moth. Like someone said - it's the journey, not the destination; I am learning so much every time I go out that it is pretty addictive. As I told Nat and Bobby K today it's like making a new paper airplane every time I go out except that instead of throwing it and watching it I get to ride the thing. Sailing a moth you've bought is fun, and it is a lot of work getting any moth set up properly to the point where it is reliable. But refining a new system and figuring out how to sail it when you've built it yourself is a completely different level of satisfaction. Days like today are sort of hard to comprehend - it seems impossible that the boat could be doing precisely what it should in most situations, and yet there it is - just like the Infinite Improbability Drive in the Hitchiker's Guide. To recap:

This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration. Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all consideration of your own weight simply let yourself waft higher. Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of "Good God, you can't possibly be flying!" It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.

Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.


When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly easier and easier to achieve.

You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your maneuverability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it were going to anyway.

Girl crewing a 420 yelled "I LOVE YOUR BOAT" which is touching given i've hacked it up and added all sorts of new kit. Either any boat looks really good on foils or having one black and one white foil is somehow more attractive than two white ones. Maybe it's the splashy paddle. 

Watched Mars Attacks again the other night. That movie is a classic.

Sorry no new photos or video from today; left the camera at home. Pity in a way, but sometimes it's more important to make progress on the development side than to document it for the rest of the world. Actually that's probably always true. But it doesn't stop me from typing stuff here anyway.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've done it! I've done it - 
Guess what I've done!
I've invented a light
That plugs into the sun
The sun is bright enough,
The bulb is strong enough, 
There's just one thing wrong - 
The cord's not long enough.

- Shel Silverstein (from memory)

This country is rapidly falling apart, and my beautiful, tatted-up heroin addict patient has three different bacterial species eating her heart. I can pretty much guarantee that she doesn't have any money to pay for anything I've done for her at the hospital over the past three weeks, which doesn't really affect me directly, but does point out the fundamental instability of our current healthcare funding system. At the moment, our hospital absorbs the costs, then charges more to everyone who can afford to pay to make up the difference. So my insurance rates go up to pay for her care. Fine, but as costs climb, many healthy people drop their insurance, leaving fewer people to bear the burden of the unfunded, and driving insurance costs up even further in a vicious cycle. It is all completely unsustainable. 

I have been working for the past 20 days or so in a row, and consequently not making much progress on the water. The latest efforts have been to adjust my foil control system including the wand stiffness, paddle size, and refining some stuff on my deck that is unique to my setup. Might be time for another visit to the saltwater tackle shop.

Si Payne apparently feels his new Mach II foil is sufficiently advanced that it warrants a Quiz. I won't speculate on flap retention mechanisms, but will simply say that losing flaps is not something I worry about much these days.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

And then there were three

Back down to three hydrofoils...this one's gone garden gnome.

Had some fun with the new ATC3K taped under the wingbar on Sunday; finally edited the video down.  It is quite possibly the most boring video in the world, but the soundtrack is pretty good. Anyway another vote for this camera - it rocks even though you can't see what you're shooting precisely, because there's no viewfinder or LCD. So it pays to have a laptop or some camera along that can play the card files when you are setting up on a small thing like a Moth, so you can set the angle and check it. But I got pretty close with the "Ah - that looks pretty good" point and go method.

Nothing earth shattering to report, boat-wise. Still plenty of work to do, but now I know what direction to go and what the priorities are. Greg showed up with his boat du jour and managed to shear both the propeller and the rudder off, but that was all sort of predictable as it was all only held together with bondo. It's always fun to see what propulsion system will show up on that thing; generally they last about half an afternoon, but are exceedingly cool and stylish before they burn out. It is like Mothing with Inspector Gadget as your crash boat - we're never sure who is going to have a harder time getting home. I was thinking of towing him at one point, but he got a good workout with the double bladed paddle, which is just as well as I've never tried to tow anything with a Moth before and I had enough trouble staying in the same zip code without trying to tow anything.

No mechanical failures or anything, but I deliberately set out for the lumpy stuff at the end of the channel and control system developed a flavor of post-traumatic stress disorder bordering upon catatonia. I have not pitchpoled at two knots since sailing Bill's Skippy II - reminded me of those fishing boats that get sucked under by submarines driving through their nets, disappearing without a trace.

Two industry guys here interested in putting a build program together, which is v. cool from my standpoint, as now I have some locals to chat Moths with. And a 3rd reportedly en route from points East - could go from zero to four boats in six months, which would be pretty good growth for a single club I think. And that is without anyone buying any boats.

John G. put in a Cameo out of the blue, literally, the way he usually does. Somehow it always works out, no matter how last minute or where he is holed-up on his hold-overs. I must not have enough of a life or something, but it is always great to see him and get the latest word from down there.

I thought I was over traveling but it would be fun to get down south and meet all these antipodean internet personas in person, as the class seems to draw lots of characters.

More testing on the wkend if I can get some thumbscrews lined up. Need to put pen to computer screen on that project.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Decided I was having some trunk flex issues with the new trunk so rocked the methacrylate and some old nomex/carbon plate this morning and gave it some little rampart-like buttresses, more horiz than vert if that makes any sense. 

I have learned from Gui not to let any repair job stand between me and the water if the wind is blowing - that guy is a genius at going sailing no matter what. Bill broke Gui's gantry one afternoon, and rather than pack it in, Gui took a few spanners, duct taped them onto the broken tube like his boat was the Terminator, and went right back out. The "Don't take no for an answer" school of Mothing.

