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 :)


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