Monday, April 30, 2012

Moored and explored II

There are those who believe that virtual sailing is nothing but a couple of pretty pictures with an ocean of bits inbetween. Not entirely true. The scenery isn't just a flat picture. A month ago I moored at an island south of Tradewinds, and I promised a few more pictures from there.
A beautiful cruising destination
So here's a shot of the place, where I moored, - and here's a link to that mooring post. Next you see me at the top of the stairs. It's definately a nice view. There is land out there to the south west, but you can't see it today.
Upstairs, mooring spot in the back
I am sure the view from the living room of the house is equally nice. Hot bath, - favourite chair, nice cup of yogi-tea, a blanket and a good book. Mmmmhmm. Music? Perhaps some relaxing Buddha-Bar.
Beautiful house by the sea
However, the house is privately owned, so I won't run around and take pictures without being invited to do so. What I can do, is take pictures of the island itself, so this next shot is from the northern end of the island. See the light house? I sat right beside it, - here...
So many light houses
Stare at the picture for a moment. Then close your eyes. Take a deep breath and feel the intense scent of old pines, orange trees and long grass. Got it? Virtual worlds are so much more than just sailing. 
A breathtaking boat picture
However, this is a sailing blog, so this post ends with a beautiful shot of a boat. Look closely and you'll find Beccas Baby Sloop moored at the island. It's such a nice little boat for exploring, and this place here... I totally love it. Oranges, pines and lavendar? Hmm... kinda like a place I know at the Cote d'Azur. Not just a dream world.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Lately, I have posted pictures of an early prototype, a rusty version and a couple of weird pictures of this boat in strange positions. It is only fair to post a few of the more charming pictures of that particular boat. After all it is a nice boat. It is not a racer, and it won't win a beauty contest, but it is a wonderful cruiser. It's the Oceanic from Motor Loon.
The Oceanic
So here it is. On land. It looks pretty much like a boat from here. Not sure why the waterline stops mid-ship, but you can always paint it yourself. It is probably a graphical designer gone mad. It happens. The keeldesign is kinda weird though. Luckily  you can't see it while you sail, but when you find that island and go for a swim, you'll see this:
Oceanic keel design
After seing this, you'll definately need to go up for more air. It looks like the designer couldn't make up his mind... finn keel or full keel. This is neither. Not that it matters. You can't feel the difference anyway.
Hull shape
The hull shape is somewhat different from what I'd expect. It is less round and more v-shaped. There is way too little underwaterhull to carry that huge boat. Check the boat sailing away in the shot above. Not a big problem, but a round shape looks better, sails better and it gives you much more space inside.
Lower shrouds inverted
As you can see, the mast the spreaders and the sails look pretty nice. The shot above focuses on the lower shrouds, because they are somewhat weird. The lower shrouds are inverted. In reality the mast would break in 5 m/sec or less.
Busy day
However, this is a virtual boat and physical issues like hull shape and shrouds don't matter much. Here's three boats sailing and one moored. Note the guy on the pier, right in the center of the picture. He stood there for ages watching that boat. I wonder what kind of dreams he had. Bluewater dreams maybe? He is also there in the previous picture.
A decision
He finally got away with a decision; Bon voyage. Go see the islands. May the virtual wind Gods be with you. Otherwise, there's a huge engine and there's even a folding prop. Just beware. Murphy says you will run out of fuel at the most inconvenient time...
Sailing it
I sailed the Oceanic too, - here with Becca and her friend. It sails very well. The feeling is good, and it stays on course. It is lively like a dinghy, and the sounds are well made. It might not have currents, waves and local windshifts, but I suspect there are other features that sell well too.
Gizmoes. Knobs and handles, screens and levers. Things you can look at and click. Here's me behind the wheel, and I have so many gizmoes in front of me. Screens too and stuff, and behind me is...
Engine room
The engine room. Guys will probably love this. Me, I don't like engines, and I particularly don't like engines in sailboats. They are noisy, they smell and they're no good once you are out of fuel. Oh, and they are heavy. The fuel is too, I mean... Who would want 500 liters of fuel placed this far aft? Besides, they are a pain to operate and maintain. Never the less... here I am checking out the diesel. Power it up and you have the drool of a huge engine in your ears. Eeeew :-D
Back to sailing
Close hatch. Sails up. Lets go sail. After all, that's what this baby does best. Here's a better view of the gizmoes available to the helmsman. There's also a view of the sheets dangling over the cockpit, making it extremely dangerous to sit in the cockpit while sailing. Those sheets and halyards are bound to catch a foot or even a neck sometime. They should definately not run like that. Put them on the side where they usually are. This is hazardeous.
The cabin is very nice. Very spacious and loaded with features. Almost like a flat or something. You can see the cabin in this old post. Right now, it is about the sailing, so here's a shot of the Oceanic with the spinnaker up. Not too bad. Not too bad at all. I took this picture on my way back from the virtual optirace. The Spinnaker is really easy to "operate", so no danger there.

