Adventures in Sailing-March 1998

This has sure been a screwy winter. Lee goes windsurfing in January, Dan Jordan and I went snowsurfing in March. It was the 15th, and we had just gotten the first of two legendary snow dumps that slammed the door on winter for the season. I'd been itching to try the snowskier I won at the Fall meeting all season, but with equipment trouble in December and no January or February snow to use it on, I thought I was skunked. then,Wow! 5 inches of snow and a brisk Saturday. I called Dan (needed his mast base) and Lee (not home) and Dan and I piled the kids into two vehicles headed out to LaSalle park.

The 5 kids built a monster snowman while we tried to catch the onshore winds. What we didn't know was that wind was topping 35 mph and caused a massive auto pile-up on the Skyway. And there we were, like two fools, hanging sails on it! Well. We needed a little slope to get going, because unless the sail is just right, it generates tremendous downforce and pins the skis to the ground. But hang off the harness, lean way back and bite the sail into the wind, and hold on to your helmet! Suddenly you're turning downwind effortlessly and hurtling across the tundra at a surprising clip. The wind was so strong we were even able to waterstart, after a fashion--laying back on the ground and rising up with the sail, or holding onto the back end of the boom (like a duck jibe)and jumping on the back of the 'skier like a stuntman jumping on a horse. Success seems very dependent on perfect form, as the board won't turn underneath you like it does on water, and you have to overcome the initial friction. Could be a great learning tool. We struggled until dark and got enough of a taste of some real speed to figure out what a gas it could be. I tried it again the next week, with the same 6.0 sail, this time in Delaware park with 12-16 mph winds, and this time I couldn't make it happen. I don't know if it was technique or just not enough wind. But I can't wait until next winter to go sailing again!

--David "First to sail over the Falls" Kunkel