So when it was time to put my thrice-repaired tramp back on and head for the club today, but the little voice in my head just wouldn't let me out of the garage without some little rampy buttresses, the thought of Gui's spanners, some Home Depot methacrylate and the belt sander somehow converged in my head, and BAM - a little carbon pyramid, minus a couple of sides. Perfect.

The boat is behaving itself really well for having just been gutted; not ready for prime time but in flat conditions doing everything a Moth should do, and some things better than Moths have done. So that is gratifying.

The lumps are more challenging but I am progressively coming to terms with them. Learning some lessons the easy way and some the hard; had one great pitchpole today which was fun as it hadn't happened in some time.

Upwind seems pretty well sorted though it had a mind of its own through the lumpy stuff at the end of the channel today and didn't want to stay in the water at times.

First foiling gybes on the new foil, which was sort of exciting. You don't do that with a Moth until you can trust it to hold altitude pretty well. Small step, but progress nonetheless - it's only the third time I've sailed the new foil so I feel pretty good about how things are going. 

Toward dusk with the wind fading I attempted to obey the 5mph speed limit coming back up the channel, but could not manage to go that slowly when foiling seemed possible. So I heated it up on a reach aimed straight at the windward rock jetty, which was only about 200 feet away. The fishermen and I are getting accustomed to each other; some of the kids freak out when they see me heading straight for them, only to pull a last minute tack or whatever, but mostly people just watch. This time I got airborne just in time to bear off in the lee of the rocks and go foiling downwind for a few hundred yards right along the jetty, maybe fifteen feet to leeward of it. I was so close I could hear people speaking quite clearly to each other in quiet voices as I foiled past. That was the only noise apart from the splash of my wand. Eventually a lull forced me to gybe away, heading straight for the other jetty now and a shoal, approaching rapidly. Pulled out the third gybe of the day and hooked back up in time to keep it rolling. Now I was perfectly lined up on the big boat finish line with a whole fleet of 44 foot whatevers behind me in the channel. The new foil holds altitude lots better than the old in the light stuff - kept thinking I would drop off foils as the breeze was really light now, but I just kept foiling straight across their finish line, at which point the RC were kind enough to give me a hoot and a cheer. Amazing how foilers continue to elicit these spontaneous gestures of support from people - I'd have thought fatigue would have set in by now. Then again, I am the only foiler here.

More sorting tomorrow. Still plenty to be done.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Feel like I've been derelict in blogging lately, taking advantage of everyone else's industriousness. So thanks to everyone who's been posting - I'm sure sometimes it seems a chore but I enjoy reading my way 'round the Mothosphere.

I suppose I should have an opinion on the new Payne/Amac effort, but a) who cares what I think and b) so far it looks just like a Guillotine. I'm sure it will do all the right things eventually; it will also do some things better than have been done before, if history is any guide.

What my own effort lacks in funding and sex appeal, it makes up for in chutzpah. I think I understand why Amac does this stuff though - it is hugely satisfying and great fun to design and build something and then sort it out on the water. Now if only I could find a way to get paid for it, we'd really have something. 

Whoever wrote that interview of the top BR and Prowler sailors on the UK site, my hat is off to you. Just the sort of thing the class needs to have as a resource. I have to admit that after reading the various opinions on everything, however, I was less convinced that anyone really knows what these boats actually do or why. You have a good sailor like John Harris with a solid boat but no real inclination toward design or construction win out over Amac, who has probably the most sophisticated technical understanding of Moths in the class, though it was obviously very close. I think what this means is that there is no substitute for sailing a lot if you want to win things.

Whilst sorting out my boat, Douglas Adams quotes keep coming to mind.  Though he is widely quoted as saying the secret to flying is to throw yourself at the ground and miss, the second part of this adminition is often overlooked. So here, to refresh everyone's memories, is the quote, which I purloined from some website claiming to purloin it from Hitchiker's Guide. As it is copyrighted, I will probably go to jail, but this is just too relevant to Mothing to pass up, and I'm certain everyone reading this blog has a copy of the book at home anyway.

How To Fly

© by Douglas Adams

There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it.

The first part is easy. All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt.

That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.

Clearly, it is the second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.

One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you're halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.

If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinty, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration. Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all consideration of your own weight simply let yourself waft higher. Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of "Good God, you can't possibly be flying!" It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.

Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.


When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly easier and easier to achieve.

You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your maneuverability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it were going to anyway.

You will also learn about how to land properly, which is something you will almost certainly screw up, and screw up badly, on your first attempt.

There are private clubs you can join which help you achieve the all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with surprising bodies or opinions to leap out from behind bushes and exhibit and/or explain them at the critical moments. Few genuine hitchhikers will be able to afford to join these clubs, but some may be able to get temporary employment at them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

"If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders." - Jeff Goll

Back on the water after a two month hiatus. That was rough; mothing was the centrepiece of my physical training program, such as it was. I had to resort to mountain bike riding of all things - tough, but good company. Now back to the water. I am sore after only a short session.

I have learned to multiply my estimated times for any major construction project by about 2.5 to get them to correlate with reality. This is mostly down to job-related issues, but also to my habit of perseverating over design options. There are people who can motor right through this stuff and crank out functional items, but these people are mostly professional, or have done it before in some capacity. When it is the first time and there is no instruction manual, lots of options present themselves. Frequently several are tried before the first one proves the most feasible and achievable - a design orbit of sorts.

