Saturday, March 29, 2014

4.2 one day, Windsup next day

A late season cold front blew into Florida this week. It provided strong side-onshore wind as it arrived, then light, side-offshore wind with residual swells as it departed.

On the first day I was expecting 15-20 knot wind; maybe just enough to ride my 5.5 sail on a 106 liter shortboard. But at the beach it was blowing like crazy; perfect for a 4.5 and my 83 liter board... which I had left at home. Doh! I ended up doing fine by putting a 4.2 on my 106. A narrower board would have been more comfortable in the chop, but the nice float of the 106 helped me keep momentum when swerving way upwind or downwind riding waves. The song in the video is by Queens of the Stone Age. I think I've used it before, but it fits so I'll use it again.

Late Season Cold 2014 4.2 Sail from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The second day was obviously a sup or windsup day, with small swells and little coughs of side-offshore wind from about 4-14 knots. I used a 5.5 and the modified Angulo Windsup. (I REALLY need to get my 6.8 fixed/replaced- it would have been perfect that day.) At first, catching the waves with the 5.5 was easy. Once on a wave, the board would zoom up to a fast planing speed with a lot of apparent wind. As the wind got lighter and less dependable, it took more careful positioning and luck to get on a wave. At that point I could have switched to a paddle and caught a few more rides, but I'd had a good sesh and I needed to go teach my night class, so I bagged it. Good times. The song in the video is by Soundgarden.

Late Season Cold 2014 Angulo Windsup from James Douglass on Vimeo.

This DOUBLE WINGER SWALLOW-PIN-TAIL TWIN-FIN DUCK-STEP WINDSUP WITH SUCK-HOLE TECHNOLOGY is working really well for me. I think the best thing about it is how it generates speed down the line in small waves, which helps you feel like you're riding a bigger wave with stronger wind. I hope some more experienced board builders will copy my idea and develop it further.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Angulo WindSUP and Exocet Cross Wavesailing Videos

A cool front Friday pushed nice 1-meter waves and 15-20 knot winds across the Gulf of Mexico into Southwest Florida. For us those are epic conditions. I went to my usual wavesailing spot, Wiggins Pass State Park in North Naples, and rigged a 5.5. For the board I chose a 106 liter Exocet Cross II. The Cross is my favorite board of all time, and I have even more love for it lately since matching it with a 26 cm wave fin from Maui Ultra Fins- It's fast, loose, and smooth while still early to plane and good upwind. The wind angle was sideshore enough to allow both backside- and some frontside wave riding, so I felt like I had a lot of mobility on the waves.

Wiggins 3-7-14 cross from James Douglass on Vimeo.

After a while the wind dropped from 15-20 to 10-15. I probably could have stayed on the Cross if my 6.8 sail wasn't busted, but without a bigger sail as an option I went for my bigger board, the modified Angulo Surfa 10'4". This was my first time trying the Surfa since my final round of modifications- Front footstraps and a "suck-hole" to facilitate water release in the step-tail cutout. With all the added features, the board can now be called, ahem...

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"Wingers" are the little lateral notches where the board transitions from a wider midsection to a narrower tail. Mine is a DOUBLE WINGER because it has curved wingers near the tail from the original Angulo shape, plus sharp wingers in the new underside that I added.

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A "swallow-tail" is a tail that splits into two points, which the new bottom section that I added does. The original Angulo came to a single "pin-tail." Hence SWALLOW-PIN-TAIL to describe the modified board.

The original board had a single center fin with two small "thruster" fins on either side. I removed the center fin and covered the thruster slots, but added a large fin in each lobe of the swallow tail, making the board a TWIN-FIN. I decided to go with a twin-fin instead of a single fin design so that I could use shorter, more maneuverable fins but still have enough fin area to balance out the wide tail of the big board and the relative large sails I hoped to use on the board. I'm currently using the former center fin (21 cm Angulo SUP fin) in one of the slots, and the stock fin from a Starboard Evo 83 (23 cm Drake fin) in the other slot. Oddly enough I had some problems with the 23 cm fin spinning out, but not the 21 cm. I might see if I can order another 21 cm Angulo SUP fin to get a match. I never liked that 23 cm Drake fin anyway- it used to spin out in the Evo, as well.

