Tuesday, February 26, 2013

To the end of the world

Virtual sailing can be so many things. Racing, boatbuilding, yachtclubs, cruising, exploring, navigation  and more... A few days back I went cruising with Dutch. It was a nice change after all the pretty hefty testing and racing with the Nacra17 and the Laser.
Late afternoon sail
We took off from Tradewinds in one of the classics, the Cotton Blossom II built by Balduin Aabyes Yacht Design. This is the absolutely opposite of a racer. I think Dutch said it quite well, when he murmured: I have no idea how fast we're going, but who cares in a boat like this.
Who cares about the hud
Ofcourse, the Cotton Blossom II has a hud; We turned it on, watched it for a while, and then we turned it off again. It's true. It really doesn't matter. This boat is all about leaning back, relaxing and enjoying the ride, the view and the sounds. Yes, even the sounds are slow and Zen-like.
The views
Hard headed oldtimers will probably wonder, how the Cotton Blossom can be trimmed and sailed, when there's no hud. The answer is simple: Balduin built a couple of boats with telltails. This is one of them. The other one is the Bolero. I didn't look much at the telltails though. I simply enjoyed being in the passengers seat.
Uncharted waters
I wasn't even following the route on the charts until I began to see coastlines that I didn't remember seeing before. That's one of the beauties of being in the passengers seat. You get to see new places. This cruise actually went all the way to the end of the world. I've been there before, but this was another end of the world, hehe.
I usually go south-east, north or north east. Dutch chose a course that was kinda south-westerly; Nice area for a cruise, and as you can see above, the navigator has to stay alert (or online if it's a gps) all the time. No sleeping on the couch. Not even if it looks inviting.
A peek at the couch
So what's happened since the release of this pretty boat? After all it is a year and a half old. Not much actually. The Cotton Blossom has no sheets, but apart from that it is on par with the latest boats. The Cotton Blossom II is a modified BWind, just like the  Nacra17 and the Laser.  The only difference is: The Cotton Blossom has no sheets, and admittedly that does make it look a little old fashioned - in an weird SL Sailing kinda way.
Where are we?
Those new boats... they have sheets, but they don't have telltails. More importantly - the Cotton Blossom has pretty much full WWC support, so there's wind, windshifts, waves and currents all with local variations... Those new fancy boats, they have nothing of the kind... That seems like a strange step backwards?
Anchorage at the end of the world
In fact it seems the Cotton Blossom II is more of a sailing simulator than many of the newer boats. So here's a question: As a sailor, which would you choose: Invisible sheets or invisible telltails? Think about it! While you think, here's us anchored at the other end of the world. Tea and bisquit time. Now, where did I put those Digestives?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The missing boatshow post

Here's a few of those missing shots from the liveaboard boatshow back in october 2012. I've been writing so much about the Laser, I thought this would be a nice little change.
Cotton Blossom II and Bandit 27
First up is Ana's Bandit 27 and Balduins Cotton Blossom II. The Bandit fits well into the category of normal boats, and you can live on board. The Cotton Blossom is bigger but with less stuff inside. True to the original, there are only two sofas inside. More of a collectors item I'd say.
Cotton Blossom II
The finish of the Cotton Blossom is - or was at the time of it's launch - pretty much unmatched. It's really too bad Balduin Aabyes Yacht Design closed down. The sailing of the Blossom is a unique relaxed experience. There's a log, but who'd look at it in a boat like this?
Tetra 35
The Tetra 35 is much more of a live aboard, and it also qualifies as a normal boat along with the Bianca 107, the Oceanic, the Loonetta and possible a handfull of knockabout sloop type of boats such as the Trudeau One.
Here's the inside of the Loonetta. It's a fat little lady with a huge belly. Not exactly a classic beauty, but  there's loads of space inside. No wonder she's popular among camper and other tourists. The sailing feels pretty good, but there's no support for advanced sailing stuff such as local windshifts and currents.
Loonettas on the loose
Regardless, the Loonetta is everywhere. The shot above is more recent, and it's from the Marina just north of Tradewinds. There's seven or eight Loonettas in the picture and more behind me. Windvane and windmeter included. That's the sort of stuff any boat should have.
This one here is a Wildwind. To be honest I cannot remember the exact model, but the sign says "Wildwind", and the looks says "pretty nice". It's a racer of sorts. That's all I remember. Strangely,  the interior looks more like a cruiser.
That's about it. The show was much more extensive than these two posts indicate; I have more pictures, but this will do. Hopefully there will be a followup in a year or so, which is really nice. These shows are really a great way to see what's hot (and what's not) on the virtual sailing scene.