The short version is that it works. It is not perfect, and there may be some heartache involved in getting it perfect, but overall I am amazed that it is as close to a functional setup as it seems to be straight out of the box. The amount of empirical guesswork involved in getting to the water yesterday was considerable, and yet there I was, taking off. It does everything it is supposed to do - not always to the proper degrees, but what do you expect with only an hour on the water? At any rate the required steps from here are iterative, in areas where iteration was anticipated and easily accommodated. It is a keeper. Need to sand the foil to something better than 150 now I guess. I am still a bit concerned about breaking foils off, but a lot less so than previously. I should be able to sail this one until v2.0 is ready.

I think I have had a glimpse of the future, but time will tell. It always does.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


When I lived in Georgetown (DC) there was this little wood-fired barbeque place right down the street that was entirely too convenient and tasty. I had it on speed dial so I would not have to wait through the line at the cash register; I would saunter in, pick up my order immediately and sit down to eat at the common counter. On the wall by the door hung an incredibly massive chain-like device made of cast iron, with each link having a different shape, plenty of spikes sticking out, etc. It looked like something from a medival dungeon; a human anchor of sorts to keep people from wandering too far. The sign next to it on the wall said "What is this?" I think there used to be a TV show where people were asked to identify found objects - generally metal ones no doubt plowed to the surface by farmers. That's where I get all my obscure, impossibly weird metal objects - the farm.

Godfrey N. Hounsfield, in accepting the 1979 Nobel Prize in Medicine for inventing the CT scanner, said of his childhood:

I was born and brought up near a village in Nottinghamshire and in my childhood enjoyed the freedom of the rather isolated country life. After the first world war, my father had bought a small farm, which became a marvellous playground for his five children. My two brothers and two sisters were all older than I and, as they naturally pursued their own more adult interests, this gave me the advantage of not being expected to join in, so I could go off and follow my own inclinations.

The farm offered an infinite variety of ways to do this. At a very early age I became intrigued by all the mechanical and electrical gadgets which even then could be found on a farm; the threshing machines, the binders, the generators. But the period between my eleventh and eighteenth years remains the most vivid in my memory because this was the time of my first attempts at experimentation, which might never have been made had I lived in a city. In a village there are few distractions and no pressures to join in at a ball game or go to the cinema, and I was free to follow the trail of any interesting idea that came my way. I constructed electrical recording machines; I made hazardous investigations of the principles of flight, launching myself from the tops of haystacks with a home-made glider; I almost blew myself up during exciting experiments using water-filled tar barrels and acetylene to see how high they could be waterjet propelled. It may now be a trick of the memory but I am sure that on one occasion I managed to get one to an altitude of 1000 feet!

Now that's my kind of Nobel Laureate.

So years from now when my moth is hanging in the rafters of the barn getting shot full of holes by grandchildren with air rifles, parts will start to fall off, and they will probably have no idea what things like this are for:

Come to think of it, I'm not so sure what it is for either. But maybe that will never happen, as the barn, built in 1915, somehow got hit by the Jet Stream last week in a severe Bow Echo and was completely shoved off its foundation. This barn has seen a few wind storms before, and has been progressively reinforced over the years, which is why it was not simply destroyed. I would say it wasn't bolted down firmly enough, but the winds were clocked at 115mph only a few miles to the west, and the 5/8" steel bolts holding my cousin's grain bin to its foundation are still in the concrete - well half of them, anyway. Every last one sheared off, at which point the bin flew several hundred feet into a field. This kind of damage extends from South Dakota to Chicago - a distance of over 500 miles. Tornado schmornado - they should really be making natural disaster movies about Bow Echoes.

What all this has to do with Mothing is anyone's guess, but then these things aren't always obvious until later. So I'm going with it.

Scott made some interesting comments on the future of the class and all I have to say is, well, if you want to be me, be me, and if you want to be you, be you. 'Cause there's a million things to do, ya know that there are - ya know that there are - you know that there AAAAHHHRRR...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dawn Goes Down to Day

I used to love the forum on the Australian moth site. It was full of all sorts of technical discussion on the latest developments. At some point people stopped posting stuff and it started to, well, suck. Which is OK because it remains the only Moth forum on the planet that I know of. So I still go back there and re-read all those old posts from time to time, if only to remind myself of an age in Mothing when people were less guarded and trying to help each other along.

But no one really posts much useful information anymore - technical information is guarded like it's the family jewels. And maybe that's OK - after all, if the last few years have proven anything, it's that there are far more people interested in sailing foilers than in designing and building them. So if you are one of the few people developing new things, you are in the minority, and the stuff you are making is potentially more valuable than it ever was before - potentially.

The bar has been set pretty high and there is less low-hanging fruit to pick, or so it would seem. To move the current state of development ahead, you really have to put some effort into it. This puts the process out of reach of most amateur builders, or at least those without access to good software and CNC machines, which is pretty much saying the same thing.

It appears increasingly that the only people with enough time to do development work of any real value and sail at a high level are people who neither build nor blog. It doesn't hurt to be independently wealthy either. Or to dream.

