Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fixing Cracks, Making Tracks

I had some bad windsurfing luck the other day when the used 490 cm mast I bought from Ace Performer to replace the one I broke in June, broke. The break was right where the boom attaches and may have been the result of a combination of stresses from clamping the boom too tight and clamping the boom too loose. It's hard to find the happy medium tightness with my Chinook brand formula boom; it's either slipping down, or it's cracking the mast. Plus the mast was real old- maybe not worth the $200 I paid for it.

Anyway, after the break I de-rigged on the water with the intention of SUP'ing my board to shore using the broken mast as an inefficient paddle, which is what I'd done the time before. But as I was balancing on the board and rolling up the sail I noticed that I was moving along just by holding the half-rolled-up sail in my hands. I could even direct myself starboard or port by holding the bundle out to one or the other side of the board. So I "sailed" right back to where I'd launched, gaining a feeling of cleverness that partially made up for my disappointment at breaking the mast.

Self rescue technique using half-rolled sail. Man in icon is nobody I know.
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I gained another feeling of cleverness by epoxying the mast back together around an internal splint made from a chunk of my previously broken mast wrapped with fiberglass cloth. I really should have done the fix in two or more patient steps, first getting the splint perfectly sized and sanded, then epoxying it in, then doing the outer wrappings of fiberglass. But I was in a frustrated rush in fading twilight on the patio, getting bitten by mosquitoes and drinking beer, so I opted to fix it all at once. The result was a mast 484 cm long and unusually heavy, with a slight permanent crook at the repair site. Miraculously enough, it seems to work, and it has even survived a well-powered formula windsurfing session in my 9.5 Ezzy sail. I just need to be careful to line up the crook in the mast with the natural curve of the sail's luff. And I probably shouldn't use it in offshore winds.

Another positive note in my recent windsurfing was getting a great deal on a new formula boom to replace my sketchy patched-up one. I bought the unused NeilPryde X9 from Ron Kern in Fort Lauderdale for 1/3 of what it would have cost me new. Thanks, Ron! The NeilPryde is as big a boom as you can buy: 260 - 310 cm, which is actually a bit too big to fit my 9.5 sail. Eventually I'll crop it down a bit; an easy change that doesn't involve any epoxying and shouldn't weaken the boom at all. In the meantime I've been enjoying the boom's awesome stiffness with my 11.0 Gaastra Nitro IV sail. The last time or two I've used the 11.0 has been with the new boom, and I think it makes a considerable difference. The connection between boom and rig is more stiff and stable, so it's easier to hold the sail steady and focus on windsurfing better. It all came together nicely on Saturday afternoon when I launched from Bonita Beach in a SSW wind blowing about 10-12 knots.

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I first went upwind to Wiggins Pass, then shot downwind to Big Hickory Pass, then back upwind to my launch at Bonita Beach. On a straight reach the round trip would be about 12 miles, but with all the tacking and jibing I put 25.9 miles on my GPS. Looking at my track, I think where I lost most ground was the tacks near shore. I lost some angle and expended some time getting planing again after the inshore tacks, perhaps due to lighter wind near shore. Accumulating seagrass on the fin also probably cost me some speed, angle, and some time to shake it off, but that's unavoidable.

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One thing I was happy about was the way I tuned the rig, with a little less downhaul than I had been using. I think I had been overdownhauling it, and easing up a bit on the downhaul gave it more power without hurting the stability. I'm looking forward to lots more sailing and tinkering this fall.