Sunday, March 29, 2009

Windsurfing Juno Beach and Hillsboro Beach

My friend Andrew got married this weekend in Delray Beach, which is about 1.5 hours south of where I live in Fort Pierce. The wedding was an extended affair, with pre-wedding baseball watching Friday afternoon in Jupiter, the wedding itself at 4pm on Saturday, and a post-wedding bbq on Sunday. Fortuitously, it worked out that I got a windsurfing session in Jupiter on Friday after the game, and another in Hillsboro Beach on Saturday before the wedding.

The Jupiter session was scary. I wasn't sure where to launch because I'd never sailed there before, but I saw an old RV with a windsurf on top parked a few blocks N of the Juno pier, so I pulled over and checked it out. There was a big swell coming in on top of normal waves pushed by the 20+ knot wind. It looked larger and more intimidating than anything I had seen in Fort Pierce, with no easy way out. I was nervous. I rigged a 5.2 and put a small fin on my 106 liter Exocet Cross, since I'd left my high-wind board at home. By some miracle I got in and out of the danger zone a number of times without incident, but I didn't really do anything cool since I was just surviving. At the end I lost track of where I had launched from and had to walk about 1/4 mile back up the beach. Oh, well.

When I was derigging, Mike Colombo, who I had recently met while board-testing for Windsurfing Magazine at the Banana River Resort, spotted me and said hi. We went to happy hour at a nice restaurant with some of his friends. It was cool. In appreciation, here is a picture of Mike jumping in Jupiter on Saturday with a 4.2 sail and 93 liter board. I'm not sure who took this picture - it came across the East Central Florida Windsurfing listserve.


Compared to Friday in Jupiter, Saturday in Hillsboro Beach wasn't that scary. The wind and waves were still serious, but the mongo swell was either gone or blocked by the "swell shadow" of the Bahamas, which is generally what happens to big swells from the Atlantic as you move S of Jupiter along the Florida coast. I sailed the same gear as the previous day. My dad was there to give moral support and take pictures, which was nice.


Some German tourists we befriended on the beach took the picture of him taking the picture of me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Duck Jibe Video, + i.s.o. 5.8 Wavesail

For the last three evenings there have been good windsurfing conditions on the ocean, but I've sailed flatwater in the Indian River Lagoon behind the Smithsonian Marine Lab in Fort Pierce. That's ok, because it's given me a chance to sail with my friend Scott and with my dad Johnny, who both prefer flatwater at this stage. Also, I've gotten to work on my duck jibes. I still rarely make them on port tack, but I'm getting fairly comfortable doing them on starboard tack. My dad's video proves it.

I like how the sail (6.6 Aerotech Charge) looks when the light is shining through it. On a related note, I'm looking for a new wavesail in the 5.5 - 5.9 range, since Scott inadvertently claimed my old 2001 5.8 Ezzy when he catapulted spectacularly yesterday. I would like one that rigs on a 430 NoLimitz Sumo skinny mast and has distinctive, bold colors, if anyone has any ideas.

Scott going out on the Kona, sail intact.

Scott going pretty fast on the Kona, me in the background.

Me duck jibing, Scott in the background.

Scott coming back, sad about ripping the sail (look above his head).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Windsurfing on Land

I've always kinda wanted to try "skatesailing", where you put a windsurfer on a big-wheeled skateboard. So when Windsurfing Magazine editor Josh Sampeiro said he was selling his "Turfdog" board for real cheap, I picked it up. It's kind of a weird design. The back wheels are on a regular axle, but the front wheels are on swivel-mounts like shopping-cart wheels, so you can slide the nose around in funny ways.

Since I couldn't drive to the beach today (my @#$%! car has something wrong with the electrical system AGAIN) I figured it would be a good time to try the turfdog with Scott, my neighbor / coworker / friend / windsurfing buddy. It had been windy, so we cautiously rigged an old 3.2 msq sail to start with. It looked cool, but barely moved us in the dying wind.


So next we rigged Scott's cambered 5.5 msq sail. By then we had attracted the attention of our neighbor John, a retired episcopalian priest. He helped out, I guess. Neither Scott nor I got seriously injured, so maybe he was praying for us.