I keep waiting for John Harris to post something about the setup he used to win Worlds. It's always nice when a champion does this to sort of clue everyone else in about what worked. Perhaps the class is too contentious for this sort of thing nowdays, but if so, it's a real pity.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

If the House is Rockin', Don't Bother Knockin'

Pretty interesting times up in the fluoro suite on 5th this morning, when a 5.4 Richter earthquake set things shaking. Apart from my patient deciding she didn't want to be secured to the table in any way despite being five feet from the floor, it was all pretty surreal. There was about a second-long pause while the phenomenon registered in my brain like the answer to a quiz show Question: What makes entire buildings bounce up and down and sway continuously, without any warning whatsoever? Um...let me see...ooh it's on the tip of my tongue...I'll have it in another two tenths of a second...AHA! An EARTHQUAKE! But of course I was too busy trying to keep the patient from falling off the table to say much apart from "That's an earthquake" in response to her "WHAT'S THAT!?". In an odd sense it was nice to have a patient freak out about something objective - generally it's the misplaced expectation of great anguish that is most difficult to manage. With an earthquake, there's no doubt: something weird is definitely happening. Fear is entirely appropriate.

Fortunately, steel girders and modern structural engineering being what they are, the whole works just gets going like a big spring and oscillates for awhile. At least this time. Someone said "maybe this means we won't have a big one for awhile", but I'm not sure there is any reason to feel confident with seven or eight local active fault lines crisscrossing the immediate area overlying a convergence zone between two techtonic plates.

Phones are worthless immediately after a quake. We couldn't even make calls within the hospital there were so many people on the phone. Someone should really make a public service announcement: IN CASE OF EARTHQUAKE, UNLESS YOU ARE PHYSICALLY TRAPPED BY FIRE, DEBRIS, RISING WATER OR OTHER IMMEDIATE LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY, KINDLY STAY OFF THE TELEPHONE SO THAT PEOPLE WITH REAL PROBLEMS CAN USE IT. Instead, all the lines get tied up by people calling their friends in New York or vice versa to tell them they are OK. Let's just presume, disasters being what they are, that barring a major pyroclastic flow or tidal wave in your particular zip code, if there is no immediate structural damage to anything around you, the vast majority of people are LIKELY TO BE JUST FINE. No need to call and reassure each other - this is not Chixulub, a nuclear holocaust or the Permian extinction, it's just an earthquake. Assume the best and if you're wrong, well, there's likely not much you can do about it anyway. You'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, do your job.

I did learn however that text messaging is a great way to keep people in the loop. Apparently, from a data standpoint it puts far fewer demands on the system, and even at the height of the post-EQ hysteria I was able to receive and send text messages without any problem whatsoever. Pretty robust stuff.

After they took us out of "EXPECT MASSIVE CASUALTIES TO FLOOD YOUR DEPARTMENT MOMENTARILY" mode, life went pretty much back to normal, except the news stations couldn't stop talking about it all afternoon. They found one brick wall somewhere that fell over, and kept playing the image in a continuous loop to indicate the scale of the disaster. All that was missing was a headline: "Brick Wall Falls Over In Garment District - Mayor Holds Sidewalk Memorial Service for 127 Fallen Cockroaches and one Rat". Said one surviving Roach: "I've lost everyone - brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, my 54 babies - all gone in an instant. As though being a cockroach weren't enough of a sign, I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that There Is No God. There is only Franz Kafka."

I halfway expected the Moth to have jumped off the sawhorses or been crushed by falling paint cans, but it was still sitting there when I arrived home, waiting patiently for me to install a final bulkhead. We're on the back stretch now and for the first time in several weeks hydrofoiling is starting to look halfway plausible again, which is always a good inspiration.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Zeno's Paradox

Just like the Australians to bust out with the Moth Blog Worlds and appoint all Australian judges. I suppose it should rationally go to the country with the highest top three finishers at worlds, and nobody else seems to be taking the initiative, so I say more power. To the people.

Funny thing about virtual mothing - it's a lot like a parallel universe to real mothing, and we know that parallel lines never meet. Stuff happens over here, but nothing happens over there, and vice-versa. So while I'm sitting here typing I should really be out in the garage trimming bulkheads, but after working eleven hours sticking sharp objects into people I stopped off and had a nice meal and a beer at the local watering hole, and now it's 9pm and I just want to chill out and do a little virtual mothing while my brain decompresses. Perfect. It's like somebody said - those who can, do, and those who can't, write. When impossibly charismatic and beautiful barmaids introduce themselves and tell me to have another beer, I do. But it interferes with my writing.

There have been a lot of hints here about stuff happening in my garage. When I am done with them and have had a chance to see how they work, I will post about it, but not until then. It might cost me a place on the podium at Blog Worlds, but whoever said that stuff about swords and pens has obviously never been in a swordfight. I mean, where is the Amac blog about the development of the Bladerider? Speaking of which, if you should venture out to Skye, be sure to look this guy up. It's in a little industrial park, but well worth the trip. And be sure to order yours about a year in advance - just like your Moth.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mothus Interruptus

Feeling like a Gary Larson cartoon in the garage today, the one where the surgeons are operating and one says to another, as the stomach goes flying onto the floor, "Save that bit. We might need it". If a moth had a stomach, it might well be the daggerboard trunk, and there it was in pieces on the floor. Beautiful foil-shaped hole in the bottom of the boat - pretty, but not fast. Oh dear. Negative space, right there in my Moth.

