Saturday, June 29, 2013

Busted Mast / Self-Rescue

I went sailing after work on Friday and this happened.

Mast Break 6-28-13 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Here's the description of the event that I posted on the forum.

I was chasing the Florida seabreeze today with my formula board and 9.5 ezzy cheetah. Mostly I was shlogging, but whenever a 10 knot "gust" rolled through I'd pump to plane for a bit.

I was sailing along in a particularly good gust, maybe 11 knots, when "POW!" - I was in the water. The bottom half of my 490 cm 75% carbon Gaastra mast had snapped about a foot above the boom.

I de-rigged on the water, lashed the rigging in a bundle down the centerline of the board, and started SUP'ing back to shore using 2/3 of the mast as a paddle. Fortunately I was only about a mile offshore and the launch was almost directly downwind. It took me about 30 min to get back. Nothing besides the mast broke or sank, thank goodness.

Anyway, I'm not real surprised that the mast broke. About two years ago when I first got it I heard a little "click" when clamping the boom on tightish. (Btw- with the chinook carbon formula boom head there is a very narrow margin of error between tight enough to not slide down the mast and loose enough to not crush the mast. Beware) The damage spot must have been minor at first, but I think it probably grew a little bit every time I sailed. I didn't use the 490 much for the two years I lived in MA, but it was the mast I most often after I moved back to Florida.

If anyone wants the top of the mast, let me know.

These things happen. I'll be getting a used 490 from Ace Performer in Ft. Myers so I can get back on the water this weekend.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Don's Lab Board Video, Bic Formula Board 4 Sale

I rode the "Don's Lab" home-built formula board for the first time today at Bonita Beach.

First Ride on "Don's Lab" Formula Board from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The wind was blowing side-offshore, mostly at single-digit speeds but with occasional spurts of about 10 knots. The board was easy to pump onto a plane in the wind spurts, and once planing it generated a lot of apparent wind in the sail and good lift from the fin. The board's upwind angle was good both when schlogging and when planing, so it was easy to get back to the beach when I was done. I don't think it planes vastly earlier than my older Bic formula board, but it's definitely a little easier to pump, and I think it goes upwind better and stays planing longer as the wind drops. With a larger sail like an 11.0 this board's light wind performance should pull further ahead of the Bic's. If I had more shed space I'd keep the Bic to use in the rougher 12+ knot conditions where it excels, but since the shed is getting crowded I'd like to sell the Bic. There are lots of pictures and videos of the Bic on my blog, and here's the info on it if you're interested:

Make: Bic
Model: Formula V 1.2
Year: 2001
Condition: Very Good
Length: 267 cm
Width: 87.5 cm
Weight: 8.5 kg
Stock Fin: 60 cm deep tuttle
Sail range: 7 - 11 m^2
Price: $300; pick-up only in Florida

Though the Don's Lab Formula's maiden voyage was definitely a success, I'll still do some minor tweaking with the board to get the most out of its speed and early planing potential. Here's what I'm thinking about doing:

1. Making sure the hull, which I spray-painted, is sanded and polished to be as frictionless as possible.

2. Possibly beveling / smoothing the tip of the fin where it was cut down from 85 to 70 cm.

3. Positioning the mast base slightly further back in the track so that more of the hull can "un-wet" when I'm planing.

4. Getting an 11.0 sail.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Don's Lab" Home-built Formula Board

Last week I fussed on the "" forum about Florida's light summer seabreezes and how my current formula windsurfing setup just wasn't quite powerful enough to take advantage of them. I wrote that I was potentially in the market for some bigger, better, used formula gear. Lots of people replied with offers, including Don Wagner, an Emergency Room doctor from Vero Beach.

Don actually builds his own windsurfing boards. I'd met him and seen his creations in action a few times at local regattas. I thought the boards were super cool but I didn't imagine I'd ever ride one because "Don's Lab" is not a commercial venture. Dr. Wagner just builds the boards he'd like to ride, then he retires them from use as he comes up with new board ideas. I was very excited when he offered to give me one of his retired formula boards for free. He also had some big formula fins and stuff he was looking to sell.

I didn't waste any time driving across the state as soon as I had a day off. I met Don and his artist wife at their beautiful house, ensconced in a cool jungle of shade trees and tropical plants and flowers. The Wagners were exceptionally hospitable and I really admired their comfortable and close-to-nature approach to living in Florida. Needless to say I also admired Don's workshop and windsurf menagerie. He's made everything from surfboards to SUPs to slalom and formula boards. He even showed me a hydrofoil-board that he'd made! So cool.

I thought that for the price of free I'd be getting one of his earliest formula board experiments, but he actually helped me pick out what seems to be a very modern design similar to the latest ultra-wide-tailed, double-chicken-strap boards made by the major windsurf manufacturers.

