Friday, October 18, 2013

All About SUP Fins!

This is the best article/blog that I have seen on the subject of SUP fins.  Picking the right fin for you, your board, and the conditions is a bit of a black art.  A lot of it is based on feel.  Nothing changes the feel of your board like the right fin.  So how do you pick the right fin?  The best thing you can do is find a more experienced person with the same board.  If you are lucky like me to have some good SUP shops nearby that know their stuff, get them to make some recommendations to you.  Don't go by looks or shape.  Read on to learn about picking the right SUP fin for your board.

Just for fun, here are the fins I run on my boards:

  • Angulo Shaka XLT (14' x 30") downwind board - Allison Ninja works great for me.  A really good downwind fin that also tracks well.  If it's really flat, I will use the Allison Thresher.
  • Bark Custom Unlimited (18'6" x 27").  This board is lightning fast but very tippy for me when going slow.  It gets more stable when going fast or with the wind at my back.  Interestingly, it feels very stable when going downwind in light or moderate wind.  I have not had it out in really windy conditions yet.  On this board, I am running a HUGE Jimmy Lewis fin that was modified to fin the small fin box.  This fin helps stability and tracks great.  I also have an Allison Gladiator that I will go back to once I get more water time on this board.  It feels faster and has more rake.  1/7/2014 UPDATE:  I now have an Allison Batwing fin on this board.  This fin is great.  It fits my tiny fin box, has loads of surface area and lots of rake (so it's great for grassy Tomales Bay).  It's not a very "deep" fin though so you can get through some shallow areas without scratching it up.  What I love about fiberglass fins is you can shave off little bits here and there to get a truly custom fit on your board.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tomales Bay Buoy - A BOON for Downwinders ((Updated - Tomales Bay Buoy Transmitting NOW!))

About a month or so ago I went paddling on Tomales Bay.  South of Hog Island, I noticed a pretty yellow buoy that had not been there just a week prior.  After doing a little research I learned that this was being deployed by the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab located at Horseshoe Cove on Bodega Head.  They already have a Bodega Buoy (that I use via my Android buoy app) and a Cordell Banks Buoy.  Anyone who spends time on Tomales Bay knows how quickly conditions can change.  Some people say there are three different weather and wind patterns on the bay.  I suspect a lot of this is due to the elevation undulations and wind gaps within the Inverness Ridge that separates Tomales Bay from Pt. Reyes. Keep in mind that Tomales Bay is only about 13 miles long from ocean to marsh so this makes weather and wind prediction very, very tricky.

If you are wanting to do a downwinder on Tomales Bay, you want real-time data from a device on the water.  Not behind a hill, and not a mile inland.  You want to know what the wind and waves are doing on the water where you will be paddling.

Enter, the Tomales Bay Buoy!  It's not online just yet, I think they are still working on it and testing/calibrating but I suspect it will be functional soon.  I hope it will be linked in with the various buoy apps that are out there.  When the winds really crank up this Spring, we will be able to get real-time wind speed, direction, air and water temp, and current.  YES!

Keep an eye on this page.

The UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab, Bodega Observation Node (BOON) is part of CeNCOOS.

Tomales Bay Buoy
Deployed August 2013.An oceanographic buoy is deployed in Tomales Bay, just south of Hog Island. It is a cooperative project between the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS/NPS), and the National Marine Sanctuaries (NMS/NOAA). The purpose of this buoy is to measure oceanographic data that will help researchers answer various ecological and oceanographic questions, as well as provide the public with real time data related to sea conditions within the bay. Researchers will use the data to study, among other things, marine life populations, water quality, how water moves through and around the bay, and climate change. Data may include: wind, ocean current speed and direction, salinity, temperature, chlorophyll fluorescence, turbidity, pH, and CO2 (the partial pressure of carbon dioxide).Please check back for more information (sensors/data), coming soon.

Tomales Bay Buoy - View is roughly NNW with  Hog and Duck Islands in the background.

10/26/2013 Update - I checked the site this morning and noticed that the Tomales Bay buoy is now online and transmitting data!  Exciting news.  We can now get real-time wind data from the middle of Tomales Bay!  As of today, I do not see this buoy listed in the iWindsurf, WindfinderPro or BuoysPro mobile apps.

Make sure to bookmark this page:

Tomales Bay Observations
Seawater Temperature (deg F)55.0
Seawater Temperature (deg C)12.8
Seawater Salinity (PSU)33.738
Seawater Fluorescence (ug/l)3.750
Seawater Conductivity (S/m)3.9404
Seawater Density (sigma-t kg/m3-1000)25.467
Seawater Turbidity2.760
Wind Direction (deg N)324
Wind Speed (mph)8.95
Last update: Sat Oct 26 11:30:00 2013 PDT

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Introduction to Marine Radios

VHF (Very High Frequency) marine radios are a really good back-up communication device. In many places we paddle, cell coverage is spotty at best. Radios can be used to call for help in case of emergency or can be used for general communication among the group, the guide boat, or even with other boaters in the area. 

Keep mind that using a radio is not like using a phone. Everyone on same channel can hear your transmission. Therefore, always speak clearly and concisely. Be sure to pause and allow time for others to answer. Remember, they have to first hear you and then key their radio to speak. Never use your radio on land they are meant to be used on the water only. Like other radios, range is line-of-sight, and rather limited compared to a phone. A handheld VHF will have a range of about 2 to 4 miles depending on the geographic configuration.

Here are the channels used in this area:

9 Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial.

14 Vessel Traffic - You will often hear commercial vehicles like ferries on this channel.

16 This is the most important channel. Use channel 16 for Distress, Safety and Calling. You may use this channel for hailing another craft i.e., asking that vessel to switch to a particular channel for general communication. The U.S. Coast Guard monitors channel 16 for emergency calls. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel. 

68697172, & 78 General Comms - 68 and 72 are for recreational use.

Go here for a complete list of channels.

A cell phone has limited use out on the water compared to a radio. A VHF radio is rugged, waterproof, floats, is easy to hear, allows you to be heard by anyone on the same channel, and can give you real-time weather updates and forecasts. Compared to a modern smartphone, the VHF radio has tremendous battery life, and at less than $150 for many models, is a great low-cost piece of gear. It may just save someone's life.

For more information on VHF radios, including marine radio etiquette, check out this article.

Standard Horizon HX300 Compact Floating VHF Marine Radio