4. Startup Sequence

Its time to get moving. Here is how.

Step 1. You're in the basic position. Your feet are on the centerline of the board, straddling the mast base, your knees are slightly bent, your arms are straight, and you are holding the mast with both hands below the boom.

Step 2. First move your feet behind the mast (A below).  Next, with your front hand (which is holding the mast) should move the mast and sail in front of you and across the board (B). The sail and mast should be balanced, so it will take very little effort to hold it in front of you in an upright position. Now grab the boom first, with your back hand, and then front hand, but keep the sail parallel to the wind (C).  Finally, slowly bring in the sail with your backhand (D, “sheet-in the sail”).

Step 3. Think of the sail as a door.  With your back hand not pulling on the sail, the sail is out, parallel to the wind, and the wind passes through the door.  To catch the wind, move your back hand in (D) to partly close the door and catch the wind.   You will sail off at a beam reach. When you get to Hawaii, send me a postcard.

Resist the temptation to panic and drop the sail. If you think that the wind is too strong, gently let out with your backhand and let some wind out the door. As you feel more comfortable, pull in harder with your backhand. Congratulations, you have just gotten your first ride.  You are now officially a windsurfer. I would say, now it the time to buy your instructor a beer!

As you feel more comfortable, pull in harder with your backhand. You will have to lean back to counter the pull of the sail.  On light wind days, be careful not to pull in too hard with your backhand.  That will “stall” the sail and you will just go sideways.  A little wind always has to be let out the door. If you feel that the wind is too strong, let go with your backhand, but never let go with your front hand.

Right of way rules

Now that you are flying along, it is a good time to consider what happens if you are about to collide with another vessel (i.e., boat or sailboard). Collisions at sea are a good thing to avoid. There are two aspects to avoiding collisions at sea: (1) The Law, also called Rules of the Road; (2) Uncommonly good sense.

The Law (Simplified)

It is just as important to observe the universal right-of-way rules on the water as it is when driving on the road.  For purposes of right-of-way, a windsurfer (or kiteboarder) is the same as a sailboat.  Right-of-way can always be determined by applying the following four rules:
1. A boat overtaking another boat shall keep clear of the boat being overtaken. So when you pass someone, don't run them down!
2. A boat on starboard tack has right of way over a boat on port tack. In windsurfing, if your right hand is forward on the boom you are on starboard tack and have right of way over a port tack vessel (Right is right!).
3. When two boats are on the same tack, the boat to windward shall keep clear of the boat to leeward.
4. Usually, a boat with a motor running has to keep clear of boats without a motor running. However there are many exceptions. A boat that is towing another boat, barge, windsurfer, fishing nets, etc. has the right-of-way. A ship that is so large that it must navigate in a channel has right of way.

Uncommonly Good Sense

Some of these points are not obvious.

1. First, you don't want to panic without a reason. There is a simple way to tell if you are on a collision course with another vessel. First take a bearing on the other vessel. A good system of bearings is the "clock face" as shown below:

The Queen Mary has a bearing of 1:00 (1 o'clock). Wait a minute and check the bearing again. If the bearing changes (e.g., from 1:00 to 2:30) you are not on a collision course. If the bearing does not change, you are on a collision course. Gulp.

2. If you have right of way, make sure that the skipper of the other vessel (boat or sailboard) sees you. The other sailor or kiter may be doing what I do much of the time: daydreaming. Try to establish eye contact. Yell (nicely), if necessary, to get the other guy's attention.

3. If you alter your course, do not make a small change; make your change in course large enough so that the other sailor doesn't have to guess your intentions.

4. It is safer to pass behind another vessel than it is to pass in front of it (particularly the Queen Mary). Sailors often have a tendency to try to scoot in front of an oncoming vessel instead of passing behind it (like a deer darting in front of a car, with the predictable consequences). It is also safer to pass to the leeward of another boat than to pass to windward. If you pass to leeward (or downwind) of the other boat and you fall, or "spin-out" you will not drift into the other boat.

5. Most collisions between sailboards happen when one sailor jibes or tacks (i.e., changes direction) without looking. Look twice, jibe (or tack) once.

6. If you are in a collision, be cool. Both parties have a lot of adrenalin coursing through their veins. This sometimes leads to unnecessary confrontations. First establish that there are no injuries. Ask the other party if they need help. If something got broken, you can settle what needs to be done back at the beach. If someone is sailing in a dangerous manner, you might ask them, as a favor to you, to try their forward loops further from the beginner area, because you get spooked. (I find this works better than shouting, "You fricking ... watch out." :-)

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