Recently in the US dedicated sailor Peter was joined by some friends to take on the raw power of the winter storm Nemo. Freezing temperature and gale force winds lead to some tricky conditions, check out the video and write up below.
I admit that some windsurfers would not think of winter storm windsurfing as their idea of fun, and my lovely wife falls into this category. But my friend Hardie was in the area, and happy to join me when I proposed to sail a spot 10 minutes from his house.
When we got to the water this morning, it looked harmless enough. Hardie had measured 24-28 mph winds on shore, and since that matched the forecast, I happily rigged my 5.8 m race sail for my 90 l slalom board. I probably should have known better, because a few things were off a bit: I was running a bit later than originally planned; the spot usually has a wind shadow near shore, so the wind on the water probably already was in the low 30s, going up; and the wind was a bit more southerly than forecast, which was the wrong direction for the speed strip I wanted to use. But windsurfers have to be optimists…
Hardie made it out onto the water before I did, and came back to report that he was “totally overpowered” on a 5.2 and his 90 l FSW board. But he had a big grin on his face, and went right back out. My 5.8 was a bit bigger, but race sails are made for lots of wind, right? That we had lots of wind became clear when I tried to get going, and the wind picked up the board a couple of times to turn it around in the air. Perhaps that was a sign, too, that I ignored. Well, I finally made it out, but before I could get settled in, I had a spinout, followed by a two minute swim to my gear. The water was just above freezing, and swimming with open palm mittens in water that cold is really no fun. After getting back to my gear, a break to warm up the hands some more was in order.
I gave the slalom gear one more try and sailed over to where the flat water was supposed to be. It did indeed get a bit flatter, but I had been hoping for “chitter-chatter” water; with the bit of south in the wind, the angles were wrong, and there were wind-driven small waves everywhere. The water level was getting pretty high, to, and there were lots of bundled of reeds in the water, promising sudden catapult stops. Time to rig down and switch to an easier board!
Hardie was rigging down to a 4.2, so I rigged my trusted Manic 4.5 and took exchanged the slalom board against my Tabou 3S 96. This combo was certainly a lot easier to sail! But while we had rigged down, the wind had picked up, and the gusts were going into “scary” territory. When Hardie called it a day after a couple of runs, so did I.
When I checked the wind meter readings later at home, they only showed averages around 35, and gusts in the low 40s. I have sailed this kind of wind quite a few times without major problems, although not too much recently. My GPS showed that I had sailed very slow today, and that Hardie had beaten me by a couple of knows on his FSW gear. I did not do a single dry jibe, nor did I try anything interesting. Even though I rigged two sails and sailed two boards, the session was very short. Without a doubt, I was a bit intimidated by the strong winds and low temperatures. But still, the session was a lot of fun, and I felt great afterwards. Except for my fingers during and shortly after the little swim, I was perfectly comfortable and warm the entire time. Now if only the Nor’Easters would come in a little less intense…