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. 


Anonymous said...

Karl, what where the changes that made it all work so well in waves?

Karl said...

Hi Kirk - I think I responded before but the short answer is that it has moments of brilliance but is still quite an adventure to sail and somewhat skittish, or perhaps high-spirited would be a good analogy for any equestrian types out there. Things can go really well and suddenly you are A over Apex without much warning. So working "so well" is a bit optimistic at this stage.

Karl said...

The ending of this post is one of my faves from the Mothing Days. Odysseus of all things.