Fun to see the posts from the boys at Worlds; much more real-time posting this year so far than last. It will be interesting to see who can keep their blogging together during the racing - the mark of a true Jedi (assuming of course you managed to con Virgin Atlantic into thinking your Moth is in fact a windsurfer, which is the first level of proficiency). As I recall, WPNSA's internet access was not fantastic, though that will likely have changed since 2005. Any number of internet cafes in town though.

I must confess I am secretly enjoying my self-imposed moth hiatus. Right now mothing every day for two weeks sounds like a bizarre form of torture, like being on a crack binge (not that I would know what that is like).

George had a great idea today - sort of like a Netflix of moth foils out of Annapolis, except you send them your foil, they tow it up and down a tank, and then they paint it for you instead of paying you $5/month. Sounds like a pretty good deal, especially if your boat happens to be disemboweled at the moment. Sign me up!

Switched over to mountain biking while the Moth recovers from surgery. LA is actually a fantastic town for it; climbing up my favorite trail is one of the few things I do that gets my heart rate up higher than mothing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tools of the Trade

Hope the mystery Moth sailor in the photo won't mind my posting it for the mothosphere...sometimes a still can convey motion in a way video can only hope to emulate.

With all eyes focused sharply on Weymouth and the blog posts trailing off like a mid summer marine layer in LA, one would think all the non-traveling moths on Earth were simply sitting in sheds, dormant with envy. But we are all up to things, perhaps in inverse proportion to the frequency of our blog posts.

We have all kinds of foil development and testing going on on both coasts, a bunch of home builds going on, people talking about building masts, and French dudes stuck on the beltway outside DC headed for Goddard Space Flight. Winglets playing hooky in NX5. Who would ever have thought.

Having recently blown out yet another set of tramps I am on a quest for something more worthy of the application than ripstop dacron. Complete crap that stuff. Might be hitting the tramps too hard with my knees on the tacks, but I don't think so. And I don't think I'm asking too much to expect more than six months (or less) from a set of tramps.

Got some vang rings. Not Australian, but they have the virtue of costing $9 a copy rather than $40, and they are even titanium. Maybe someday I'll upgrade but these seem pretty trick. Rolled them around on the desk a bit at work today absentmindedly. Not one person who saw them asked what they were for.

Some discussion re: weather in Weymouth and all I have to say is Good Luck predicting it. In 2005 the International Canoe Worlds were there; it blew 20+ for four days of sailing before the regatta, then incredibly light and shifty for a few days, then moderate breeze for the final two, and a nice 15-18 for the New York Cup. Real smorgasbord.

Looking forward to some great internet mothing over the next few weeks and to seeing what new gadgets and ideas show up there, going whatever speed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dubai, we have a problem...

Just reading FigJam's pre-regatta "what difference does it all make" post and concluded he clearly needs to go on over HERE and have a little fun with the demotivator generator, a la:

Apologies to Oskar but he is at least credited on the photo. I have no idea who the sailor is, but someone is sure to tell me shortly.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Eastern Front

Apparently I am too stupid to have learned anything from Napoleon and Hitler's mistakes, carrying on in a multiple front war. On the Western Front I am figuring out how to sail a moth, and on the the Eastern Front I am reinventing some critical parts of the boat. As I have observed before in these pages, these activities are to some extent mutually exclusive.

Last week was devoted mostly to sailing, planning for a small weekend regatta. Gybes are OK in most conditions now, but tacks have some catching up to do, as I discovered watching Charlie and Dalton sail away on the upwinds. I would normally have done my best to attribute this to their superior technology, but Charlie then proceeded to switch boats with me and the result was the same: he who tacks fastest wins by quite a bit. I also discovered that I have been sailing a bit too high an angle upwind and that VMG is a lot better going a tad faster. Overall Dalton consistently first to windward mark, then Charlie, then me, then Jack, and the order at the first mark would be the order of finish in a two lap race.

My only moment of glory was in the final race of the first day, which was a two mile screaming reach to the end of the breakwater with a gybe and then a single gybe run up the channel to the club. It was blowing 20-plus and the reach was extremely fast; it was impossible to head up at all as the boat would simply speed up and there was not enough righting moment to cope with the increased speed. So to get around the jetty I had to oversheet, slow down, then sail a bit higher and bear off again. There is nothing spectacular about this apart from the fact that Charlie, Jack and Dalton had not sailed in that sort of condition very much so their boats had serious stacking problems all the way home, despite maxing out rudder cant. Before I learned how to gybe I spent a lot of time blasting around this Bay in much choppier water, so I had the boat set-up pretty well for it. The rudder did vent a time or two but non-fatally. As a result I won the race by about 30 minutes, after stacking once in the serious lumps while trying to gybe, then foiling all the way up the channel going double the speed limit.

There is some interesting rigging creeping into the class from all these skiff sailors, much of which I intend to copy as it is simply better than what my boat came with. But none of it makes any difference if you can't tack reliably.

This week I am focusing more on building stuff in hopes of showing the various people around the world who have helped me with this project that it in fact is moving along. Speed has never been my forte when it comes to building, and this project is a bit problematic in that I am doing things that no one has done to a Moth before. I'm reasonably confident that it will work, but no one can really tell me how to build it because there are no precedents. So I spend a lot of time thinking about the various ways of building things before building them. Bill almost had me talked out of my new trunk design yesterday, but thinking more about it his idea would require quite a bit of fancy designing in CAD that I don't have time for. My current plan will work as proof of concept, at the price of a little convenience in rigging. Next iteration will be a bit more user-friendly.

