Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Full Moons and Key Lime Pies

Anyone ever been to The Moorings or remember the old Seatrend "Flapper" (and early widestyle) boards? Here is a blast from the past. Below is a trip report I did for the Triad Windsurfing (Greensboro/Winston-Salem area) Club's newsletter back in early 2002. It's exactly as it appeared in the newsletter.

My daughter wasn't even 3 years old and our two sons hadn't been born yet. Many of you may recall a place called The Moorings Village in Islamorada, FL. It used to advertise in the magazines and was once a big windsurfing destination, and even hosted a big annual winter race. It still exists but doesn't emphasize the windsurfing anymore from what I can tell. I don't think the windsurfing rental outfit mentioned below is there anymore...I think this part of the Keys have become more of a kiteboarding destination lately.

Has anyone been to Islamorada recently? Is windsurfing still alive down there? I would love to know....
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[One of my favorite pictures daughter and I over 7 years ago...she's already getting so big.]

We went to Florida and had key lime pie and saw a full moon. It wasn’t just any key lime pie, mind you. Nor was it just any full moon. It was the best damn key lime pie I’ve ever had. And yes, you guessed it...the full moon wasn’t bad either. Top it off with New Years Eve and that’s not a bad deal. Oh yeah...I windsurfed too.

Kris, McIntyre, (wife & daughter) and I flew to Miami, hopped in a rental car, drove to Orlando, and went to Disney World one day and Seaworld the next. The theme parks were for McIntyre to enjoy and for Kris and I to watch her have a blast and just smile.

After two days of more crowds than we could stand, we got back in the car and headed back towards Miami and drove further south. We ended up in Islamorada. Islamorada is almost halfway between Miami and Key West. It bills itself as the sport fishing capital of the world. If you ever watch ESPN on Saturday mornings, you’ll usually see some folks fly fishing for bonefish in flat bottom skiffs surrounded by Caribbean blue crystal clear water. They are doing this in Islamorada.

We found a little slice of paradise by staying at The Moorings Village. The Moorings Village is owned by a windsurfer and is very windsurfer friendly. It is the site of the nation’s longest running Pro-Am windsurfing regatta, held every year in November. Open up a windsurfing magazine in January or February and it usually has an article about the race and it’s host, The Moorings Village. What makes this place so special is it’s natural charm and beauty. The owner didn’t cut down any trees or build any high rises. The property is approximately 17 acres and the lodging consists of small, medium, to large size houses, each with it’s own style and appeal. Each of the houses sit among the palm trees. There is a large white sandy beach that is covered in palm trees and offers a lot of shade. Then there is the water...crystal clear blue water. It’s knee to waist deep for hundreds of yards out. There are many picturesque spots on the beach and elsewhere on the property. I have read in the past that this is a popular place for modeling photo shoots.

The afternoon we checked in, the wind started to pick up. Right in front of our beach front cottage was a windsurfing board and sail rack. There was some pretty good gear sitting there all rigged up ready to go. I had called a few weeks before to reserve windsurfing gear from the only place that rents performance gear on the island – Bump and Jump Windsurfing. The owner, Gilles, must have dropped my gear off before I got there. I picked up a Bic Techno 283 and an Aerotech VMG 7.5 and hit the water. I got in about an hour of good sailing as the sun began to go down. I came in for a breather. A guy came up to me and informed me that I was on his rental gear. Horrors! I couldn’t believe what I had done. I should have known better than to just grab a rig and hit the water without finding out if it was my rental gear. My starvation for wind clearly blinded my better judgement. I apologized profusely. He was very nice about it and didn’t give me any grief. As it turns out, he was from Norfolk and has his own place in Nags Head. I told him to hit the water before the wind died. The next day, I ran into him again. His name is Arthur and his son, Brian, was with him. We joked about my thievery the evening before and talked about windsurfing on the Outer Banks. Arthur’s place in Nags Head is just an hour and a half from his home in Norfolk and he goes there every weekend. I invited him to join us at Windfest and I got an invitation to his place in Nags Head.

