Gene’s Campground Adventure

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Editor's note: We thank Gene for taking the time to describe from his experience in the big blow last Sunday

And who came up with all these rules?

Rig for what you got, not what you want or the forecast.
When you can’t decide between two sails, go bigger if the sun is shining, smaller if cloudy.
(Caps look bigger in the sun, and it was sunny.)

When I arrived it was windy. I checked the launch, super high water, not good but doable. Rhett was planning on his 5.2 but falling off plane a little in the lulls. Maybe 6.0 or 5.2? Then the wind came up some, maybe 5.2 of 4.5? So, put on wetsuit first before rigging to have more time to decide and one last look. Although I had the 5.2 pulled out of the trailer, the last look told me to rig the 6.0.

Anyhow, I was overpowered, struggled a while trying to water start, then decided to just clear the sail and body drag back. That didn’t work well, was going to miss the launch, so shoot for Bozo Island? Got close to Bozo, but not an island, just trees growing out of the water with waves. If I could make it there, I still had to get back to the launch. I was getting a little tired, there is a rule about take your breaks, watch your energy level, but this is hard to do in the middle of the lake. Also a very important rule is stay with your board. You don’t want to give out and not be able to hold on to the board. Also, remember, don’t panic. I remembered years back when David W and I took our trip to Bozo, instead of struggling; we sat on the boards and let the wind blow us down wind (to Bozo Island.) So I sat on the board and headed for the campground. Know your take out points. Years back, I ended up at the campground after breaking a mast. Not that big of deal, but, you have to breakdown your gear and tote it to the locked campground entrance (hide it) and then hitch a ride back to Van Pugh. Then you have to drive back to get your gear. All this can add a couple of hours to a not so fun day, and if it’s cold, it’s cold. I was dressed in my warmest wetsuit, better to be too hot than too cold, you can always cool off, so I really wasn’t that cold.

Once at the campground, it was tuff trying to get ashore due to the high water and I was glad to see the Hall County Rescue guys. I’m not sure they were looking for me (although I think Barret had called them) because they asked where the second person was. Then we saw the 2 kayakers stranded at the campground (they were definitely cold, having no neoprene.) Hall County took them back while I stayed with the kayaks and broke down my gear, then they came back and hauled me and all the gear back to Van Pugh. (I think the coast guard will not rescue gear.) I really did appreciate their help. I think they had a good time too as it does look like a fun job as long as no one dies. We probably should only call them as a last resort when someone is in real trouble. We don’t want to get a bad rep or get windsurfing banned. But it’s hard to tell if someone is in trouble when they’re far away. I used to keep cheap binoculars in the car to search for people; this is probably a good idea. Also, remember the universal distress signal. And don’t turn down help. I’ve hitched a ride with fishermen ( kiting) and on David W’s jet ski (kiting), had a nice ride in a pontoon boat (broken mast) and have hitch hiked a ride (in a wetsuit) from Aqualand (pulled muscle ) and from the campground. It seems people don’t mind picking up hitchhikers dressed in neoprene, I think they’re curious.

I guess, even when you take your time, think about what you’re doing and try not to do anything stupid, sometimes, stuff happens.

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Gene Mathis

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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure

Gene, thanks for the write up. You did a great job of describing the thought process someone needs when things go off plan. You made some great points including staying with the board. Even without HCR, you would have been fine but it would have made for a very long afternoon. Unlike the kayakers, you were prepared for spending time in the water should something have gone bad, so while you weren't going to end up in the parking lot, it wasn't about to turn into a life threatening emergency.

Lke you, my encounter with HCR is that they'd much rather give you a tow back than deal with a rescue that's turned into a recovery operation. They know we are out there a lot and they rarely hear from us.

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moredownhaul
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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure
gene_mathis wrote:

Also, remember the universal distress signal.

Like the one I used when I broke my tendon in Hatteras right before you used me as a jibe buoy and kept going? Lol

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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure
moredownhaul wrote:

gene_mathis wrote:

Also, remember the universal distress signal.

Like the one I used when I broke my tendon in Hatteras right before you used me as a jibe buoy and kept going? Lol

IMAGE(<a href="https://media.giphy.com/media/Hqk5KCMTwTF3W/giphy.gif" rel="nofollow">https://media.giphy.com/media/Hqk5KCMTwTF3W/giphy.gif</a>)

ROFL

--- The Arrogant Jerk: Crabby and irritable since 1998.