That shot from the Shelly makes another important point: Windvane and telltale missing on the oceanic. It's sail by numbers, staring at a hud. Not a big problem to cruisers, it seems.
All in all, if you always dreamt of the ocean and never really went there, this boat is for you. It has all the features you need. Not only the the sailing itself, but engine, living quarters, poses, gizmoes and what nuts... It might not support currents, waves, local windshifts and windshadows, it may not have a realistic polar, there's no telltales, but it is a great  cruiser, and it will safely take you anywhere in the virtual waters of the Blake Sea and the North Sea. Lotsa water to sail. Plenty of islands to explore...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Dragon shapes up

The Dragon begins to fly. It is very exciting to follow the work with the Dragon. It looks more and more like a real Dragon. Have a look at the previous version, before you see these shots here.
A much improved Dragon
However, looks isn't everything. A sailboat is safe in the marina, but it wasn't meant to be there. Meaning? The Dragon has to sail well too, and preferably in a Dragonlike way. Now, there's a challenge.
Lotsa little details
So far it looks pretty good. That should be pretty obvious from these pictures. There's still a few things to iron out such as the sailing pose. I am actually not holding the tiller. Also, the hull still has a few strange anomalies, but I won't show those here.
The sailors perspective
Here's a view from my perspective when sailing. Note the compass and the console amidst the cockpit. Below you see a look up the mast. Looks pretty good too, though the sails aren't perfect. Yet. I've seen the next version... woohoooo... Can't wait to try that.
Spreaders, diamond, mast
Now, the really interesting stuff is with the sails and the sailing characteristics. Victor, the builder, says he wants a realistic sailing experience, and rumours has it that he is working on something different. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Busy day at Tradewinds

I've mentioned it before. There's never a boring day at Tradewinds. There can be a party, a product launch, a boatbuilder class, a race, an exhibition, a busload of italian turists or something entirely different.
Busy day with boats...
This is just a shot from a busy day with boats and planes all over. There's also a trimaran taking off, an dinghy splashing around. A couple of Motor Loon boats motoring about, and it's my 2.4mR moored in the corner. Motor Loons boat, the one in the foreground, seems to be quite popular.
... and planes
No wonder. It a real pleasure to sail, it has loads of poses, full living quarters, and it looks great under sail. Guys will probably love the engine room. Here's a few sailing shots, testing the prototype. In the shot above, you'll notice there's a plane too. It is simply fun to sit here at Tradewinds and just watch all the action. Kinda like a real marina. Isn't that amazing?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What's this?

For the sail-geeks... here's a shot of me sailing. It's a truly gorgeous sailing day in a very well made replica of a real boat. So SL sailors might have an advantage, but true RL sailgeeks should have a chance too.
A nice day at sea
The questions are:
1) What am I sailing?
2) Where am I?
3) What is the RL name of that structure straight ahead?

... and there is a bonus question for the virtual sailors:

What is my approximate course?