PS: Check for more boat shows at Tradewinds here...

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Fizzkit 1, 2, 3

Boattalk. I love boat talk. This time I met with Ana, and we took the FizzKit for a spin. Don't know what it is? It's what makes the Flying Fizz so friggin fantastic. The boats in this post is the raw, test boat  that's inside the kit.
It's meant to have a boat built around it. If you wanna see something more recent and boatlike, - check Orca's blog for posts about Manul's beautiful Waddensea cruiser. Manul also built a trimaran with the FizzKit, and it sails great. I couldn't find anything about the FizzKit on Jane's blog, but this will give you a glimpse of the evolution that lead to the FizzKit. The Fizzkit holds the essence of all the knowledge gained from the Fizz 1, 2, and 3.
So this actually works? Oh yes it does. The Fizzkit comes with all the features that a sailor would expect such as windvane, compas and telltails. Three (or more) sails. Support for four people on board, and they can all balance and trim the boat. If they don't, it will (optionally) capsize. It can be tweaked to act like a keeler, a dinghy, a planing dinghy, a foiler (see the Moth posts) or even a multihull. Ofcourse you can sit in the cockpit, but there's also a trapez.
It has full support for all the WWC wonders. There's windshifts plus (optionally many) local variations. There's a wave simulator with a direction, speed, length and height. There's current with speed and direction. Both waves and currents come with (optionally many) local variations. Currents and waves are also adjusted according to depth. Shallow waters means less current. For all three, wind, waves and current, there is a option to set variance, so even if the waves are set to 1 meters high, and 5 meters long, they'll never be the same.
There is built in shadowing; Tweakable ofcourse. Classboats can have realistic races, but the tweakable shadow allows for true multiclass races. The sailshape can be adjusted from open over several states to rounded. The sail is visibly changed to reflect the trim. The steering is precise and you can choose to use wheel or tiller. The dynamics are great. Heeling works fast, and the boat will lift its snout when planing. There's live sheets and trimlines everywhere. There's audiofeedback as well. Several different sounds depending on speed and sailing state.
Boattalk with Wanda, Ana and Brutus
On the inside it's completely modularized; The entire WWC, wind, water and current simulations are located in separate modules, so they don't mix with the sailing engine. The sailing engine is held completely separate from that. It just reads the WWC to "get" the attributes of the physical environment.  The core sailing engine is closed source; However, all the settings can be tweaked via notecards, so there's really no need to fiddle with the highly optimized sailengine code. The kit is by far the most advanced sailing engine available in SL, and the code isn't just an afternoon read.

The FizzKit was built by sailors to get an absolutely first class and realistic sailing experience. Get it at Tradewinds Yacht Club. The fully sailable testboat is in the box along with extensive documentation, help, sounds, animations, wwc interface, several test tools and more.

Tradewinds Airshow

All this Laser talk has made me completely forget what else is going on. Currently there's an airshow running at Tradewinds. A watery one. Boats and planes merged into one.
Now that's a big plane
If you're into planes that can land on water, Tradewinds is the place to go. Apparently, seaplanes come in all sizes, shapes and forms. The one on the picture above is the biggest one. It kinda looks like something I once saw on TV. Russian I think. Update: Ahab tells me it's the Howard Hughes "Spruce Goose". Thx. See comments for more details.
Boathouse view
That's how it looks from the door in the boathouse. Someone is motoring about in one of ReneMarines boats out there, but there's planes there too. More than a handful on this picture.
Here's an overview. There's probably even more planes there by now. Take a hour and walk around and inspect all these. Some are for sale. Some are not. Regardless, there's hours of fun for flyboys and girls.