This day didn’t have much wind, but it was the sunniest and warmest day we had all week. I did get out there on a big wide longboard with a small sail and just played around. I also took McIntyre out in a sea kayak and we paddled to wherever the birds were. As Kris, McIntyre, and I sat on the beach and basked in the sun, a small group of people were gathering at the water’s edge. We sat up and watched as a priest walked up to them and another person was carrying a small box. The priest said a few words and then a prayer. Some other people said a few words. A woman walked to each person in the group and poured them each a cup of what looked like lemonade. Then three members of the group walked out in the water, said a few more words, then one of them poured ashes out of the small box into the water. Everyone took a drink from their cups then poured the rest of it into the water. The memorial service ended and the group broke up. The man who poured the ashes walked by us and said “Another fisherman left to the sea…that was my dad”. The place is so beautiful, I could see why someone would want to have their ashes spread out there.

That night, we ate at Manny and Isa’s, a Spanish American eatery. The menu said they had “the best Key Lime Pie”. So of course, we had to see for ourselves. After eating our main course of Cuban style Yellowfin Snapper and Picadillo, we got two slices of the pie to go. We took it back to our place and ate it under the full moon on a hammock on the beach. The moon was so bright, it made huge shadows of the palm trees on the white sand.

The next day was cloudy all day with very little wind. We spent the day sleeping, reading, and just hanging out. That night, we ate dinner at the Moorings-owned restaurant, Morada Bay. Morada Bay is on the bay side of Islamorada across from the Moorings. It sits right on the water and has a big sandy beach right off the outdoor dining deck. They had a full moon party going that night. They had bonfires burning, a live band playing on the beach, and the ever popular glow sticks for the kids. The fresh fish was great and fun was had by all that night.

Our last full day consisted of rain. Again, we began the day sleeping and reading. But later in the afternoon, the rain began to subside. Between bands of rain, the wind would pick up. So I got out there for two separate sessions between the heavy bands of rain. This time, I was on a Seatrend Allstar 70 and an old Aerotech VMG 8.0 race sail that must have been 3-4 years old. This set-up used to belong to a professional PWA racer. They added a fifth camber to the sail and the flapper on the Seatrend board was modified to a hard plastic shortened piece, instead of the normal flexible rubbery flap normally used. It was amazing. The entire rig got me on a plane with almost no effort. When a gust came along, it didn’t tug on me like most other rigs. It just got faster with no effort on my part to stabilize it. I experienced first-hand what a real racing rig is like and it was pretty awesome. The one knock I had read about flapper boards was true though, and it’s that the board would slide out from under me as though the fin wouldn’t keep it in a straight line. I have read that this is just a matter of learning to sail that type board over time to get over that problem.

That night was New Year’s Eve. We spent a quiet evening at the house and hit the sack before midnight, but were awakened by fireworks when the clock struck twelve. The next morning, we left to go to the airport just as the sun was coming out from behind the clouds...figures. We had a great time and there was something for everyone.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

First use of the Go Pro wide-angle camera

I went from this:

to this:

I love this new GoPro wide-angle camera. It gives a whole new perspective on the sailor's/rider's point of view in the middle of the action. Here's a short 3 minute video of a recent February '09 winter windsurfing session on Lake Norman - the inaugural use of my new wide-angle GoPro. I need to make a slight adjustment to the camera angle. You'll notice my nose, eye lashes, and helmet in the looks funny...actually gives a surreal feeling to the footage since you can see part of my head.

Lake Norman Windsurfing - GoPro wide-angle footage from Mac Barnhardt on Vimeo

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Windsurfing to the Rescue (again)

I say "again" because I heard several stories from other windsurfers last year of rescuing someone in distress....other windsurfers, boaters, swimmers, kiteboarders, etc. This included Alan and Rob helping a grounded sailboat on the lake last December, one of our coastal windsurfing friends saving some swimmers from drowning at the beach, and countless other stories that were in some of the windsurfing magazines about towing kiteboarders in that had lost their kites. Today was my turn.