A "step-tail" is a design where there are two layers to the tail section of the board, divided by an abrupt step behind the fin. The top layer projects further aft, making the board longer for better glide at slow speeds. But at higher speeds the top part releases from the water, making the board effectively shorter and therefore faster and more maneuverable. A "duck-tail" is a particular type of step tail where the top layer of the tail angles upward more than the bottom layer. Because the original Angulo shape had a lot of "rocker" in the tail, it naturally created a DUCK-STEP tail when I added the flat bottom layer.

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Technically a WINDSUP is any stand-up paddleboard fitted with a mast-attachment point for windsurfing. However, a good windsup will also have some other windsurfing-specific features that deviate from the default SUP design. In addition to the tail modifications and footstraps that I added to facilitate planing windsurfing, this windsup also has a slot for a pseudo-daggerboard center fin. Josh Angulo helped me add that back when I lived in Massachusetts and we were using the board as Rhonda's beginner board.

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The crowning grace (or disgrace, perhaps) of my board modification is the SUCK-HOLE TECHNOLOGY. It's the hollow tip of an old, carbon fiber mast, which pierces diagonally through the deck of the board into the notch created by the swallow-step-tail. I put it there to counteract the sucking-to-the-water effect that might be created by the duck-tail at certain speeds. Now when the duck tail tries to suck to the water, it sucks air instead, releasing it from the water and helping initiate planing. I know the suck-hole works, because if I put my toes over it when I'm sailing near planing speed I can feel it sucking air pretty hard. The only annoyance is that at slow, non-planing speeds the suck-hole sometimes spits froth instead of sucking.


Wiggins 3-7-14 angulo from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Limulus polyphemus- I love horseshoe crabs

Here are some of the reasons I love horseshoe crabs:

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1. Horseshoe crabs are cool-looking, like an alien space helmet with spider legs, pincers, and a spike tail.
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2. Horseshoe crabs' oddly-positioned compound eyes are large and shaped such as to give them an inscrutable and vaguely menacing glower. In addition to their two main eyes, they have some less obvious eyespots further forward on their carapace.

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3. The horseshoe crab lineage has maintained the same body form since the Ordovician period 450 million years ago. During that time all their close relatives have perished, making them the sole modern representatives of a prehistoric group that included such monsters as the Eurypterid "sea scorpions." Their closest living kin are the terrestrial (land dwelling) spiders and scorpions... but you could hardly call them close because they diverged from a common ancestor about 480 million years ago! Calling them "crabs" is misleading, because they're even further separated from the crustaceans (which include crabs) than they are from spiders and scorpions.

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4. Horseshoe crabs are scarily amazing when you pick them up and turn them over to reveal their numerous legs, claws, and flap-like gills. But they don't pinch too hard, so go ahead and pick one up to take a look. Just watch out for the spike tail (the "telson").

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5. There are no horseshoe crabs on the West Coast so I never saw a live one when I was growing up. That makes getting to see them in action here on the East Coast extra cool. The Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) is pretty tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, so it lives from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Canada. There are also some three species of horseshoe crab that live in the Indo-Pacific region.

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6. Horseshoe crabs are ecologically important. Beside playing a role as low-level predators and sediment-stirrer-uppers in benthic (sea-bottom) food chains, they provide a vital food source for loggerhead sea turtles. Also, horseshoe crab eggs are a critical food for migrating shorebirds (sandpipers and such). Horseshoe crabs lay eggs in massive numbers on sandy beaches, and shorebirds time their arduous arctic - tropic migrations to make a refueling stop on the beaches where the horseshoe crab eggs will be. If there are no eggs to eat, the birds die of exhaustion and starvation before completing their migration.

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7. Horseshoe crabs are important to humans, but also threatened by human activities. In increasing order of the unique value of their services, horseshoe crabs have provided us with 1) agricultural fertilizer,

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2) bait for eel and whelk traps
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and 3) a blood-cell extract called LAL that can be used to check for bacterial contamination of fluids and medical devices before they are put into the human body. The LAL story has been getting around a lot lately and was recently a feature article in the The Atlantic magazine. While I'm strongly opposed to the wasteful use of horseshoe crabs for fertilizer and bait, I think the blood harvest is pretty important... as long as it's done sustainably. Some progress has been made towards that end. For instance, we no longer kill the beasts to take their blood- we just partially drain them and then release them, whereafter they have about an 80% survival rate.
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Scientists are now working to make a synthetic version of LAL so we don't need to suck horseshoe crab blood to get it. Let's hope that works out.