Here's more on boatshows at Tradewinds.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Invisible features

The virtual Laser is already a very refreshing sail, but it seems Dutch just can't stop improving it. A few days back we got the windvane, which is great for both beginners and racers. This new feature is different. It is  almost invisible. It's not a gizmo that sits on the boat. It's more of a thingie that hits the other boats. Or should I say "unhits" the other boats?
The sailing...
Wanna take a wild guess? It's not really apparent from the picture, but if you zoom in, you can see it says test at the back of the hull. I put on my own sail though, so no test-text there. I know, the sails are standard. Even so, I kinda like to sail with my own sail. Sails are supposed to the same from the factory, but they age differently based on how and how much you sail.
The testing with Ana
Interestingly, Ana was able to catch me by pointing higher with her centerboard up. It's supposed to be that way on a reach. Here my apparent wind is like thirty degrees or so, and that makes it rather weird.  In a strange and unreal way. This indicates that the Laser needs more sideslip with the centerboard up. Anyways, you see my shadow in Ana's sail? In a minute Ana will shadow me. Windshadow that is.
And then the boat talk
Yup. The Laser now has windshadow. It seems to work great. We were only three boats out there, but the sailing was lag-free and just as refreshing as ever. This time we sailed with windvanes and a brand new shadowing system. That's the invisible feature. It still remains to be seen what will happen in a fleet with ten boats, but it looks promising. Also, I still cannot say if it works within the right angles and distance, - and with the right timing. More on that in another post.

The shadowing itself is not entirely visible though. When shadowed your sails will flap and you'll loose pressure. I am not sure how I feel about this. I can see it has an educational function, but it is unnatural. The thing is, casual sailors are always speculating if they're begin shadowed, and that alone make them loose focus. The good ones can feel it instantly.

I think my preference would be a totally invisible shadowing... lost pressure only. As in make it easy to sail, and make it hard to sail fast. As in make is as real as possible...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Can you see it?

Hey! While I've been on vacation in RL, the virtual laser just took a major step up my boat scale. It's not a big thing. Nevertheless it's pretty BIG. Can you see it?
It's one of those things that you just absolutely need on a boat; Especially if you're learning to sail or trying to sail really fast. I can remember me learning to sail. First thing I ever bought for my savings in the boatshop... Can you see it now?
No. Not the sailing gloves. Not the shoes. Here's a clue: It's red and it's not the boat, nor is it the letters in the sail. Now do you see it?
... and it works too
Isn't that just soooo very nicely neat, cute and great? I guess there's still hope for virtual sailing, hehe, and there's more...

Flying Catfish

A few weeks back I was at NYC. Don't really remember why, but it's a beautiful place. Reason enough I guess. Anyway, I walked around a bit, and in the shop I saw yet another cat for sale. It was positioned like todays bargain, right in my face, and since there was a test version, I took it for a spin.
The Flying Catfish 33
So here it is. Doesn't look too bad, right? The sign didn't say anything about the age, but once rezzed it was pretty obvious that this old cat was in bad need of a makeover. It's from 2007 or so. In SL a couple of years is a long time. Look again and note the strange keels on the hulls. Also there is a pretty weird finn between the keel and the rudder blade.
There's a lot of good details though; Check the image above. Lines, winches and furling genoa. The mast however, it appears to be a little too massive for a cat. It's more like a mast from a 30 foot keeler buildt in the sixties or sum ding. All in all it looked a little too heavy for me to handle, so I called Orca. Luckily she was glad to help out.
It sails
So we took off. Sailed around the Blake Sea for a few minutes. Mostly in silence. Then we looked at each other with disbelief. Really not worth sailing. I mean, it sails. It's trimmable, there's a wake, there's a genn and that's about it. There's flat sails, no sounds, no waves and current. Not very exciting compared to the Hepcat and the Nacra17
To the untrained eye
So the sailing isn't really up to date. The looks aren't either. This is one of those elderly boats that look great, provided you look at it from just the right angles, but when you change the angle only a little bit, weird details pop up. On top of that the positions in which we can sit are... Let's just say some of them look kinda unnatural.
Orcs takes pics
There's also the usual suspects: No compass, no windvane, no telltales. Not that they are present on  those modern cats. Conclusion? Don't spend you money and time on this one. It's a experience of a lifetime, but it's a bad one. Not worth repeating. While this boat might have been good in it's day, it's really a mystery why NYC choose to still place it as a premium product in the shop.