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One of the only obvious differences between Don's board and a mass-produced formula board is the thinness of the tail section on Don's board.

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Here you can compare Don's custom board to my 2002 Bic Formula board.

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Another difference between the two is the fins. The one on the Bic is 58 cm. The one I bought for Don's board is actually even longer than the class-legal size of 70 cm, because it's a moderately cut-down 85 cm fin! It should be great for early planing and going upwind.

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Of course I'm desperately eager to take my new acquisition for its re-christening voyage, but so far the wind has been too light and variable even for formula. I kept busy today, though, by giving it a coat of white paint and some funky blue graphics. Don doesn't paint his boards because the paint adds weight, but figured I'd paint this one.

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I hope it floats. I'll try it with my 9.5 sail first, then I may or may not add an ~11.0 sail to my quiver to see how early I can get it to plane.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee Estuary - Mirror Images?

It rains a lot in Florida, at least in the summertime. It's certainly raining today, with 2013's first Atlantic Tropical Storm, Andrea, soaking us down.

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What's peculiar here in Florida is where the rain goes once it hits the ground. Our state is so flat that the water doesn't cascade from rivulets to streams to creeks to rivers as it would in a hillier landscape. Rather, the water tends to flow slowly and spread diffusely over broad wetlands like the everglades- seeping, rather than running, towards the coast. At least that's what it did before Florida was "civilized."

Historic, diffuse pattern of freshwater flow across South Florida. Note that there was no link between Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries on the West and East Coasts of the State. The flow just went overland to the Everglades in the South. photo flowmap1-historic_zps91365afd.jpg

Settlers of European descent found Florida's broad marshes, swamps, and seasonally-flooded lands rather inconvenient to build and farm upon. So the United States' Army Corps of Engineers sliced the land with deep, straight canals, and dammed it with dikes and levees to shunt the diffuse surface flows more directly to major waterways and the ocean. From a development standpoint, their efforts to reengineer Florida's water flow were an enormous success. Huge areas that had been too soggy and too frequently flooded to support towns and farms were now prime real estate, and the population boomed. The intensifying agriculture and development enriched our waterways with nutrients from fertilizer and human and animal waste. While nutrients are good for crops, they're a serious form of water pollution when present in excessive amounts, because they stimulate massive blooms of disgusting algae, which darken the water and putrify in death, sapping the dissolved oxygen that aquatic animals need to survive.

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Florida's problem with excessive nutrients is exacerbated by our unnatural water flows. Instead of being filtered out by sponge-like swamps and marshes, the excess nutrients we dump take an express route through filthy canals to the bays and estuaries of the coasts. Giving our rainwater a clear path to the coast has unfortunately given our pollution a clear path to the coast, as well. The coasts are Florida's best feature, in my opinion, and I find it ironic that our efforts to improve the inland parts of Florida are resulting in degradation of the coastal ecosystems, seen as increasing red tides and fish kills, dying reefs, withering seagrass beds, etc.

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In the Caloosahatchee Estuary, where I study seagrass health, the freshwater flows themselves, as well as the nutrients they carry, have become a form of pollution. It's because freshwater flow into the estuary is now an "all or nothing" event mediated by deliberate opening and closing of locks built along a canal connecting the Caloosahatchee to polluted Lake Okeechobee. In the dry season, the locks are usually closed so that more water can be shunted inland to big agricultural operations. This "starves" the estuary of fresh water and makes it unnaturally salty, to the detriment of organisms in the upper part of the estuary that prefer fresh or lightly brackish water. The opposite thing happens in the wet season- water is purged from Okeechobee to keep it from getting too high, and that water turns the normally salty parts of the Caloosahatchee Estuary so fresh that it kills the salt-loving organisms. We believe that these ups and downs in salinity are a lot more extreme now that when natural wetlands acted as a "slow release filter" for rainwater making its way over land to the river and estuary.

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A very similar thing happens on the opposite side of Florida, where the St. Lucie Estuary has also been unnaturally linked by a canal to Lake Okeechobee. In fact, the seagrass research happening in the St. Lucie, funded by the South Florida Water Management District, is more or less identical to the seagrass research I am doing for SFWMD in the Caloosahatchee. Check out this short video from my East Coast counterparts...

St Lucie Estuary Seagrass Study from Stephan Nilson on Vimeo.

I'm eager to get some more of my Caloosahatchee data together so I can compare it with the St. Lucie data. I wonder if the whole system is a like a teeter totter- When the Caloosahatchee thrives does the St. Lucie suffer, and vice versa? I'll post more about my research as it becomes more clear.