That moment...

That moment...
Launching from Star Peak, NV

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Few Words about Learning to Kiteboard

Great sport.  More technical than I realized going into it.  Having done other things (surfing, skateboards, windsurf, hangliding, etc) I expected it to come pretty quickly but I struggled through a number of rather discouraging sessions before it all started coming together and I really started flying.



This is in fact a somewhat extreme sport—you are playing with forces that can literally pick your body up and throw it against the nearest solid object (rock, tree, car, person, sandbar, you name it) so don’t be stupid.  A qualified instructor can teach you the basics of kite handling, guide you through and around the pitfalls you don’t even know exist, and generally help you survive, learn and actually have fun!  You will also get acquainted with modern, safe gear and what size and types are appropriate for you and the conditions.  Added bonus—your newbie crashes will be with somebody else’s gear.  Don’t underestimate this advantage :)

I did take a couple of lessons, did learn the basics and then got my own gear and started working on it.  In hindsight, probably another couple of lessons would have helped me avoid or lessen some of the early struggles I had.   A lot of my early issues centered around being in slightly marginal conditions with slightly small gear (i.e. underpowered) so that will be my focus, but I bet these are not uncommon problems.

1.     Power = (Wind x Kite x Board)  To successfully plane on the water requires enough wind, kite and board (for your body weight).  If you don’t have this minimum, it aint gonna happen.  A big wide flat board helps tremendously here and let’s you get away with less kite for a given wind, which can really help.  If you are not getting up, you are either not diving the kite aggressively enough or you are deficient in Power.
2.     Technique.  It helps, can reduce your minimum required Power significantly, but you don’t have it yet.  Elements:
3.     You gotta start downwind.  This will build your speed, get you planning.  Then you can start edging upwind. The kite generates more power the faster it flies (apparent wind effect). If you are popping up ok but then sinking out, it is possible you may not have quite enough Power, but also possible you are choking out the kite by starting upwind too soon.  Try a couple of deliberately more downwind runs and see what happens.
4.     Initial dive.  Some of the power of the kite is in the momentum of the initial dive.  You can use this to yank yourself up, but then may have nothing left to keep going.  Try to help the kite—as you dive it, roll your head and shoulders forward over the board and then straighten your legs to get up.  If you can help the kite get you up, you can avoid stopping it in its tracks and therefore not having any juice to help get moving forward.
5.     Stance.  This is a biggie.  If you think of yourself as an inanimate object (think little plastic army man) getting pulled around by a kite, it will be obvious that where you go and how it works will depend a lot on your body position.  To start, point board 45 degrees downwind.  Your stance coming up will be front leg mostly extended, back leg somewhat bent.  70% weight  back will get you in the ballpark.  Lift your toes to find your edge.  For me, focusing on my back heel, getting some weigh put down there, helped me get going and in control.
That’s pretty much it from me.  There is a ton of material on the web and youtube to show basic techniques, but I haven’t seen much analysis, which would have helped me a lot.  It’s a subtle sport, the fine points matter.  Hope this helps you crack the code—be safe and have fun!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Well, as usual, I'm months behind on posting even the important stuff.  Of course the big news right now is the fire, but to get caught up  little first:

I finished the boat & oars, it was a thing of beauty(I do say so myself) and rowed like a dream.  I had a solid 6 or 7 months of exercise and adventure rowing and sailing.  I rowed around a few islands, through canals, cuts and channels, Atlantic and Gulf sides, went several miles offshore once or twice, chased some fish, and found out just how strong some of the currents around here can be. I rowed at dawn with the ospreys and fishing captains, at sunset with some lovely ladies and and at midnight accompanied only by the moon and dolphins, breathing quietly but unseen in the velvet dark around me.
Over the summer I joined a new gallery--The Gallery on Green, owned by Nance Frank.  Its a nice gallery and I'm honored to be there.  My first sale there was last month:

"Morning Glory" Oil on panel, 32 x 40".

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Some of you know I undertook a small boat-building project recently.  I had intended to show progress here along the way in real time, but never got to it (too busy building!)  But here are some progress pics and notes:

I'm living on a houseboat now and needed to get more exercise, so what else to do but build a rowboat?  I have rowed sculls in the past and liked them, but wanted something I could use in more conditions than dead-flat water on a calm day, so I started looking at plans.  Firefly and Liz both appealed to me, as did CLC's Annapolis Wherry, so I did a lot of comparison to those boats (each 18') when I designed mine( 15' 6").  Somewhere along the way I also decided I wanted the possibility of taking a passenger, or perhaps diving or camping gear, with me, so that had to be factored in also.  In small boat design, pretty much everything is a compromise between exclusive optima.