Here's Orcas' few notes on the experience...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Laser test

A few days back Jane posted a really thorough test of the Laser on her metaversailing blog. It has the usual high technical standard - plus it's not too much of a sales pitch :-D
I'm gonna get ya
It's a must read for virtual sailors. Check it out here... Nice huh! The Laser still isn't perfect, but it sure is a nice ride. Question is how far it can go...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A normal boat II

Here's a little quiz... Guess what the three of us are looking at? Not just water north of Tradewinds. Could it be yet another modern sexy boat, - or could it be a normal boat? Not that the latter category is well represented in the virtual waters of SL...
Boat talk
Impossible to guess, I know. Here's a picture from another angle... We're looking at Ana's 50 footer; Work in progress... A normal boat. A real sailboat.
Spin design
It's normal in the same way as the Bianca 107; Perhaps it's even better than the 107. This one is designed to sail first. Lil bigger and maybe like 10 years older in design. It reminds me of the Oceanic when it comes to level of detail. Fifty feet of normal boat. (Assuming 50 feet is normal). Anyone reckognize it? Could it be a Sparkmann & Stephens inspired thingie?
A normal boat indeed
It does look a little like a Sagitta 35, no? Too big to be Albin Ballad inspired, but the scent of the 70ies is definately there. Any other bids on the RL counterpart? This is definately a trustworthy boat. Rocksolid, well sailing and one you'd be proud to moor anywhere. It's also one of those boats you'd buy cheap, spend a month or two on updating; Then cross the Atlantic. It'll take you almost anywhere. Safely and slowly. In any case, it looks so much like a real boat. Unlike certain modernistic boat. I'll drop no names, but they're built all over Europe, and probably also in the US.
Cabin cruiser or Camper?
So is it a camper? Not entirely. Actually, not at all. This is an ocean cruiser, not a cross between an autocamper and a kite. I am so looking forward to the release. Not because of the sailing in itself; This boat won't plane unless there is a hurrycane. It's because this will enable virtual sailors to go long distance cruising like never before. Virtual bluewater sailing will never be the same again. 

PS: I just realize there's a plane crashing on the little island in the third photo. Must be right before the explosion. Funny.

PPS: At any given time there is at least one Sagitta 35 doing a circum navigation. There is one now. Singlehanded.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Laser Launched

The virtual Laser was launched a few days ago. Sadly, I wasn't able to attend the event, but I hear they had a wonderful race. As in full of wonders; Crashes included, teehee. Anyway, here's a few pics of the final version. So far.
Hiking hard in the afternoon sun...
There's a couple of things worth mentioning. First, the steering. I haven't mentioned it before, but on the test versions the steering was... shall we say less than optimal. Not flaky or bad, - just not precise enough to satisfy racers. In a boat this lively, you need to do small and precise adjustments on the direction. Continously. It's been fixed. Weeee.
Who's shadowing who?
Then there's the fittings. Look closely at the picture above. Can you see it? There's carbon blocks all over. Well, except for that thing there on the mast. The test version had Harken ALU fittings, but they (Harken) have a whole series of Laser carbon fittings including the tiller extension available at a bargain price. (Not). All that extra gear is now included in the standard virtual Laser. Woohooo.
Close race
These pictures? We didn't really race. It was more of a cruise. I know I had coffee while underway. Was looking for a cupholder. Dunno what Dutch had. We sailed from Tradewinds down south, all around the Blake Sea and then back home. Such a refreshing sail. The boat really sails very well. The feeling is great, and it's dead easy to sail. Still, it requires so much attention to sail it fast. 
Beating around the... island?
Bottom line? It's a really nice and fun boat. It has serious limitations when it comes to racing though. No windshadow, no bending, no currents and waves and no local windshifts. More on that in a future post. For now lets focus on the fun. Even with the missing WWC features, I'd say it is worth the money. Nuff talk. There's a free demo available at Dutch's hide-away. Go try it and decide for yourself. Then maybe come back here and share your thoughts. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A virtual Bianca 107

