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:

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.