This was the second iteration of the design, based on those comparisons, and my own seat-of-the-pants calculations regarding buoyancy, weight distribution, and "length and skinniness":
 I'm building it stitch and glue(cool method, look it up), so the first order of business was to scarf together 2 sheets of plywood to get 16' lengths.  Here are the 1/4" sheets planed to a fine taper (8:1) to make the overlap:
 Here clamped together:
 Here I stitched together 2 pieces (using tie-wraps in holes drilled on 4" centers.  These are for the bottom, I only trimmed off 1/4" from each edge to get a feel for how much V-bottom that would create.  Doesn't take much!
Here I'm laying out the curves for the shape of the panels using a batten.  Though I had scaled several station heights off of the model, I found the best way to get nice curves was to use as few control points as possible (this of course is not news to anybody who's done it before :-)  I mostly used 2 endpoints and one or two points in between.  Let the wood do the work!
Here's the first test fitting.  You can see all the tie-wraps holding the bottom seam, the mold defining the V in the middle, and the spanish windlass at the front encouraging the wood.  The sharp eye will note a nice bit of compound curve developing in the surface of the panels, but also a slight upward convexity in the top edges. The convexity didn't look right to me so I flattened it again and re-cut the top edges and trimmed the bottom edges.
A closer look:

 The re-cut bottom panels, from the stern:
 One of the things I realized (over and over) during this project was that it would be going a lot faster if I had plans to work from.  I enjoyed doing the design, but never having built a boat before, there were a lot of decisions I couldn't make (or even envision clearly) until things progressed to a certain point-- had to be able to see what it looked like along the way.  I'm glad I did it this way, but if I were doing it a second time (which, gasp, has occurred to me), I would either spend more time up front creating a detailed design, or choosing and modifying someone else' plans.

With the bottom shape determined (except for details like the stern), I stitched the panels back together and started fitting the sides.  Same method, determine some control points and let the wood make the shape.
 And presto, a hull!
 You may have noticed another, smaller, boat next to mine in some of the pics.  That one belongs to A.D. Tinkham, another painter and studio neighbor of mine.  Great guy, I first got to know him last fall, and we've spent some good time talking together about painting, life, etc.  He's also an accomplished sailor and boat captain, and has built several boats in the past.  It was his decision to build himself a new tender for his sailboat, and the availability of the workspace, that really turned my daydreams of having something to exercise with on the water into action.  He built his with a more traditional process, creating molds and frames on a strongback, then planking it with plywood.  So I couldn't really copy his process (plus his boat was so short), but he was an inspiration and a source of information and encouragement all along the way.  I think we both benefited from having someone to bitch to when things were going sideways, or to bounce ideas off of.  Some of his advice was worth(in his words) about what I paid for it, but still...
Thanks, A.D.  !

Next up, joys of fiberglass!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My first solo exhibit opened last week at Stone Soup Gallery in KW.  It's titled Time and Tide:  Finding Life at Water's Edge, and was inspired by the natural beauty of the island, particularly the beach.
A lot of effort getting all the paintings together, framed, promoting the show, etc, but also good fun, and I was pleased with the results.   Enjoyed the opening immensely.  It was well attended, and I got to talk to a lot of people, both new and old friends.
A lot of the crowd was Just Looking, out enjoying the Walk on White, but we managed to garner a smattering of red dots over the course of the evening, and I look forward to the rest of the run.
The entire collection is up on my website (link at top of page), under the New Work: Time and Tide tab.

This project was made possible in part by granting from the Anne McKee Artist's Fund of the Florida Keys.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Nurses and 'cudas and bulls, oh my!

Interesting dive yesterday.

Black grouper season opened May 1, but yesterday (the 5th) was the first day we could get out. Its been windy most of the spring and while I’ve done a little snorkeling and swimming, actual diving has been minimal. So we were all pretty stoked to be getting out on the water, esp since the wind felt lighter than predicted and the viz, at 20’ was not spectacular but more than adequate, esp since we were generally no deeper than that.

We were 3 divers and 2 line fishermen on Ashley’s boat Alternative Medicine and we hit it with enthusiasm. Found a nice rocky/reefy area, saw several grouper, legal (24”) and larger. I spent 15 seconds lying on the bottom exchanging looks with one larger fellow under a ledge. His head was big, but I couldn’t see body/markings and wasn’t sure it was a black. I don’t really cotton to shooting first and asking questions later, but when he turned to go and I saw his full size, I regretted not taking the shot. Still, cool to see. At one point I saw a commotion and cloud of dust in the reef where a couple of nurse sharks were tusseling with something. Tom said later he’d seen a bull shark in the area but I didn’t see it and suspected mistaken identity, though he’s a very experienced diver and I’ve no real reason to doubt him. Anyway….