Most of the time we were barely moving because of the light and swirly wind. Of course when a gust did come it could be kinda scary, what with the variety of solid objects to run into and our unfamiliarity with the board's handling. It's going to be a while before I get this thing dialed, but I can already tell it was a good investment. :)

What Happens When Mayonaise Freezes

A few weeks ago the thermostat in my fridge broke and everything froze solid. It was aggravating, but after it was fixed it was interesting to see how the freeze-thaw cycle had affected the various foodstuffs.

Vegetables- Ruined; turned to gelatinous pulp. I think freezing ruptured the walls of the plant cells.

Cheddar Cheese- Became crumbly, but tasted the same.

Bread- No effect, or at least none discernible to my palate.

Mayonnaise- Fundamentally transformed from a viscous, homogeneous, white substance into a runny, two-part solution with a majority fraction of urine-yellow liquid.


If anyone knows the scientific reason why mayonnaise does this, I'd be curious to hear it.

St. Paddy's Day Waves

Wow. The east coast of Florida has had good winds for shortboard windsurfing (15+ knots) almost every day this month. I've actually missed some sailable days and not even felt bad about it! It's dawning on me that I really am living in a watersports paradise. :)

The other day I got a particularly nice after-work session with my friend Doug the kiteboarder. After I wrapped up I took some pictures of Doug that show the coolness of Fort Pierce Inlet as a launch site.

When the wind is from the N or NE, the south side of the south jetty has super smooth water.

But if there's a swell and the tide is right, the south side of the north jetty has big, clean wrap-around waves.

Super fun.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I was a good boy growing up. I never smoked cigarettes, and I didn't drink a beer until my 21st birthday. If I ever did marijuana, it wouldn't have been until after college and I wouldn't have done it often. I still believe most of what my 5th grade D.A.R.E. officer told me about the unhealthy physical effects of drugs, the risks of acting under the influence, and the danger of addiction.


But I don't think all drugs are so dangerous that they should be illegal. In some cases I think that the effects of drug prohibition are worse than the effects of the drugs themselves. Here I've described how I think we should deal with some of the popular mind-altering substances in our culture.

1. Sugar- Yes, sugar. Our love of sweetness evolved when sugar could only be obtained through laborious collection of wholesome fruits and berries. Getting too much was never a problem until we learned how to refine sugar on an industrial scale. Now we can easily "overdose", leading to cavities, fatness, diabetes, and other problems (see video). I certainly don't think we should ban sugar, but I do think high-sugar foods and drinks should have surgeon-general's warnings like cigarettes, and shouldn't be sold in schools.

2. Caffeine- It's not dangerous in typical doses, but it's definitely addictive, and it's easy to build a tolerance and dependency, such that you need a lot just to feel normal. Plus there are some negative physical and mental affects associated with chronic use, and withdrawal is nasty. No need to make it illegal, but it's probably better to have it as a special treat than a daily routine.

3. Alcohol- We're all familiar with it so we sometimes forget that it's a very strong, potentially dangerous and addictive, drug. But it's fairly well-managed in our culture. People know what it does and can look out for themselves, their friends, customers, etc. We could probably do a better job of preventing drunk driving and treating alcoholism, but I think most people would agree that the current legal status of alcohol is working better than the 1930s prohibition.

4. Tobacco- Nicotine is one of the worst drugs, in my opinion, because it's highly addictive, unhealthy, and gross, while only giving a weak buzz. It's like it's only as fun as caffeine, but a lot more harmful to users. I don't think it needs to be illegal, but I think it should be illegal to advertise it in any way. Also, I support bans on smoking in indoor public places where non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke.

5. Marijuana- I think pot should be legalized, not because I think its totally safe, but because I think its dangers and health effects are comparable with alcohol and tobacco, and that it could be managed similarly to those drugs. I think the current illegality of marijuana leads to unsafe use, in the same way abstinence-only sex education leads to unsafe sex. If pot was legal, then we could transition from just saying "don't ever do it", to more detailed guidance like "if/when you do it, don't try to drive, go to work or school, or hit on a member of the preferred sex".

(I'm not sure if this video is serious or facetious, but it's pretty funny.)

Those are all the drugs that I'm pretty sure about. With the next ones, I'm going more out on a limb with my ideas...