So the new trunk in process:

Time to figure out how to drill 440c; I'm not terribly optimistic but it has to be done. Might have to wait for the lathe though as I'm not sure I can hold it still enough in the drill press vise. Going to start on the second foil also as I have a few ideas on how to make it stronger and if others' experience is any guide I will need another soon anyway.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One Step Forward

and a step or two back again. That's how this mothing stuff seems to go. You start to feel competent in one aspect of sailing the boat, and then conditions change and suddenly you realize you didn't know quite as much about things as you had hoped.

As usual the forecast was wrong yesterday and a nice southwesterly came up just as I arrived at ABYC. Having never sailed from there before I launched and proceeded to sail out the channel. This was more than a little challenging, as it was basically upwind in this sort of breeze:

made even more interesting by the eddies on the back side of the windward jetty. In any event there was more clowning around than usual just getting to a place where I could foil without running into a pile of rocks in five seconds.

There was some serious lumpiness running; I have never sailed out of a wave going to windward before but definitely ventilated the main foil at least once and I wasn't flying very high. So I pointed up behind the outer sea wall where the water was flatter, practising some tacks. I was just starting to get into a rhythm with this when I noticed the mainsheet was parting; it had about four strands of core left at the block. I guess end-for-ending it the third time was a mistake. Anyway capsize, tie knot, end for end again, and sail home. Downwind.

I have been pretty happy with the gybes lately but I drifted far enough down in the mainsheet fix to get out into the lumps again and I have to say with gusts definitely over 20mph and the newly reknotted mainsheet about a foot too short it was a handful. Downhill speeds are just fantastic in the puffs and combined with lumpiness, choosing the point to gybe is key, along with the usual adjustments to keep the boat in the water when the forces of aerodynamics are trying to launch everything into the sky.

So I capsized more than usual with the mainsheet coming out of my hand on the gybes, but managed to make it back in OK. New mainsheet on order.

Next item of business: new trunk.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ventilation Whoas

Little thread on Sailing Anarchy got me thinking about ventilation. I'm sure this is probably obvious to anyone who has watched the videos, but this is my take on the phenomenon.

Main foil sails through a small trough (wand wake, or just bad luck) and gets air onto the low part of the strut, which is rapidly immersed again, Whereupon ambient pressure goes WAY down from atmospheric, and then that little bit of air next to the foil just progressively expands to fill the entire low pressure region - PV-nRT? Air expands to fill the region of the foil where ambient pressure is lower than atmospheric - if it were higher than atmospheric then air bubble should not expand at all or "move". Amazing how much space air takes up when the pressure goes down.

That's my theory and I'm sticking with it. You need a way to get air onto a part of the foil that is normally continuously immersed - whether AOA sucking it down a vortex from the surface, or some sort of local temporary thing just putting it down there (e.g. hand of God). From there it just spreads like a turbocharged fungus.

I think putting fences on the leading edge is wrong. Bubble is always on the aft part of foil on the laminar flow sections and propagating down the concave part aft of max thickness. Rudder might be different story if you steer too hard at the wrong speed, but once established these foil farts all propagate the same way - down the trailing part of the foil, and onto the lifting foil if it gets that far, where the pressure is even lower...

Maybe (colder) more viscous water makes the pressure lower on aft part of foil. Seems like it might. Will have to try it out with a scale model and some maple syrup. And pancakes - no tow test is complete without pancakes and a wormhole or two.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Naval Gazing

Trolling around YouTube waiting for the latest layer of epoxy to kick tonight I encountered an interesting video which recapitulates something I first considered several months ago with respect to Mothing, namely the degree to which the class has followed and will continue to follow an open- vs. closed-source information and development model.

When I first began following the class, I had no first-hand exposure to Moths, and this remained the case for seven or eight years until purchasing my first boat from abroad in early 2007. This remove allowed me to project all sorts of ideals onto the class which likely bore little resemblance to actual class practices, but seemed nonetheless attractive.

First and foremost was the notion that in this fleet, as opposed to nearly every other dinghy class on Earth, contributions from regular class members to the development of sailing boats
are encouraged and in fact formalized as a goal within the class rules. To wit:

The intention of these class rules is to give the designer and builder the fullest liberty in design and construction, within these rules to develop and produce faster boats.

Though obviously critical for any class with "development" aspirations, such a clearly-stated policy of promoting contributions from "users" of a technology to the development of that technology bears a strong resemblance to the open software movement, of which Linux seems the dominant example.

This "open-source" philosophy is essentially a value judgment on the part of the class, betting that the cumulative contributions of many talented designers and sailors will outperform, if you will, the efforts of any one organization in terms of moving Moth design forward over the long haul. It is also a powerful statement about the value and importance of development itself.

What we have seen recently with the success of Bladerider is in some ways a challenge to this thinking: a corporate entity with commercial interests designing a very competitive and innovative boat and investing heavily in making that boat perform better than its competitors, many of which predate the Bladerider. Some might argue that the Bladerider's success stems in large part (or entirely) from ideas and concepts borrowed from the common practices of the class, including the wand-driven flap, the tilting gantry rudder, and other now-common foiling moth features. Be that as it may, one must nonetheless acknowledge the technical ability which has gone into developing these systems beyond their previous levels of function, only to be copied again and employed by other amateur moth-builders in a kind of reflected wave.

