Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bay Crossing by Kiteboard Attempt - SKUNKED!!

launch area at Crissy We knew it would trouble when the windsock was limp at Crissy field upon arrival at 1:30 PM.

The wind was light and variable all morning with a heavy layer of fog blanketing the bay.

Despite lackluster wind, everyone rigged and prepared to give it a shot - 50 kiters, ready willing and mostly able...Good thing we had a chase boat and 2 jet skis as backup.

Map of Bay Crossing Route PLANNED ROUTE : the plan (shown by the yellow line on the map) was to head NNE toward Angel Island, then to zig zag due east toward the Berkeley Pier.

Once inside the pier area, to do an airshow, then to cut hard SE to a tiny piece of land that sticks out into the bay at the end of Ashby avenue called the Ashby Spit (aka Point Emery).

Launch Area The Launch Point -- Typically the wind at Crissy Field blows from the North West in the low 20's with gusts into the low 30's. A NW wind direction also helps to blow you back to land if you get inito trouble - there are a couple landing points near the St Francis Yacht club or Golden Gate Yacht club if cant get back to Crissy Field.

I chose a Naish Torch 12 with 25 meter lines and my larger board, a Jimmy 133. My thought was that the wind might pick up, and if so, that it would be nuking at Angel Island. I wanted a small enough kite to handle that situation, and a larger board for marginally better flotation to get out to the wind line.

wind at Crissy Field The wind at the launch point never really got better. By 2:30 it had barely gotten to 12 knots nominal with lulls to 8. My 12 meter kite needs a good 15 knots to have ANY power at all so i probably should not have gone out - I'm such a knuckle head I launched any way with predictable results. Kite in the Water

I managed to keep my kite in the air for several minutes and to get in the water, but I was not able to get out on my first attempt. The wind was also in the wrong direction - blowing from the SW so blowing off-shore. A kite in the water meant drifting off toward Alcatraz without any power to change anything. One of our jet skis immediately hauled me back in to re-rig and wait for a second attempt.

wind at angel island ANGEL ISLAND CONDISTIONS - On a typical day if Crissy blows from the NW at 20 knots, Angel Island would likely be blowing 25 - 30 knots, straight West. Today, with Crissy at 12, Angel Island was windier, but not nuking. The wind was also blowing from the SW -by 2Pm it was blowing 20, and very SW.

A strong West only wind can deliver power to an edge on a board to allow navigation back up wind to Crissy Field on an ebb tide, but today, with the winds from the SW, getting out there meant a hard commitment to never come back, as even with a decent wind speed, an attempt to come back would end up at Treasure Island...thus going toward Angel Island was a hard commitment to never come back.

Many of the group chose that path anyway. I made a second attempt and relaunched, drifting out into the water for 200 yards before hitting the wind line where the wind was strong enough to lift my kite out of the water.

For the rest of the crew who headed to berkeley, a big challenge developed.

Wind at Berkeley Marina The wind reports from the other side of the bay were not promising, but roughly 40 of the group decided to give it a shot. With the wind lulls under 10 knots in Berkeley, surely many of the kites could fall out of the sky after crossing the bay, a half mile short of destination. With the southerly direction, all those kites would likely get blown north, right into the pontoons of the pier.

With only 2 jet skis - hauling 40+ kites out of the water 1/2 mile back and forth would not be fun, or easy. This is in fact what happened to roughly 35 kiters. A handful made it -- those that chose to rig really BIG took the risk that the wind would not pick up at Angel Island which was the right bet. Had it picked up, holding down a 15 or 16 meter kite in 30 knot winds would have been impossible. Those (like me) that rigged for more normal conditions did not have enough power to make it all the way in.

Once I got my kite in the air, I could tell I was going to be underpowered so rather than head over, I decided to stay in the the area and head north east to kite under the north tower of the Golden Gate bridge - there, the winds are typiclaly as strong as they will be anywhere on the bay on a given day. At least there I'd have control over my kite. I made it out, had a fun session, and on the way back in, had to dump my kite in the water 100 yards out and drift in - fortunately, I had held a wind line that allowed me to get back in as the tide started to shift (and I knew I had people waiting for me and watching that had the coast guard number if I needed help). It was obvious that the Coast Guard was aware of the event and the risk, as I was buzzed by helicoptors several times when I was near the GG bridge. I felt safe with their presence.

Bill and Aaron

For those that made it across (but not all the way across), additional help came - the two jet skis, powered by Wit and Jeff from KiteWindsurf, were joined by a 3rd driven by Andy. The 50% increase in capacity was helpful. There was only one incident - one kite did manage to drift into the pier, and the lines had to be cut to free the lines from the pier. Everyone made it back, and everyone had fun in the process.

We are looking forward to the next attempt - probably in a few months, when the wind is stronger and more steady :)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Notes on the GK Sonic

Rigging the kite is completely different than rigging a 4 or 5 line standard kite. A couple of helpful notes:

Orange GK Sonic 1. the far outside struts are really small. The nozzle is smaller than the fittings on any Naish or Cabrina pump so make sure you have the pump that comes with the GK when you rig.

2. the main bladder has 3 nozzles. one in the center where you expect it, and one on each tip where you don't. After pumping at the center for some time, I finally figured out why it was never fully inflating.

3. the bridle lines are long, and can get wrapped around the main bladder while setting up. One the bladder is full, the bridle line can't be released unless the bladder is deflated.

4. The leash attach point looks like it was created to wrap around the harness bar - its 'fat' so if you clip it on a d ring on the harness for example, the velcro does not attach right to lock it in place.

5. There are TWO places to hook your leash. One on the chicken loop, the other at the point the two front lines come together. The front line loop is for self landing the kite - by pulling the front lines toward you and unattaching from the chicken loop then reattaching at the front line junction.

6. There are TWO stopper balls beyond the stopper insert. Not yet sure what the purpose of the second one is...

6. there IS NO depower strap, the kite power is only set ONCE on land before launch with a cleat. set it RIGHT, ONCE, before heading out.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Kite Conditions Friday April 21 2006

4:45 – 5:35 125cm board; Torch 12

Outside: The wind felt really good the whole session. Extremely tight range, and very steady all afternoon. 20/23 with gusts to 27/28. Direction perfect on the outside.

Inside: Very problematic. Totally off shore SW wind direction by 4:30, both light and gusty. Nominal spped of 6 to 12 with gusts to 22.

Current : + 1 knot in the wrong direction. In combination with the light wind, the kite did not have enough power on the inside to get the board to plane. Outside was fine.

Torch 12 was a good pick for the outside. Same goes for the board. Nothing could be done for conditions on the inside. Coming in was really difficult. Remarkable difference in wind direction and speed inside vs. outside remarkable. Dropped kite once. It definitely wanted to relaunch - remember to swim toward it to help it. Leash helped this session, the kite would not have powered me up wind to the board today.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kite Conditions Thursday April 20 2006

3:15 to 4:15 133cm board; Boxer 9

Easter break provided the first real kite session of the year. Wind was incredibly steady this afternoon 23 nominal; 20 – 27 range all afternoon. Tune up day.

Current was slightly negative on a slight flood tide, but less than one knot. Bigger board was a good offset.

Depower strap pulled 1 inch most of the time. Kite was not out of control. No jumps attempted. Permanantly removed the harness line on the 4 - line bar - better to ride the kite fully powered in high wind by pivoting against the depower knot. Also better to fly it with hands centered on the bar. Smaller board may have been advantageous wrt handling, but bigger board offset flood tide so safer. 3rd Av beach held steady at 18 knots on the inside with a W direction.