Monday, April 23, 2012

Marine Biology is Hard Sometimes

Last time I was in Lubec, Maine for fieldwork it was snowy and frozen. This time it's not... quite. Rather, it's 37 degrees and raining with 25 mph winds blasting frigid Bay of Fundy waves against the seaweed covered rocks that we're surveying.


Instead of insulated survival suits we're wearing rubber rainsuits over many many layers. Between low tides we're retreating to a little cabin at an old coast guard station. In the closed space we can smell every note of each other's musty socks and hear our annoying cereal-chewing and tea-slurping noises as loud as bombs going off. But we're professional marine biologists, so we can deal.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Adding a Center Fin to a SUP for Better Windsurfing

Last summer I bought a standup paddleboard- a 10'4" Angulo Surfa. The Surfa has a mast track, and it's big and wide enough to use as a beginner windsurf board. The only thing is that, unlike a real beginner windsurf board, it doesn't have a daggerboard or center fin. As a result, a beginner windsurfer would have trouble getting it to sail in a straight line without drifting downwind.

I mentioned that to Josh Angulo, and he offered to help me with an "experiment" to install a second fin box on the board, in the center where a daggerboard would go. We chose to use a "US Box" (aka "A Box") because it's the most simple to install and it gives some forward - backward adjustability to the fin. Anyway, after a long time fiddling around starting and stopping the project this winter, I finally installed the box. For the fin to go with it, I found a biggest, oldest, fattest US box fin I could get.

This appalling picture shows the new fin in place. It also shows the self-destruction of my wetsuit. After this day I cut it completely into two pieces and I've just been wearing the "pants" with a neoprene top because it's warm enough now to do that.


Anyway, the maiden voyage with the new fin took place last weekend at Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, MA. (My designated board tester, Lady Notorious, had requested the lake to avoid the choppy water and offshore winds that we might have encountered at Nahant.) Wind conditions were typical lake conditions: shifty, gusty, 0 - 15 mph. We rigged a 4.2. While her bulldog and I watched from shore, Lady Notorious went out there and kicked butt. In contrast with her previous outing at Nahant, she had no trouble staying upwind, and she even managed to return to where she'd started after the wind shifted to put the launch directly upwind.


In paddleboard mode on flat water, I can't tell much difference with the center fin in or out. Of course when sailing in waves on the ocean I remove the center fin.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

You Know It Has Been Too Long Since You Windsurfed...

... when you are entering numbers in a spreadsheet and you wistfully linger on all the ones that might be a sail size in meters squared or a board volume in liters.

"4.0, 6.1, 10.9, ooh! 77, 130, 111, yippee!"

I have to get on the water this weekend before I go even more nuts. :)

Discussion Question: How do YOU know it has been too long since you windsurfed?

It has definitely been too long since this guy windsurfed.

"Subscript out of range?" My Ass, MS Access

I HATE Microsoft Access. It should be like a logical extension of Microsoft Excel that can help you organize more complex types of interrelated data. Instead it's just a mess that's really hard to use, and it's a super pain to troubleshoot when you get some really unhelpful error message like,

"Subscript out of range"

when you're trying to import an apparently perfectly formatted and matching set of data from an Excel worksheet into an existing table in your Access database. Oh, there are suggestions in the online help forums and stuff for what to do in that case. E.g., "Go into the Excel worksheet and make sure there aren't any funny formattings or hidden values in cells outside the range of data that you want to import." But sometimes you try everything and still keep getting the horrible error message.

Here's one stupid trick that works for me sometimes when all else fails:

1. Forget trying to import the data into the table you want to append. Just import it into it's own fresh table, which you can give a name like, "deleteme."

2. After importing, highlight and copy the data in the "deleteme" table and paste it into a pristine new Excel worksheet.

3. Delete the "ID" column from the data you just pasted into the Excel worksheet. Now that Excel worksheet probably looks exactly like the one you were originally trying to import, but somehow, in some secret, arcane way, it's different, and Access won't balk at it.

4. Import it to Access. If you're lucky, it works and you have successful outwitted that @#$% "Subscript out of range" message.

5. Delete the "deleteme" table because you don't need it anymore.