The forecast today was supposed to be another light wind 10-15 southwest wind day. It was very warm....approaching 70 so I decided on the thinner 3/2 wetsuit with short sleeves. Because of the light wind forecast, all I brought was my big 9.6 sail and widestyle board. I arrive and the wind is blowing close to 20. I should have known better. It's already close to 3pm and I don't feel like going back to my house for smaller sails/boards. I rig up, crank the downhaul, and prepare the adjustable outhaul to max outhaul settings right off the bat. As I'm rigging, I notice a boat making its way out of the cove I'm in. As I launch, I notice the boat is sitting and drifting at the mouth of the cove. I'm tacking upwind to get into the channel where there is a long open fetch to windward. All of a sudden, I hear sirens. My first thought, did someone think I was in trouble? I can see the fire trucks go down the street from where I launched to the very end of the street that dead ends into the lake. Then I notice the boat has drifted into the very shallow water just off the point where the fire trucks are. I know that point and how shallow it is. So I sail over there and can see that everyone in the boat appears to be ok. I carry my gear to shore, then walk out to the boat which is now grounded in knee deep water.

It's a young married couple with a gigantic beautiful black Newfoundland dog. They were pretty happy to see me. The husband explains they did in fact have an engine fire but that he had put it out with the boat extinguisher. He called 911 to get a tow off the shallow point figuring the wildlife officers would show up in their boat...but he must have mentioned the fire too so the fire trucks showed up. I walked back to shore and told the firefighters the fire was out. They were relieved about that and told me a fire boat was on its way and could pull them out. I went back to the boat and waited with the couple and their dog. After all, I was in a wetsuit...there wasn't any point in anyone else having to get in the water to get that boat off the point.

After a while, the fire boat showed up. At this point, I started wishing I wore my 5/3 full suit because that water was very cold and my toes were starting to go numb. I had to walk out in over waist deep to catch a line from the fire boat, then walk it back to the stranded boat, took their line, tied the two lines together with a bowline (yes, I still know this knot...thank you Boy Scouts & sailing all those years with Dad). Then I helped push the boat as the fire boat pulled. It came out fairly easily and were on their way. The couple was very nice and appreciative. My good deed for the day. I was just glad they had a fire extinguisher on the boat. It could have been a lot worse. Thankfully it turned out to not be that big of a deal. I was more helpful than actually "rescuing".

Hopefully this was good exposure for windsurfing on our lake. A wildlife officer boat showed up, then there were the fire fighters, the couple on the boat, plus all the other people watching from shore and from other boats. Maybe some of them will say, "that nice windsurfer stopped and helped..." and hopefully that will generate some goodwill for us local windsurfers down the road when we need it.

I lost almost an hour with that episode but was able to go on to sail for a little while. I could have probably sailed a 6.5 on a smaller board but I was still in control overpowered on the the big stuff (note to self...bring everything like you do when going to the Outer Banks). Several great speed runs across the channel (with numb toes) and then I packed it in with one long last screaming downwind run back to my launch.

Beautiful day today and glad I was there to help that couple.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

They Just Don't Understand

Recent email exchange with friend/neighbor -

Friend: Hey guys, wanna come over for Daytona 500 race on the big screen?

Me: I'm in, unless the wind's blowing.

Friend: What? Dude, it's the Daytona 500! Once a year!

Me: You can't DVR the wind.

Friend: The wind blows often, Daytona happens only once!

Me: Ha! I wish the wind blew often.

They Just Don't Understand...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers rocked the Orange Peel in Asheville last Saturday night. Great show!

Oh yeah...caught a little bit of wind and windsurfed pre-Super Bowl for a couple of hours Sunday afternoon. Air temps around 60 and warm southwest wind around 10-15 made for great slalom speed runs across the channel.