What about normal boats? Are there no normal boats in the virtual world? Sure, they exist. They just  don't get as much attention as their more sexy sisters and brothers. Enough definition for ya, or do I need to use the c-word?
A virtual Bianca!
Here's one shot at it. It's little known in the virtual world, and the builder has kinda disappeared. Before he did, he made me this... It's called the Bianca 107. It's not quite finished. Looks more like a mix of the 101 and the 107, but the concept of "normal boat" is definately there. It is probably the only inworld boat inspired by the famous Elvstrøm & Kjærulff Yacht Design.
Classic finn keel
Looking at the underwater hull, the normality is maybe even more obvious. Thousands of boat types designed from the 60ies till the 90ies all have keels like this one. Then they started to make them less swept, deeper and sometimes with an ellipsoid curve at back edge. The back swept finn is pretty much the standard keel for boats of "type c" of the last thirty years. Like I said, it isn't quite finished, so let's not talk about the rudder and the aft underwater shape.
Looking for dolphins
Topside it looks pretty nice, but it doesn't quite meet todays standard. Qyv is pushing it with the Melges 24. Dutch is pushing it with the VO65. Renemarine is pushing it with the new RM12 aka Tofinou 12. Sorry, I only have pics of an unfinished version. Ofcourse there's the classic boats from Trudeau as well; They are nice, but they really don't fit into the c-category. Neither does the fantastic Ktaba 20. So the c-word isn't "Classic".
Look! There's something inside
The c-word has a lot to do with what's inside, and this one has a lot inside. There's been a few attempts in the old days too. The Tetra 35 was a pretty good attempt. It had a few problems with the sailing, but overall it was very nice for its time. Today, mosts boats have "something inside", but traditionally builders have focused either on the sailing, - or on the accomodation.
Top view
Motor Loon took the accomodation to new levels with his Oceanic. It's a fantastic build with functional  gizmos everywhere and a truly amazing level of detail. However, both the rigging and the hull are - well - not very boatly as seen from a normal boat perpective. Loons second build, the Loonetta is much better on that account. It's not a beauty queen, but it looks like a modern c-work boat sooo much. It sails well, and there's loads of details. I'll snatch a few pictures of a Loonetta one of these days.
A strange detail
The Bianca 107 has details too... Obviously it is from the time where sheets were only available on luxury boats. The spreaders are positioned a little weird, but look at the jib. It has leather reinforcements in the clew, but that's not all... There is a rope on the bottom side. They probably used that hundreds of years ago. I never saw it on a modern boat, and I have no idea why they did so in the old days? Reinforcement?
Large spin
So, the virtual Bianca 107 really isn't that bad, but it's been outdated by the latest development. The level of detail has been raised via the use of mesh-technology. The sailing engines has taken a few evolutionary steps as well. The really interesting question is, will we see more normal boats in the future. I think we will. More importantly: I think they will sail well and have lotsa stuff inside. Just like a modern c-type boat. There it is again, the c-word. Get it?

It seems I have a todolist on the normal boat subject: RM12, Loonetta and possibly the RM20 too. Did I miss anyone? In the meantime, what's a normal boat to you? Real or virtual...