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Why Winter Sailing can be a Great Learning Experience

We are blessed in the Bay Area with incredible summer sailing conditions - 15 to 25 kts every single day from the West to South-West and waves to match. What could be finer?

Fall-Winter-early Spring is problematic. The system that creates the big daily summer winds in gone, so the winds are typically very light, except in storm systems, where they can be over-whelming (35-40 kts, typically from the South). So many just don't sail in the winter. I think this is a mistake, for at least two reasons.

One is that you learn an awful lot about sail trim and boat balance sailing in lighter winds (5 kts or less).

Everything changes, from the way the winds are produced atmospherically to how you set the sails. For example, in lighter winds the wind at the sea surface is practically zero, and difference between the wind there and the wind at the top of the mast is (relatively) large. So you're getting most of your power from the top third of the sail, which you want to keep happy. In higher winds, there isn't that much difference between surface wind and wind at the top of the mast.

In very light winds, the wind may not be strong enough to hold the mainsail and boom to leeward. So you need weight to leeward to tilt the boat enough so that gravity pulls the sail to leeward and forms the sail shape. With the sail shape formed, the wind will power it. And the battens bay not flip on a tack or gybe, so you might have to shake the sail to get that to happen.

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Ryan Alder
We had some really good 15-20knot Southerly winds this weekend, which makes for exciting docking. We get spoiled being in the win... Read More
Monday, 20 February 2017 11:40
John Bongiovanni
Great technique, Ryan. I'll add that you can practice the maneuver before you get to the dock to see how the boat will handle whe... Read More
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 19:54
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End Of Summer Delta Trip

End Of Summer Delta Trip

I'd visited the Delta 3 times previously - all for the ABK windsurfing camp; on the last two occcasions I had organized the trip - and I can tell you, trying to get more than a few windsurfers in one place at the same time with a cohesive set of gear is a challenge.  Being a sucker for punishment, and never having sailed Sherman Island outside of ABK, I organized a club trip back in September for end of summer.  This is a recap.

In the run up, I'd had interest from over 20 indivuduals.  There's usually a lot of attrition and these events, and worse, as the day drew near, the forecast was for sun, but little wind.  At the final count, we ended up with 8 - Myself, Wayne, Dora, Ceci, Christina, Zach, Jamie and Will joining us in the afternoon.   We met at the club bright and early, and loaded up with more gear than we thought we'd possibly need.  As it turned out later, we did need it.

We set off for the hour or so drive.  Even with GPS, where to go isn't completely obvious - after crossing the bidge in Antioch, you drive for about 2 miles, then turn off along a narrow road along a river embankment for a further few miles.  At the end are some new (this year) confusing one way systems and lots dirt due to ongoing construction.  The park itself is at the end, and is $5 to go into the parking area by the "playpen", which is the nominal novice area.   Only Christina and Jamie managed to get slightly lost, but not for long.

As we rigged up, the extra gear we'd broght came into use.  Ceci's sail had no pulley - oops!  Winching the downhaul on Dora's sail, on a non-matching mast, we put the top through the mast sleeve.  Oh man!  And finally, one of the booms was lacking a head.  In the end, everyone ended up with workable gear - at least as much as the wind would allow.

I had hoped to teach some beachstarting - Sherman Island is fantastic for this - but the morning wind barely topped 3-4 knots, so it wasn't really to be.  Despite that, both Christina and Ceci, with some lucky gusts and a little encouragement, did in fact achieve their very first beach start - hooray!



Ceci had graciously offered to prepare both lunch and dinner - also facilitating my vegan requirements - as it turns out, the non-vegan echiladas had been placed too close to a bunch of ants, and had to be picked out!  However, both the enchilads and later, the curry (thankfully non-spicy), despite their simplicity, proved to be a hit with everyone, after some ingeious cooking on the tiny camp stove.



In the afternoon, the wind really died, to perhaps 2-3 knots, and we were reduced to some low-wind practice.  I did venture about half way out in the river to the river marker - not something I'd attempt if there'd been much current (the delta has some quite strong tides), and we were the only sail power on the river; a couple windsurrfing in the morning had gone elsewhere.