After several hours of enjoyable but not super productive diving, we were lounging on the boat with some spicy Thai peanut/beef wraps and sangria Mandy brought . Sun was getting lower, and people were making noises about heading back, but nobody actually moving and I figured I could slip in for 20 minutes and one more pass at the reef.

The current had gotten stronger while we were on the boat, and while I could make good progress against it and the spot wasn’t far away, I was a bit winded (ie totally out of shape) when I got there. The shooting line bungee on my Rob Allen 120 had broken on the last dive, so I had borrowed Ashley’s mid-handle Riffe. It was a little shorter and better for the reef anyway.

The reef was just lit up with activity—big schools of shimmering bar jack, and several larger mackerel were cruising through and if I weren’t grouper-eyed, I could have had good fun with those. But then I did spot a decent sized black, and while he was going around the corner of the reef, he didn’t look in a hurry so I decided to track him a bit. After a few dives I found him holed up and took my shot—and missed. Managed a solid hit on the reef however and Ash’s shaft was doing a pretty good impression of Arthur’s sword Excalibur, defying my repeated attempts to pull it. The kicker was that damned grouper just hung around watching and taunting the whole time, never more than 15’ away.

I entrusted Ash’s gun to Neptune for a few minutes while I swam back to the boat and got my Rob Allen. First things first. I relocated the spot, and gun –and grouper, still out in the open, but close to cover. Still 15’ off, I lined up and popped him. It was a mid-body center of mass shot, and the way he shuddered when hit I thought close to a spine shot. But then he made a strong run toward the reef and I had to fight to keep him out, and then to my surprise and dismay, he tore off.


I saw where he entered the reef and kept an eye on the area while I reloaded, breathed up, and waited for the current to wash out the dust cloud. I dropped down into a pretty little crack with a 3' sand channel in the bottom. Peering into a cave, I could see him, a little ways back in, but not wedged or anything; if I shot him I could pull him out. I backed my head out in order to get the longer gun in position and was thinking about another breath in case it turned into a wrestling match. I looked up just in time to see a 6’ nurse pass maybe two feet over my head. They’re friendly, right?  Or at least harmless?  Well I was startled, but went up to get my breath and then finish the job. Up top I could see another 6 or 7’nurse also prowling, and 3 of the big barracuda I’d been seeing off and on all day had suddenly materialized as well. Hmm. This was getting interesting. Well heck. I checked behind me to make sure nobody *else* was coming to the party, then dropped, took the shot, and pulled out the fish and headed up, holding him close. He was smaller than I’d thought, though legal, but---no second hole! A different fish! What were the chances? WTF?

I swam fast swivel-necking back to the boat, dropped the fish and gun, aware of the fading light and Ashley’s gun still stuck in the reef. They asked if I wanted backup, but I was feeling sort of embarrassed about the whole episode and knew everyone was ready to leave, and just wanted to clean up this mess and go, so I declined. Probably not bright, but adrenaline and a little O2 deprivation don’t always make for the best judgement.

Swam back (again!), found the gun (again). There was still a lot of activity which I was a little nervous turning my back on, but a closer look in the back of the hole revealed the flopper wasn’t stuck, and a bit of judicious wiggling in the hole finally got it free. I reloaded and made a couple of dives searching for the still missing and probably dying fish, but so were the nurse sharks and ‘cudas. I thought I could follow, using their scenting to find the fish, but they were hot on it’s trail--darting, prowling, twisting, swerving back, just getting a little too worked up for my taste. Meanwhile the others had pulled anchor and motored over to me. I felt bad about abandoning the fish, but it really was getting a little hinky down there, and darker, and there were friends and beverages on the boat, and it just seemed like a good call to move toward the light. So I did. ☺

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 in Review

Spent a good bit of the past year working on my painting skills, doing various exercises, but without a lot of new work to show. I've been working with an accomplished artist in New York, Richard Murdock, and have been learning a lot from him. One of the main things I've learned is how much more there is to know ;-)
But I did produce a couple of pieces I'm pleased with. The first is a monochrome value study, a simple set up, but executed with more accuracy and nuance than I'd accomplished before. The second is a portrait of Jen. Again somewhat simplified in that I kept the palette pretty limited, but I'm happy with the result. Not perfect, but a clear step forward for me in terms of accuracy and finish.

Ringing in the New Year, KW style.

Spent Christmas in Colorado with my parents and sister, a nice visit despite a week-long stuffy nose(dry air). Returned to KW Dec 30 in time for a last day of 2011 dive on Ashley's Alternative Medicine. Low wind and decent vis, rare this time of year, and being with good friends made it a nice day, and a good catch was even better. We landed a nice cobia on line, and speared a grouper and a few hogs. Good eating!