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Spark Ignites

By sheer luck I happened to be a Tradewinds at the time of a fun race. Not a big thing. There are lots of fun races at Tradewinds, but this one was different. There was a whole bunch of people, and they talked and talked about this new boat, the brand new and refreshing little single seater dinghy, Becca's Spark. Still in alpha test.
Sparks Ignite
Liv was running things, so I decided to join the fun, and see how it behaves in a fleet. That was great fun. Spark is a modified BWind 2.0, so it has all the good things of a BWind powered boat. The sailing is pretty good. It is fast, easy to sail and it feels like sailing. Besides, it is stable. In a computersense that is. The Spark capsizes if you don't trim it right. We sailed three races. I won one, did ok in another, and didn't complete the third due to crashes.
In between races
Here's another shot. It's from in between races. If you race the Spark to win, there's no time to take pictures. Notice the boats aren't red anymore, hehe. We discovered the color command changed the color of all boats nearby. That sorta made everybody type "color something-else" all the time. Loads of fun.
Me testing...
After the race I took the Spark for a more systematic test-spin. Obviously, there are issues when sailing a prototype. Those capsizes sometimes seem odd. It seems the boat always capsized on a sheet too tight. There is no balancing, - only one thing to do... sheet out. And fast. I like the idea of a capsizing boat, but in a small capsizing dinghy it is weird, that you can't move to balance the boat.

Atop the mast there is a windvane. It looks great, but sadly it is defunct. It always points backwards. Now, I can easily remember the feeling of sitting in my dinghy not knowing where the wind comes from. That's no fun. What the vane does is, it makes the invisible wind visible. Check the vane on the Shelly Fizz. It is a huge help for the new sailor, and it would easily fit on the Spark.
The Spark up close
The boat itself is kinda cute. The hull is somewhat like a crossing of a Starboat and a Laser, only smaller? Nicely put together with rounded corners and few sharp edges. Cleats too. It is the rigging, gear and sails that need more work. There is no visual trim indicator. The sail flaps when too loose, but there's no telltales, plus, - there's no compass.

So I can't see my direction, I can't see my trim, and I can't see the wind. How's that for a sailing simulation? At this early stage, the Spark is sailed by numbers. Wind, bearing and trim is indicated with green text floating mid air. The text is colourcoded, so pink means capsize, blue means too tight, green is good, yellow is loose and red is very loose. After all it is a prototype in alpha-stage. The really, really, truly great news is that the BWind 2.0 actually supports telltales. 
It's a pretty lil thing allright
Then there is the windsystem. The Spark uses Beccas BWS, a proprietary wind system, designed for easy cruising. It is very different from the advanced WWC system that is available everywhere, pretty much the de facto standard. The BWS windsystem has many good features. It is stable, easy to use and low lag. But it has no support for waves and currents, and there is no support for any local variations of the wind. It is simply not very interesting for racing.
Wind systems collide
Due to the differences in design goals, it hardly makes sense to compare those two wind systems. The Spark could read the winddata from the WWC system, but handle the info as if it was BWS. That would make it easier to use, when WWC is everywhere. Surely waves, currents and local shifts are also needed in order to have a truly interesting boat for racing. Rumours has it that the BWS will be updated, but adding those features to the BWS really just means reinventing the free and open WWC.

I've had this little boat a while now, and I like it. It looks great, it sails well, and it keeps getting better.  While there's still work to do, it sure will be exciting to follow the Spark. It looks very promising, and it is definately worth a test. These past few days the alpha-version has been freely available at Tradewinds.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bad day in the office

If I was Harbourmaster - or perhaps working in the coastguard, these shots here would represent a really bad day in the office. What do you think? Physical anomaly? Bad attempt at time travel? Teleport error?
Is that one or two boats?
Who cares about the boat(s), but what about the people? It's only a few hundred meters south of the Tradewinds lighthouse, but I wasn't able to do anything. The Tradewinds rescue boat was not operational, stuck in its cradle. Clickety click didn't work.
Upside down isn't just a song
Tried launching sailboat, but that was even more impossible. There was like a powershield around the incident out there. I saw no helicopters either, and to be honest, I was so bewildered by the situation, that I forgot to try my own. I guess I better talk to Harbourmaster Ahab about getting the rescue boat fixed.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rust for the ice cream man

Back in february I posted a few shots of a beautiful, sleek, wooden ten meter, the Ten by Manul. Just the type of boat, many sailors dream of. I hate to admit it, but usually it is the female part of a relationship that goes, where's the walk in closet. After a few years the man can't take it any more, and he swaps the racer for a "Bavarian Beauty". Peace restored. Universe left unbalanced...
A rusty boat
Well, not my cup of tea. My dad used to tell me "It's a SAIL-boat, not a fashion-boat". So even as a teen I left most of my wardrobe at home. Cruised in old jeans and tshirts. Brought one dress just in case we'd hit a beach party. Whole family crammed into a boat with no standing headroom for weeks. Wouldn't do it any other way now...