Friday, February 21, 2014

It PLANES! (The modified windsurf - sup)

Last weekend we had some decent onshore wind in the 15-20 mph range. It would have been good conditions for my 6.8 sail and shortboard, but that sail is currently out of commission. So I had to choose between being jacked on an 8.0 or underpowered on a 5.5. I chose the 5.5 and paired it with my modified 10'4" Angulo Surfa windsup, thinking that combo might help turn the moderate wind and choppy water into something interesting. It ended up being a great session. Here are my observations, followed by a video.

Observation 1: Launching a windsup with no footstraps to grab onto is horribly awkward. I've decided to put a pair of front footstraps on the board to serve as handles, regardless of whether or not they're necessary when sailing.

Observation 2: The board planes! At first I could only plane on the way in to shore, with a little boost from a wave or swell. As the wind built I was able to plane on the way out, as well. Pumping helped with initiating planing, and the overall feel of the board as it got planing was like a really big waveboard. The board goes upwind well when planing and doesn't need to be tilted to windward to do so.

Observation 3: The fins I used (23 cm Drake wave fin and 21 cm Angulo sup fin) seemed like a pretty good match for the 5.5 sail and the conditions. There may be better sizes and types of fin for different conditions, but I'll try to figure that out later.

Observation 4: The board turns fine, and seems to have a more "drivey" type of turning than the "pivoty" type of turning it had before the modification. I didn't do any good jibes because I was timid in my attempts, but I think with practice I'll be able to jibe it nicely.

WindSUP Angulo 2-15-14 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cold Front Windsurfing: Day of and Day After

"Cold front" is kind of a misleading term here in Southwest Florida, since it never gets particularly cold. What it does get is nice and breezy, and, importantly, the breeze comes out of the Northwest so we get onshore wind and sizeable waves. Thursday afternoon was a classic NW wind day at Wiggins Pass, with enough push to get me going on a 4.5 sail and 83 liter board.

Wiggins 2-13-14 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

While the wind itself is exciting, sometimes the day after the cold front is even better. The wind calms down and shifts offshore, eliminating the chaotic chop, but residual swells continue to roll in, making for ideal SUP surfing or light-wind wavesailing. Friday morning delivered those conditions, and brought up to eight SUP surfers at once to Wiggins! I joined them, using my modified Angulo SUP. At first I tried with a sail, but in faltering single-digit winds I just didn't have the power to catch many waves. This was compounded by the fact that I was using my 5.5 sail, since the head strap blew out on my 6.8.

Anybody want a free 6.8 Aerotech Phantom with a needs-replacing head strap?  photo 83f23904-f50d-483f-8d2b-a690c32f586e_zps7a84cc0f.jpg

Paddle power was definitely the call, and I got to catch tons of nice waves and really get the feel for the modified board. I'm happy to report that it does most everything as well as before the step-tail twin-fin addition, and it does some things a little better for my purposes. What it does a little better is cut down the line of the wave, which gives me more speed and more ability to follow the about-to-break part of the wave as it peels to the side. The step tail does release from the water when the board gets going, which probably reduces drag and explains the better speed.

SUP WindSUP 2-14-14 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Step-Tail Addition to SUP Finished - First Impressions

Today I finished the elaborate windsurfing gear project that I've been working on since before Christmas; converting a standard SUP board to a twin-fin WindSUP with a step-tail. It was a ton of work, and I probably won't attempt anything so fancy in the future. That said, I like how it turned out. The outline of the step-tail platform, with its little wingers leading into a swallow tail, looks like it fits well with the twin fin positions. I'm also pleased with how I was able to transition the rails smoothly into the stepped-tailed section, adding a sharper release but keeping them moderately thin and tucked. The rocker of the step tail is very flat, but I kept the same amount of vee in the bottom that it hard originally, which I hope will help keep the ride smooth at higher speeds. Shaping a smooth transition from curved rocker to straight rocker where the step-tail begins was the hardest part. I think I messed that up a bit, ending up with a slightly concave instead of perfectly flat transition.

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After sanding and painting the board today, I took it for a paddle in tiny, glassy waves at Wiggins Pass. I couldn't detect any difference in stability, but paddling in flat water felt slightly different. It may be that the step tail and the two larger fins add a bit more drag in displacement mode. To my relief, the board seems to catch waves just as easily as before the change, and there's no greater tendency for the nose to pearl or anything like that. Once on a wave, the acceleration is good, and I think the board may be faster than before. Turning and going sideways on the wave still seems easy, but I'll need bigger waves to really get the feel for the speed and turning differences. I've got a busy week coming up, but I might be able to get out with a sail on Tuesday afternoon. What I really want to figure out is if the board will plane with a sail now.