Whatever the reason, the Bladerider has driven an expansion of Moth sailing into populations of sailors who previously seem to have steadfastly ignored the Moth. This "user" population comprises some stellar boathandlers and sailors who seem to have limited interest in the wholesale development aspect of the boat, preferring instead to take a known platform and work diligently to learn to extract the maximum speed from it. This growth has injected new vitality and enthusiasm into the class internationally and has facilitated modest fleet growth even in countries as dinghy averse as the US.

Patents are certainly a potential issue for the class. At least one Moth manufacturer has applied for patents on several of its boat's features. So the issue is real, and that reality invites the class to look collectively at it and take a position.

One might for instance require that all technology used on Moths be licensed to the class under the GPL or something equivalent. Exemptions could be created for commercially available blocks and other commonly used devices - or not, as simple non-patented substitutes are available for almost all current Moth hardware.

But this is hardly realistic: no company will work hard to develop ideas and test them if other builders can simply come along behind and reap the benefits without incurring any costs. At any rate they are unlikely to present a problem to an individual seeking to build a one-off copy of a commercial product, which is the most common objection raised against them. So patents are here to stay.

None of this would have made it onto this blog were it not for the following video, which jogged my memory by providing some examples (mountain biking etc.) of other technologies that have emerged through the user-level efforts of dedicated amateurs, following (in many cases unconsciously) open source models similar to what the Moth class has expressly promoted for decades.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Moth of Narcissus

Perusing a personals advert from a comely young lass recently, it occurred to me that the reason she needed a personal ad was that she didn't have TIME for a boyfriend. Between her triathalons, incessant tourist vacations to exotic lands, work, and non-stop swimming-running-biking during the week, a guy would have to be a triathelete to spend any time with her. "He needs to be someone who can keep up with me" the ad went on, "someone with a brain, not a couch potato, who is creative and interested in learning new things".

Well, I have news for you sweetheart: all those guys are just as self absorbed as you are. What they need is someone who isn't trying to win triathalons, someone who is into, well, stuff that doesn't compete as much with what they are doing. It isn't that one shouldn't want to be a triathelete; it's only that if you are one then maybe a couch potato is precisely what the doctor ordered: to cook your high-starch meals, iron your skimpy lycra suits, and drag your tired ass and all your equipment around the country to your meets while holding down a job so you can focus on your sport. After all, the last thing a narcissist needs in a mate is another narcissist.

So when I see ads like that, I wonder: is modern singles society just a bunch of narcissistic, nutrition-obsessed, neurotic exercise freaks talking past each other? And is this why so many single people are out there in their mid to late 30s - ages when women were once considered old maids, and men confirmed bachelors?

If so, it's not looking good for yours truly. Work, sailing and building are crowding all those would-be evenings out, well, out.

Breeze came late to Long Beach today, catching me at my computer. So it was a mad dash to drag the Moth out from beneath its rubber tree camouflage and rock on down to the beach. Only the beach today was different: all winter long I have been wondering why I am the only one on the beach when I go sailing, and the answer is that Californians don't consider it a good beachgoing day unless it is over 80 and sunny. So the beach was packed with people, the water was an interesting shade of stinky, and had lots of grass floating in the surf. The wind was dying already around 3:30 when I launched but out beyond the breakwater it held on for a good long time and I had some nice gybing runs down behind various cruising boats who must think I am completely mad - gybing every 30 seconds or so, making it most of the time but occasionally screwing something up enough to capsize. As the breeze moderated I wasn't even going downwind very fast in this mode - just getting up to speed on a reach before pointing it down and going for it yet again. At first I was depressed as they seemed to have gone better last weekend, but by the end of the day I had regained the lost ground and even began to appreciate new subtleties of the gybe.

Then the wind shut off and I had a very slow sail back to shore, where couples feuded in the parking lot and various children attempted to commit suicide by running full tilt out onto Ocean Boulevard faster than their fat, inattentive parents could catch them up - but not for lack of screaming. One thing drunk, beachgoing Californians seem to do very well is shout completely trivial or private information at each other loud enough to make you wonder if there is some emergency at hand. It makes the occasional "stop you little shit or you'll get run over by a car" seem halfway normal even.

So in my ripe old age I am beginning to appreciate why yacht clubs were formed in the first place. They may have their issues, but at least one does not have to kick bags of half-eaten fast food out of the way to put one's boat on the trailer in the parking lot.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Two very interesting videos posted recently.

First is Rohan's footage of himself sailing downwind in breeze at Garda. Really nice clips. Good to know that really good sailors look really ugly going downhill in that crap too, except his gybes, which are fantastic. If you've tried it, your heart starts to beat faster just watching. And it isn't the music:

Second is JPZ posting two vids with spectacular real-time footage of a Prowler rudder ventilating under pretty ordinary circumstances. It appears the section is pretty much always ventilating a little bit, and when the lifting foil is close enough to the surface this propagates and stalls both foils. In the second video the tip clearly hits the surface though. First time I have seen so many examples on one clip. Rock on JPZ! (Who IS this guy anyway?)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Smooth Sailing