Zach showed us some fancy backwinding, and we also saw all kinds of funky things in the river, including both live and dead fish!  Also, strangley, there was an interrmittent "burping" sound, which could not be identified - no doubt a river monster or somesuch.
Apart from the lack of wind, it proved to be a beautiful day.  Unfortunately, a vist that time of the year is always going to be subject to the capriicious wind gods; and although in recent years there has been wind at the end of September, it was not to be.



No matter.  We'll be back.  I'm already planning a trip for Spring.   The ABK California schdule for 2017 has yet to be decided, but that will likely happen at the end of summer too.

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Heart Health: CSC has an AED!

Everyone knows sailing and windsurfing are good for the heart. Even so, CSC periodically sponsors First Aid classes to keep club members knowledgeable of what to do in an emergency.

Back in June, CSC sponsored a CPR/first aid class that went over the new standards in CPR and first aid, and also taught us how to use an AED  (automated external defibrillator). 

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the US, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths.

The most common reason for a sudden cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation, which is an arrhythmia that interferes with the heart’s ability to beat properly and pump blood. We were advised to start with CPR (which circulates blood in the body), but a shock from an AED can restore a heartbeat if the arrhythmia is one that's "shockable". 

After taking the class, one of our Executive Committee (Excomm) Members, Joel Gussman, took up the special project to get an AED for the club. Thanks to his efforts, we now have one set up and ready to use in the clubhouse!  In an emergency, we should always call 911 right away, but while we wait for emergency vehicles, we have CPR and the AED to try and help improve the victimes survival chances.

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Treasure Island Cruise

Treasure Island Cruise

On Tuesday April 19th, Mike and Nathan took Monica and me on a short cruise to Treasure Island. Why only two people? There were more spots on the boats!

It was a perfect day for sailing: the sun was out and a constant breeze blew gently. When I arrived at the club, Nathan and Monica were already getting the boats ready. I quickly changed into a "highly recommended wetsuit"(Did this mean we were aiming at getting wet?), choosing a sleeveless one because the beautiful conditions made me feel fearless.. I helped out as I could. I am new to the club, and what I like about CSC is that you are expected to quickly learn how to be independent on the water. It's both scary and fun— but today I was being fearless, after all.

Mike arrived and we got going pretty quickly. After a smooth beginning (ideal for nice conversations) the wind intensified a little bit and Nathan and I even rose the spinnaker! I was excited to get on the trapeze, something I remembered doing when I was younger. We arrived at Clipper Cove after noon; perfect timing for our picnic lunch. We took the time to enjoy the delicious chocolate brought by Monica and climbed on top of  the Yerba Buena Island to get a nice view of San Francisco.

The way back brought even more fun with swift wind in our back! I stayed on the trapeze almost all the way to the club, getting half soaked indeed but feeling invigorated. Mike and Monica had some trouble with their spinnaker, but enjoyed a nice speed anyway.

Having to put away the boats was only half-sad. You know why? Because I know I'll be going on another CSC cruise soon! 

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Cargo Cult and the Drudgery of Maintenance

Cargo Cult and the Drudgery of Maintenance

"Early theories of cargo cults began from the assumption that practitioners simply failed to understand technology."

New members often express bright enthusiasm for learning to maintain our equipment.  It's common to hear prospective members say how much they want to fix windsurf boards, sailboats, and other gear.

Which is great.  Maintenance by volunteers is a central part of Cal Sailing Club.  It keeps costs low, it teaches a lot about the equipment, and it's a different kind of fun than sailing in a boat or just watching the water with others.

What is the attraction for these bright-eyed would-be Mr. & Ms. Fixits?  Maybe they think that learning it will enable them to have complete mastery of the equipment--ding-free windsurf boards, sheets that zip through blocks with zero friction, outboards that unfailingly leap to life.  Maybe they think they'll become experts, sail around the world on a tiny budget thanks to their clever repairs, keep a quiver of windsurf boards and sails in tip-top shape for pennies, and be able to take on any repair with complete confidence.

If so, they're right, kind of.  If they hang out long enough and do enough work, they'll get pretty good at fixing stuff, and they'll save money on gear and keep it in better shape.

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