Monday, January 20, 2014

SUP - Windsurf Modification + MUFin Wave Fin

Since getting back from a nice, long winter vacation I've been quite busy at work. A colleague is on paternity leave so I've been substituting for his two classes of 72 freshmen each, plus I have two classes of my own with 72 and 50 students, respectively. It's not too hard to teach the extra classes because they're the basic "Marine Systems" course that I've done before. It just means there's less time to work on other things, and therefore a little less time for hobbies and play. E.g., I'm still getting on the water but haven't made it to the blogging about it phase until now.

Anyway, one of my best sessions recently was one where I tried out a new Christmas present. My wonderful future in-laws got me a Maui Ultra Fins 26 cm Wave Fin; the ultimate wavesailing fin to match my freestyle-wave board, the Exocet Cross 106.

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Astute blog readers might now be thinking, "I thought he already had the perfect fin for the Cross!" Indeed, a while back I proclaimed my MUFin No-Spin 32 to be the perfect fin for the Cross. I still think the 32 is perfect as a freeride / bump & jump fin for 5.5 - 6.8 sails, and it works ok in waves, too. But it's not as "loose" as a wave fin needs to be to make real tight turns and cuts on the steep part of a wave, and it's also more prone to scrape the bottom in shallow water where small waves break. I would sometimes use a 23 cm Weed-Wave fin on the Cross to get that looser feel and shallow water security. But like most weed fins, the weed-wave does everything a little worse than a regular fin of similar size. So I always felt like I wasn't experiencing the intended wavesailing performance of the Cross. Until now.

My first session with the MUFin Wave 26 was in 15-20ish mph side-onshore wind and 2-3' waves at Wiggins Pass. I used a 5.5 sail, which was at the lower end of its wind range and therefore rigged with a tight leach and loose outhaul. The fin got planing quickly and supported a good upwind angle without allowing spinout, but it definitely felt much looser than my 32 cm MUFin, and more "slippery efficient" than my weed-wave fin. There seemed to be a good balance between the edging effect of the fin and the edging effect of the board- you couldn't "ride the fin" like you would with a big freeride or race fin, but you didn't have to rely solely on the edge of the board to get upwind, either. The good blend of looseness and upwind competence helped when I needed to quickly veer upwind into a little ramp for a chop-hop. As expected, on the wave rides was where the fin felt most awesome. It let me turn the board really tight without dropping off a plane, which let me stay on the slope of the wave when turning. I'm hoping that helps me improve my wavesailing with more "surfing" style moves on the wave.

Most other sessions lately have been on the formula board or the Exocet WindSUP 11'8". I had a nice time SUPing the latter today at Wiggins Pass. The magic seaweed surf report was for 1-2' waves with 6 second period, which is pretty good for around here. I've found that any swell at least 1' high with 5 second period is rideable at Wiggins, where inlet-related sandbars perpendicular to the shoreline magnify the swells into nicely pealing peaks. Today the sandbar on the north side of the pass was working especially well. You could catch a wave near a channel marker about 200 yards out, stay on the "shoulder" of the wave all the way into the inlet, and then turn around and ride the outgoing tide back to the takeoff point. Woo hoo!

Back in "dry dock" on the patio, my modifications to the Angulo Surfa 10'4" sailable SUP are going pretty well, and I hope to be able to get it on the water by the end of this week. I routed out two rectangles in the step rocker section and filled them with high density "pour foam" before routing smaller grooves into the pour foam for the fin boxes.

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I put fins in the boxes before I epoxied them in so I could be sure the boxes were at the correct angle. They came out nearly perfect, which was a huge relief. (At some point I might want to get matching fins so the board can be symmetrical, but I think if it works at all it will probably work fine with unmatched fins.)

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I've since glassed the hull, but I still need to glass the rails before the final stage of sanding and painting. The rails will be the trickiest part because they have some right angles that the glass cloth isn't going to want to bend to fit. I have no idea if the modifications will work like they're supposed to or not, but I'm hoping for a board that planes early and goes fast, turns well enough for jibing and waveriding, and can catch waves easily with either paddle or sail power.