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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure

Good writeup Gene. Looks of good points in that. Esp - don't panic and stay with your board (even at the risk of losing a sail.) Nice thing about lake sailing - wait long enough and you will always get back to shore if you stay on your board.

I've gotten towed back 4-5 times. Once first time out at Van Pugh - that was just a dumb rookie mistake. Launched from the wrong side of VP because the water didn't look as choppy (offshore.) Once at Galts when the wind died. I could have made it but a boat came by. Once with a broken mast towed in by a jet ski and once towed in by Tim Carter on his windsurf board when my mast track broke away from the board.) I've had plenty of other breakdowns though, and for quite some time have usually carried a paddle with me but then I'm usually sailing a windsup anyway. There was another time when I broke a mast (or was it a fin?) at Tidwell and Al came by to help. I think I gave him my car keys and to get a replacement, but I think he either brought me another board or just towed me back. Another time I broke a mast and made it into a paddle with some wood I found on shore. Worked ok enough to get me back.

Ironically, I've had a few times when people came to see if I needed help when I was just waiting in the water to cool off or waterstart. It usually happens on a nice summer day.

There is no off season.

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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure

Bravo for saving the kayakers. (What the heck were they thinking?) What's the # for Hall County rescue? 911? I see the dispatch # for 9-5 is 770-531-6838. Are they coming from the fire station across from the Pure Gas on Gaines Ferry? Maybe we ought to send them a cake or something.

What Radny said... stay with your board and at worst, end up in another county, not another country. Shok

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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure

I am glad it all work out well for you, Gene. I know exactly what you are talking about.

I loved your comment, " It seems people don’t mind picking up hitchhikers dressed in neoprene, I think they’re curious."

PeelSkid

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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure

Curious or kinky?

There is no off season.

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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure
Randy wrote:

Curious or kinky?

We don't judge here, Randy. We don't judge at all. Biggrin

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Marek
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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure

Gene,

Thanks for taking the time to write this up. Its very easy to be in the comfort of one's living room thinking that one should do this or that, but it's very different when you are in the cold water and unable for whatever reason to get back...be it too much wind, not enough wind, equipment failure or just cold and fatigue.
I think the most important thing that people should take away from this is to have a plan in your heard ahead of time that can work in most situations, remember the distress signal and stay aware of what your body is telling you. When I'm out (and especially in cold water/wind) and I blow a couple of jibes in a row, I know its time to get out....I learned this the hard way***.
Over the years I've had a few breakdowns, but was always fortunate to have someone tow me back (thanks Jim), or someone to help me hold on to equipment while I sort of fixed whatever broke down to be able to limp get back to shore. ***I did have a situation very long time ago while sailing a Laser in cold weather where I ended up getting hypothermia but fortunately was lucky to get rescued. It's amazing how hypothermia totally stiffens up your muscles and you have a hard time doing the most simple things, and even worse, your thinking and judgment totally gives out.
In any case, Gene's situation may have been just the wrong sail size and gusty winds, but back to the initial comments....have a self rescue plan ahead of time, stay calm and don't wait too long to bail out on the session if things are not right.

Have fun...and Stay safe.

Marek

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webguy
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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure

Bad stuff some times happens and you then you do your best to get out of trouble. I was rigging at the same time Gene was. Gene chose a 6.0 and I chose a 5.2 meter sail. During the first couple of runs I was thinking I could have rigged bigger. Then the wind suddenly picked so much that spray was bowing off the waves, so I headed directly back to where I launched from shore. Because Gene was further out I worried that he wouldn't make it back. When he drifted past Bozo Island, I realized that I was getting cold standing on shore in my wetsuit. I decided there was more risk in waiting than in calling for help, so I called Hall Co. Rescue. When I called, I didn't know there were two kayakers in trouble in the vicinity of Gene.

I almost always carry binoculars for this very reason, but this is the one day I took them out to watch birds migrating, and forgot to put them back in the car before leaving. Luckily, I had my camera with a telephoto lens and Langdon & I used the camera to see that Gene wasn't able to get up. The first thing the rescuers asked was "where is your friend in trouble". You don't have to go very far out on the Lake when there are waves to be out of sight from shore.

Barrett

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Re: Gene’s Campground Adventure

Well, since we are talking about safety. I sailed 20 years without ever wearing any sort of floatation device, but finally breaking down and buying a floaty impact vest a few years ago - wow, what a relevation. I don’t wear it all the time, but it makes waterstarting so much easier and I know if I get separated from my board I can easily float for hours. I highly recommend for lake and cold weather sailors.

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webguy
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