6. Stronger Psychedelic Drugs- Things like LSD and Psilocybin spp. mushrooms range widely in their effects, health risks, and safe dosages. I think people might be safer if they were legal, because then you could have standard ingredients and doses accompanied by the appropriate health warnings. There would still be intentional misuse, but maybe less accidental overdosing.

7. Hard Drugs- Cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and barbiturates are obviously very unhealthy and addictive, and have bad social consequences. On those bases they should be banned. The thing is that they ARE banned, but the ban isn't working well. Hard drugs are still being used a lot, which supports a sketchy, corrupting, and violent drug trade. Making hard drugs legal and taxing them might reduce drug-dealing violence and cut off the revenue going to bad guys, although it wouldn't stop the tragedy of addiction. Nor would legalization stop the problem of addicts robbing and stealing and prostituting themselves for money to buy drugs. Some kind of system of free dispensaries combined with treatment centers might help solve that.

Anyway, those are just my opinions. I know there are a lot of other ideas out there. In fact, one paper I read comparing the dangerousness of several different kinds of drugs versus their legality was very interesting. You can check it out here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Solid Dose of Waves

I've lived a few blocks from the Atlantic for a few months now and I think it's turning me into a wave junky. Or at least it's giving me an appreciation for how much more exciting a windsurfing session can be with good waves.

View Larger Map

The waves were definitely good at low tide yesterday and this afternoon at Fort Pierce inlet. Both days I crossed to the N side to ride unusually large, well-organized surf that was breaking from way outside all the way in. I used a 6.6 m2 sail and 106 liter board each time, but with different results.

Yesterday the wind was barely over 10 knots from the SE, so I couldn't waterstart and could only plane on the way in. I kept getting cleaned out and having to swim for my gear. It was so thrilling / terrifying that I was shaking and my heart was beating like crazy every time I uphauled the sail to face the waves again. The rewards were great, though. At one point I got to share a wave with a longboard surfer who had paddled all the way to the outside break. Sweet!

Today the wind was more like 15 knots, so I could plane most of the time and catch the waves more often than they were catching me. Woo hoo! It's amazing how many more ways you can carve the board around when you're being pushed by a smooth wave face versus when you're just sailing along in choppy water. Ahhhh, so awesome. The only sketchy thing today was that the inlet was VERY fishy. There were medium and small sized fish jumping all over the place, and I saw two spinner sharks do great aerial leaps. One was the biggest shark I have seen in the wild. It was bigger than me. When it jumped, there was something else flying around it's head, like a small fish, or a fish head, maybe. I'm attaching this popular YouTube video of a leaping shark, because this is exactly what it looked like. Only mine was bigger, seriously.

I hope it all happens again Saturday and Sunday, minus the shark bonanza.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Chance to End Perverse Subsidies

The oil industry makes huge profits while taking a huge toll on human health and the environment. So it's common sense that the industry should be taxed, or at least NOT SUBSIDIZED with government funds. Ending subsidies and tax loopholes for oil companies would be a logical step towards fixing the national debt, pollution, climate change, and terrorism, and freeing up funds for better investments in the future, like education.


Unfortunately, logic alone will not stop mad armies of fearful, loathsome lobbyists from trying to preserve the perverse system we have now; a system that pays oil executives and crooked politicians at the expense of everyday people and the environment.

If you want to help, you can click here to sign a petition supporting the sensible measures in President Obama's budget that would end oil industry subsidies and loopholes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Corpus Christi is Windy

Yesterday was the last day of the 2009 Benthic Ecology Meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was the first time I had been in Texas since I graduated from College in Houston. The meeting was fantastic - I made some good connections that will help with my seagrass research projects in Florida.

The only thing was that the hotel was right on Corpus Christi Bay, and the wind was AMAZING all week, rattling the windows day and night with steady 25 knot southeasterlies. I didn't have the time or transportation to get to a windsurf rental spot like Worldwinds. But I did do a lot of jibing and chop-hopping in my imagination while looking out the windows during coffee breaks.

Even though the landscape of the South Texas Coast area is rather flat, desolate and ugly, the combo of wind and the University of Texas and Texas A&M marine laboratories being there put it on the short list of places I might like to live in the future. The picture below, swiped from the UT Marine Lab webpage, pretty well encapsulates the appeal of marine science for me.