I was thinking recently about a perfect Moth day, in the best of all possible worlds. What I came up with was get up after a good night's sleep, eat something, stumble out to laundry room en route to garage, grab coverall and don in ambulatory fashion, kick on some clogs, mix a bit of goo and glom the bottom of a hydrofoil on using obligatory "every clamp in the joint" technique, throw sailing stuff in truck, hook boat up, drive to Long Beach for a sail where there is a steady 10-15 from the southwest. Sail for a few hours, ideally in close enough proximity to other fleets of racing dinghies that they can appreciate what they are missing. Practice tacking and gybing in the flatwater lee of a long seawall all afternoon. Make progress, feel reasonably in tune with the boat, have something click in your boathandling so that gybing no longer seems impossible and is in fact borderline predictable. Go in, derig, fix a few things, change, stop by the club to snarf a few Hors d'ouerves, and drive home, stopping en route to pick up stranded, post-collegiate, cute but ditzy in that narcissistic "I'm out of college and I don't know what to do with my life, so I'm hitchhiking around the country instead of getting a job" way American hitchhiking backpackers from Mini Mart in Compton and buy diesel for $4.19 a gallon. Come home, crack the foil out of the mold, put it in a heat box with a controller to post-cure for eight hours at 135F, put some pasta on the stove, and eat it while blogging a bit about the day's events. Now what's not to like about a day like that? Sort of isolating, all this foiling, but at least I saw Charlie and Hans out on the water and had a chance to say hello. Owe Charlie a big one for reminding me to replace the tiller centering bungee I so foolishly removed at Coronado. Big mistake, that. Makes a HUGE difference coming out of the gybes.

Have to echo Mr Dubai moth guy when he says "I LOVE SAILING MOTHS". You have to earn a Moth's love, which is notoriously fickle and can waver at the slightest unexpected ferry wake. But when it's going well, it's REALLY going well. Even surfed a powerboat wake upwind for half a mile today - that was a first on foils. Just sort of bizarre to be sailing twenty yards off their stern for that long.

The sailing shoes have sailed their last. Time to bust out a new pair from the archive - too bad they no longer make the Lotus kayaking water shoe as it is possibly the greatest sailing shoe ever, apart from the Converse Chuck Taylor.

That's about it. Going back to centerline sheeting, after monkeying around with boom sheeting for months, which I adopted rather accidentally. Just better to have it somewhere predictable when everything is heading South.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sorting Things Out

Above: Long beach pier data 3/30/08
Below: Seal Beach wind sensor (other end of the sailing area - a bit more sheltered)

Pulled the blue pajamas out for one final fling today as the forecast said breeze and the air and water temps are both about 50. Borrowed a page from Bora's book and spent the afternoon in one big "Don't take no for an answer" gybing session of figure 8s. Too much rudder lift at first had me wonder what was going on but turned out my little hinge covers were actually doing something. Wand is too darned stiff so downsizing the fishing pole. Making some progress with the gybes but truth be told probably not the best conditions to be trying them in as it was sort of game on. A bit more sorting out to do with switching hands but overall reasonably happy with my progress. Sailed quite late and was the last one off the water after all 30 or 40 kiteboarders packed it in. Should have quit sooner as was definitely slipping backward by the end. All in all a lovely day, though I did see one dead seal which was sort of depressing. I guess they have to die sometime. Not many sailboats out today - thought I saw some A-cats in the distance when I was rigging but it seemed pretty gnarly for a mast that tall today and they all zipped in before I got out.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower.

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.
- Robert Frost

Stop lights had me in an existential frame of mind today. Here in LA everyone drives everywhere, and the people who stubbornly refuse to drive or use public transit get run over. It's pretty much that simple. So everyone takes two tons of steel with them wherever they go. And they seem to love to accelerate that 4,000lbs of steel to amazing velocities before encountering the next physical obstruction, which is generally a traffic light, requiring them to press their shiny disc brakes into service and send the remaining 30% of the energy they just used to accelerate themselves to Warp 9, back into the atmosphere as heat. So when the BMW next to me floors it as the light turns green, I look on with wonder as it flies down the road, only to stop at the next light and wait for me to catch up. At which point I wonder: are we all in some sort of cosmic race that no one told me about?

On the race course, it's all clearly defined, and we accept that getting to the finish even one second sooner than the other guy is significant. After all, on a Moth, the benefits of skill actually do translate into significant amounts of time and distance - never mind that the finish line is generally in the same place you started - and who knows? Someday you may be tapped to sail your Moth up the Alaskan coastline in the dead of winter delivering pertussis vaccine, and lives may hang in the balance. One missed gybe and little Jimmy doesn't make it. Kind of makes you feel good about all that practice now, doesn't it?

And evenings in the garage? Simple. Decades hence sailors will still refer to the pioneers of foiling as giants among men - like Paul Butler and the sliding seat. Never mind that sliding seats were in use by others well before him - somehow he gets the credit, which probably beats winning any race when it comes to infamy.

So my advice to all you budding foilers is to give up on beating Si Payne and Rohan and the rest of the really great sailors who spend incredible amounts of time figuring out how to sail Moths faster than everyone else. They are probably more focused than you, have made more time in their lives for this than you have, and likely had more talent to begin with - unless you happen to be an Olympic level sailor yourself (in which case what the hell are you doing reading my blog)? The rest of you, think up some useful little gizmo or technique that pushes foiling technology forward in a useful way, name it, and show up at a regatta somewhere. Whether it's a May Stick, Veal heel or an F-box, your place in the history of the class will be secure, and forty years from now no one will care whether you finished first in the racing. After all: there is only one World Champion, but there is almost certainly still a lot of low-hanging technological fruit out there to be picked in this Golden Age of hydrofoil sailing.

Worst case scenario? It doesn't work. But in the end it's better to regret the things you have done than the things you haven't. Or is it?