Anyway, Doc here wasn't really able to handle the beauty of all the virtual boats in mint condition. In fact Doc was so unhappy, he even left a comment about it. So, I promised to find a rusty boat for him. I've seen a rusty Shelly Fizz, the virtual optimist, sailing somewhere. Doesn't really make much sense to build an Optimist out of iron. Then I remembered this... You've probably seen it before...
A iron boat this size makes much more sense, so here it is... just for you Doc. Enjoy the thought of endless and overdue work removing rust, priming and then repainting. It has full living quarters down below. That'll probably need a complete overhaul too. To be fair, this is not a  "B-Boat". They're made of plastic, hehe. Honestly, I sailed the release version yesterday, and this is a truly wonderful cruiser. The first commercial BWind 2, I am told. Very lively and fun to sail. I'd better do a full review sometime...
... and on land
And here it is on land. You can see all that underwater work that needs to be done. Woohooo... It is gonna be a great couple of weekends at the Marina. Full of joy. Noisy tools, poisonous liquids and lukewarm  burgers. Of course, in SL it is just clickety click et voila... all the rust is gone... I feel a poem coming on. Let's call it:

Blues for old boats

Sad old rusty boat
All my time I will devote
Let's give you an antidote

Sad old rusty boat
Clickety click, new primer coat
Once again, you are afloat

I know. The clickety click never happens in RL. Unless you're Larry or sum ding...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ultimate oldies

So what was Easter like? Mostly I took a break from SL. After all there is an RL or FL as some people call it. Easter lunch with family and friends is a big thing here. I really didn't have much schnapps, but I had lotsa raw heering. We love that in Scandinavia. One thing did happen in SL though. I raced again...
The virtual optimist aka the Shelly Fizz
If you look at the second picture in my last post (click or scroll down), you will see a couple of small sails in the back. Virtual Optimists. There's actually three boats out there to race. They are sailed by Bea, Motor and Colin. I joined them, and we sailed a couple of rounds in a nice southernly wind.
The race course (We only did one lap per race)
Here's the course. Start and finish at the green line. If you scrolled down and looked, the red "I" is the Tradewinds lighthouse. The red "II" is the buoy on which I sat. The island to the south is where I moored recently. Right under "laps" is Balduins Boat Yard. Where was I? The race... I joined the race, and I expected to get beaten badly. I haven't really raced much lately, and you know what they say:  Time on the water...
Measuring wind angles
Still, I took my time and did the usual stuff. Measuring the upwind courses on both tacks, measuring wind angle, checking the line, and then off we went. I didn't really time the perfect start, but I tacked well on the shifts, and I was first at the first mark. Bea right behind me, looking for the inner lane. On the first reach, she was just about to pass me on the outside. However, I luffed a little to stay in clear air. Then I remembered to get the centerboard up, and I fell back to the shortest path. That did it. Kept her right there... behind me.
Second reach, centerboard up
Second reach went well, but after the third reach, Bea was right behind me again. I think she gybed better, knowing the polar better than I. It was very close race, so I chose to cover her on the last leg - upwind to the finish line, and would you believe it... I won! I know, - it is just a game, but the racing... it is just like RL... high pulse and everything.
Training session
The second race went even better. I saw a windshift at the start. It made me go for a port end start on starboard tack. Even if I didn't time the start perfectly, I was right behind Bea when I first crossed on port tack. I then tacked in another shift, right on layline and I rounded first; Bea tacked in the same shift, but too early, so she had to pinch too much. Not sure if she had to take two more tacks to fetch the mark or not.

Anyways. Never looked back after that. Not true. Bea is quite experienced, so I looked back a lot to  make sure I covered. Ended up winning again, but this post  really isn't about me winning. It is about the Shelly Fizz and the realism it provides.
The sailing view
This is what sailing the Shelly Fizz looks like. You get the sail, boom angle, telltales and apparent wind from the vane. There are waves and currents too. In the picture above, you'd be able to see the current from the sideways movement. Add to that the global windshifts and local wind variations, and it doesn't get much better. There are only two or three boats in SL able to provide the level of racing realism depicted in the photo above.
Beating around the island 
Here we are again. Just a fun race around the island off the Tradewinds coast. It's a perfect course for a training session. Lots to learn for beginners, especially when you have to tack several times to get around the back of the island. Back to the race... Motor asked me, what is the point of having currents, when they are invisible. That's the point right there... it is not invisible. It just isn't visible to the untrained eye. Boatracing is fun, because it is difficult. Sometimes you don't even realize what's going on.

I am still not completely confident that I know what happened out there. I think I have a clue, but maybe I was just lucky. Maybe next time Bea will be untouchable. She has been annoyingly fast at other times, so there's no telling... I will just have to try again.
Getting back
The Shelly Fizz is an oldie. A superb one. She may not be as hip as those shiny new boats with highly detailed hulls and curvy sails, but the sailing... the sailing is almost unparalelled in the SL sailing universe. Half of it is the boat. The other half is the WWC windsystem. If you are beginner sailor looking to actually learn something about sailing, the Shelly is probably the best boat available. It has all the concepts and gizmos of a real boat, except balance. It is very affordable. Free actually, and you can get it at Tradewinds. Probably elsewhere too.

PS: One of my first posts was actually about the Shelly. Back then I wished for a compas. Now I have learned to use the minimap as such.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Bunny

No, it's not a photo of me dressed up as the Easter Bunny. Sorry, if I disappointed you there; The Xmas post taken in consideration.
Taking an Easter break
It's just me taking an Easter break; Wearing a pink shirt with an Easter Bunny drawing. It is hardly visible.
Wonder if I can swim to Tradewinds YC...
Even less visible are those Virtual Optimists aka Shelly Fizzs in the haze south of the Tradewinds lighthouse. Turns out they were out to race.
Easter Bunny   (Photo: Jim Garner)
Oh, - and here's that Easter Bunny caught at Tradewinds YC. Thanx for the photo Jim.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sailing Haiku

Maybe I had a little too much schnapps at the Easter Lunch today, but this little sailing Haiku kept messing with my mind. Inspired by a poet friend I suppose. Here it is:

The Racer

Seaspray and sunshine
Currents and windshifts in mind
I tack on layline

There... Not much, but I just had to get it out of my head. Right after I typed it, these two popped out of nowhere...

The Racer 2 & 3

Spinnakers on line
Shadows and shifts intertwine
I gybe on layline

Competitors whine
As I cover the front line
The first place is mine

That's it. WWC sailing in a nutshell. No more schnapps for this lil girl. At least not today. How much Haiku it really is, I am not sure. I probably broke a million Haiku rules. And I am not entirely satisfied with the third one. Not easy in a foreign language. Bottoms up and peace out...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Real virtual sailing

Easter is a great time to sail. The calendar is virtually littered with Easter regattas. That goes for the virtual sailing calendar too, and thank you for that. Where I live we still scrape ice off the car every morning.
So, my Easter is about virtual sailing, and I chose to sail the virtual 2.4mR Norlin MK III. Here's a shot from where I left off last time. Not too bad. Not too bad at all.
A quiet morning...
It's probably no surprise I like a quiet morning sail. In fact I like sailing all day and night, but the morning has a special sort of quietness over it. Even the birds are kinda sleepy and moving in slow motion...
Virtual sailing at its best?
Sailing a boat like this makes it even better. Whereas many other virtual boats claim to be realistic, this one virtually is... The feeling is so authentic. Probably because the water is so close. The sailing sensation is absolutely present. 

Variating wind with puffs and shifts is one thing. Add luffing sails and winddrift and some people think that's it. However, more than half the weight of a boat is in water, so let's not forget what happens below the surface... Waves & currents? Both with local variations. 
All three in one package? Wind, waves and currents, - and all with local variations... that kind of realism is unique to those boats which support the WWC windsystem. If you want realistic racing, then WWC is the way to go. Very few boats are able to top this level of realism...
I love this shot. It has so much sailing in it. The boat, the sails, the trim, a tad of seaspray and the intriguing background with so many promises of interesting places to explore.
Looks like I "struck" land here... but oh no... absolutely not... I won't go there. Not today... The North Sea has many lovely islands and coasts to explore, but...
Today I sail the 2.4mR and nothing can make me do otherwise... Get a 2.4mR and feel for yourself what virtual sailing is really about. It is fantastic...